Bisexuality FAQ

I’m bisexual. People have opinions about it. People also have questions – a lot of questions, some of them pretty idiotic, some perfectly valid. Here are the questions I get most often about my sexual identity…

Which do you prefer, cock or pussy?

Well, first of all, that’s a super rude question. Other than queer folks, trans folks, and maybe some disabled folks, I don’t know anyone who routinely gets asked personal questions about their sex lives and genitals by total strangers. It’s grossly inappropriate. If you really want to know which I “prefer,” you should get to know me better and be more tactful about the way you ask.

Secondly, the whole premise of this question is really kind of stupid. I don’t choose lovers based on what genitalia they have. Yeah, that’s something I think about as we’re getting to know each other (“This person has a penis; guess I better start thinking about birth control!” or “This person has a vagina; I wonder if she would like to do some strap-on play when we get to that point!”), but it’s not an initial consideration. I don’t think to myself, “Okay, I’m attracted to this woman and also to this man, but I can’t make up my mind… Whose genitals do I prefer?” I fall in love with and become attracted to people as individuals.

Who gives better head/is better at sex, guys or girls?

I’ve put this question here because its answer is sort of a continuation of the last answer. Guess what? People are individuals; they can’t be generalized by their genders.

Personally, my current male partner is the best I’ve ever had, but that doesn’t mean that men overall are better at sex. Some men are good at sex, some are bad, some are in between; same deal with women. A good partner (communicative, enthusiastic, generous, adventurous) is going to be a good partner regardless of their gender or genitals; same deal with a bad partner (selfish, boring, uncommunicative).

Are you really a lesbian?

Nope. I’ve been attracted to men.

Are you really straight?

Nope. I’ve been attracted to women.

If the only women you’re attracted to are butch/androgynous ones, why don’t you just date men? Isn’t it basically the same thing?

Uh, no. See above re: people being individuals and not being reducible to their genders or genitals.

Imagine this: you’re in a very happy relationship with a woman who happens to dye her hair red. I say to you, “If you like redheads so much, why don’t you just date a natural redhead instead?” You explain to me that you like your girlfriend, not just her hair color – and you love her as an individual, not for her particular traits.

Well, exactly. I become attracted to butch women not because I’m specifically seeking out masculinity but because those are just the kinds of people I can be attracted to, so I sometimes find myself drawn to an individual person within that group. For her totality as a person. Not just for her butchness.

So do you cheat on your partners?/Are you capable of being monogamous?

I’m currently in a “monogamish” relationship (our arrangement is that we are allowed to flirt with and kiss other people, but no more than that). I don’t think of myself as being naturally monogamous and I would to explore consensual non-monogamy more in my future relationships.

However, this has absolutely nothing to do with my sexual orientation. Monogamousness and sexual orientation are separate – many straight people are not naturally monogamous, just as many queer people want to share their love and sex with only one person at a time. The two have nothing to do with each other, though non-monogamy is likelier to be openly acknowledged and accepted in queer communities than in straight ones, because queer people are already transgressing conventional social standards just by being queer so they are (usually) more okay with pushing the envelope in their relationships.

Just because I can be happy with both men and women doesn’t mean that I need to be with both men and women at one time. I’ve met countless bisexuals in my life and I’ve only ever met one who felt that she needed to be having sex with both men and women in order to be satisfied – and again, that has more to do with her proclivity toward non-monogamy than it has to do with her sexual orientation.

Why do you sometimes describe yourself as “queer”? Isn’t that an offensive term?

It has been used as an offensive term for a long time, and some people still find it offensive, yes. However, similar to “dyke” and “fag,” it has been reclaimed by many folks as a positive descriptor. Generally, if you use the word “queer” within an LGBT space, no one will bat an eye.

When I use the word, I am using it as an umbrella term to mean basically anything that isn’t straight – so it may include people who are gay, lesbian, bisexual, pansexual, questioning, heteroflexible, and label-free. Some people also put trans and genderqueer people into the category of “queer,” though I see gender identity as being a separate struggle from sexual orientation so I define them separately.

When describing my sexual orientation, I usually use the word “bisexual” in straight spaces, because almost everyone knows what it means, but I usually use the word “queer” in LGBT spaces because it’s more inclusive of all my attractions – and also because there is sometimes some biphobia in gay and lesbian spaces, so it’s sometimes best to avoid identifying myself as bi if I want to be taken seriously. (It’s a sad truth!)

Why do you call yourself “bisexual” instead of “pansexual”? Isn’t “bisexual” a cissexist term?

Yes, some people believe that the term “bisexual” is cissexist because it only acknowledges a binary of gender – i.e. two genders, male and female. I understand, appreciate, and accept that criticism.

However, in my case, “bisexual” is apt because 99.9% of my attractions are to people who fall into one of two specific gender categories – men (cis or trans) and butch/androgynous women. My attractions still fall into a binary, even though it’s not the conventional gender binary, so the term “bisexual” fits me.

The term “pansexual” suggests that I can be attracted to any type of person, regardless of their gender presentation, which isn’t true for me.

How did you know you were bisexual?

I had suspected it since I was about 11, because I found women’s bodies just as intriguing as men’s bodies in movies and porn clips (um, I was a precocious child).

When I was 15, a girl in one of my classes began to flirt with me – or at least, I perceived it as flirting – and I found myself feeling receptive to that, rather than repulsed by it. Nothing came from that, but later that year, I developed a huge crush on another girl who ended up becoming my first girlfriend.

When you eventually settle down, do you think it’ll be with a man or a woman?

Again, this has to do much more with a person’s individual characteristics than it does with their gender. There are certain traits that I would require in a partner if we were going to have a decades-long relationship, and gender wouldn’t be a factor for me as long as the person had those traits.

I don’t plan on having biological children, and same-sex marriage is legal where I live, so neither of those things will factor into it either.

Why do you have to put a label on yourself? Why can’t you just like who you like?

Some people can do that. Me, I need organization and definitions in order to feel secure. I like having a neat, crisp little word to be able to throw out there when someone asks me about my sexual orientation. It suits my needs. I respect people who can reject all labels, but it’s not for me.

Are you down for a threesome?

Um. Not really. I would have to be attracted to both of the people involved and they would have to both be attracted to me, or I wouldn’t have fun – and that’s unlikely.

Plus, please, for the love of all things sexy and holy, don’t assume that bisexuality automatically equals promiscuity or being cool with anything. Some bi folks are like that but not all.

Sometimes I see a girl who I think is pretty… Does that mean I’m bi too?

Probably not. Do you find yourself wanting to make out with her? Have sex with her? Hold her hand? Go on cute dates together? Refer to her as your girlfriend? If none of those ideas stir up any feelings in you, you’re probably not bi. It’s one thing to appreciate someone’s aesthetics, but it’s quite another thing to actually want some kind of relationship with them.

Does your boyfriend think it’s hot that you’re bi?

If he did, I don’t know if I’d still be with him. Fetishizing someone’s sexual orientation is pretty gross.

He understands and accepts that my bisexuality is a part of who I am. He’s not interested in threesomes or watching me with another woman, so he doesn’t find it sexually exciting; it’s just a fact about me.

4 Ways to Bring a Little More Gay Into Your Life

As the Pride festival nears, I’m spending a lot of time pondering my queerness. Specifically, where my queerness fits into my life as a person in a “straight” relationship.

Being bisexual has always been a bit of a struggle for me, identity-wise, because ever since I came out I’ve always hated the idea of being mistaken for straight or gay (both of which have happened to me countless times). I wish people would just “read” me as bi, but it rarely seems to happen.

And now that I’ve been dating a man for over two years, and have a gender presentation that’s as cis and femme as ever, it seems my queerness always gets lost in the shuffle. Even in queer spaces, I don’t always feel understood or seen. I’ve gotten booed for kissing my boyfriend at Pride events, I’ve had people try to explain basic LGBTQ concepts to me as if they’d be totally foreign to my mind, I’ve had people give me stares that say “What are you doing here?” It makes me sad.

Bleeding-heart complaints aside, I know that there are other people who feel the way I do – people whose identity straddles some line(s) between hetero and queer, and who feel skewered on that fence. Here are some suggestions for how you can re-access the gay side of yourself, if you’re feeling like you’ve lost it a little bit.

1. Volunteer for an LGBTQ organization. There is surely one in your area, so get Googlin’! I’m using the word “organization” broadly here – you could do fundraising at your local nonprofit, get in contact with school administrators to see if you can help set up GSAs, join the street team for your city’s Pride festival, or even see if your local LGBT yoga group needs help washing mats. It can be enormously nourishing to meet new people from your community and to do good work for that community. (And baby, if you ain’t got no time, maybe you could give some money instead.)

2. Consume queer media. If you do this already, do it more! Some recommendations: books by S. Bear Bergman and Ivan Coyote, porn by Courtney Trouble and Shine Louise Houston, documentaries about the LGBT community, and The L Word in its entirety.

3. Wear a queer talisman. Granted, plenty of LGBT folks think it’s tacky as hell to wear a rainbow bracelet or gay suspenders or what have you. But, honestly, when I’m going into a situation where I absolutely do not want people to mistake me for straight, sometimes it makes me feel a whole lot better to adorn myself in one or two loud-and-queer accessories. My talisman of choice is usually my rainbow wristband – it goes with every outfit!

4. Re-read old journals/blog posts/love letters from when you had your first same-sex crush. Remember how weird that felt? How scared and yet excited you were? Remember all the concerns these new feelings raised for you – how/when/whether to come out, what label(s) fit you best, what it all meant? Those seminal experiences paved your path into a queer identity and (hopefully) community, so they’re worth revisiting if you’re feeling a little cloudy on those topics.

I know there will inevitably be people who want to tell me something like, “Just be who you are! It doesn’t matter whether people think you’re straight or whether you’ve ‘got enough gay in your life.’ Just live your life.” And they’re right, to a certain extent… but hey, queer folks should know better than anyone that sometimes you gotta engage in some self-care in order to feel okay about how people are reacting to you. And this is some of mine.

Photo credit: Sue Maguire.

Bisexual vs. Pansexual

When I was 15, I came out as bisexual, because I liked boys and girls.

A few months later, my friend confided in me that she thought she might be bisexual too, because she’d found herself unexpectedly crushing on another girl at summer camp.

We did some research online together, excitedly chattering about sapphic infatuations all the while – and as we learned more and more, my friend said to me, “I think I might be pansexual, not bisexual.” I asked her why and she said, “Because I’m attracted to people regardless of whether they’re male or female.”

This felt strange to me then, and it still feels strange to me now when I hear this argument from other people. Being bisexual doesn’t mean I’m attracted to dicks and pussies – it means I’m attracted to people, people of either sex, but people nonetheless.

It’s been suggested to me many times that perhaps pansexual would be a better label for me, since I’m often attracted to people who don’t conform to the gender binary – mainly, boyish girls or genderqueer female-bodied folks. The term “pansexual” was essentially invented to describe people whose attractions don’t fit within the clean-cut gender binary of male/female – and yeah, that’s me.

But the more I think about it, the more I feel that bisexual is a suitable label for me – because I’m attracted to people within a binary. It’s just not the traditional gender binary. I’m attracted to cis men and gender-fucking female-bodied people. There are occasional exceptions, but those are the two major groups I find myself drawn to, romantically and sexually.

The prefix “pan” means “all” or “every,” and that just doesn’t apply to me. I don’t seem to have the capacity to be attracted to people of every gender identification; only a few.

From time to time, I toy with the label “androsexual,” since masculine energy is really what gets me hot, regardless of what type of body it’s emanating from. But that’s not as recognizable a term as bisexual. I don’t always relish having to explain my attraction patterns to heteronormative folks, because they’re prone to asking questions like, “If you’re attracted to butchy women, why not just date men? Isn’t it basically the same thing?” (Oy vey.)

How do you feel about terms like bisexual and pansexual? Do you identify with one, neither, or both? How do the people in your social circles use these terms?

Sharing the Sexy #12

• Here’s an article on sex with trans men. A trans guy friend of mine says, “When in doubt about a part of a trans person’s body, ask what it is and what you should call it.”

• Sexxit had a great thread this week that asked the question, if most women need clitoral stimulation to reach orgasm, why are so many men surprised by this? A lot of very interesting responses ensued.

• The “female Viagra” will be a nasal spray, apparently.

• Tantus has some new butt plugs out and they look terrific.

• This woman has an orgasm every time she eats an olive. What the fuck?!

A dude with a scat fetish (i.e. poop) did an Ask Me Anything on Reddit. Aaaand this is why I love/hate the internet.

• Steve Pavlina, whose eclectic and informative blog covers everything from entrepreneurship to spirituality to polyamory, wrote about how to invite cuddling without inviting sex.

• This week I watched Strange Sex’s feature on the man with the world’s biggest penis and I am kind of shocked that he’s just some nebbish white dude.

Sharing the Sexy #3

Hey babies! I’m currently sitting in the window of a Starbucks eyeing up some hot girls in plaid shirts… um, I mean, typing up this post. Here’s some sexy stuff I saw on the internet this week; what have you been up to?

• Mandy “can’t stop hate-masturbating to Paul Ryan.” This piece made me laugh and (to my chagrin) kind of turned me on. Yeah, Paul Ryan is physically attractive (sigh!). It’s kind of like how I find John Mayer insanely sexy, but he’s also kind of a dick. (Did I just compare Paul Ryan to John Mayer? I’m pretty sure that’s extremely insulting to both of them.)

A woman on Sexxit is upset because of some things her high-functioning autistic husband said to her about their sexual relationship. I found this particularly fascinating because an ex-boyfriend of mine had Asperger’s and we had similar issues, though obviously not as severe (we only dated for a few weeks). Read the comments – there’s some gems, including an insightful reply from another person with Asperger’s. (If you find this stuff as interesting as I do, watch the movie Adam, stat!)

• Dodson and Ross talk about sexual communication and why you shouldn’t lie about what you like. This video makes me feel very lucky to have a boyfriend who listens to my sexual requests and makes ‘em happen.

• Have you ever wanted to see me modelling a silly pinup sailor costume? Well, now you can. (Backstory: Eden didn’t have any new toys I wanted to review this month, so I figured I’d use my monthly free assignment to get myself a Halloween costume. Except it ended up being pretty mediocre, so I might realize my dreams of Halloweening as Jane Lane after all.)

• Luke Young writes with disdain about ways to increase penis size. I have to agree with him that it isn’t worth the risk (and I prefer average-sized dicks anyway), but I’ve heard of several men who’ve had success with jelqing.

• Here’s a round-up of facts and chatter around that idiot Paul Akin and his comments on how, when rape leads to pregnancy, it wasn’t “legitimate rape.” Thanks, Republican upper-class white cis dude, for yet another opinion on my anatomy! I’m glad you feel so entitled to mansplain such things. *rolls eyes*

• Another piece on Akin: Cool Party You’ve Got There, Republicans. Melissa McEwan is my hero.

A New Zealand TV commercial got away with using the words “vagina” and “discharge.” It saddens me that we live in a world so puritanical that this is considered somehow scandalous, but it’s still a step forward and I’m happy.

• This week on Sexxit, there was a thread about how to have civil conversations about circumcision and intactivism. Maybe it’s just me, but I’m somewhat tired of being expected to have “civil conversations” with people who make unnecessary, life-altering, sexually damaging decisions on behalf of their non-consenting children.

• Don’t know what porn to watch? Here’s a periodic table of feminist porn!

• Rachel Rabbit White writes about what happens when porn star Joanna Angel goes speed-dating.

• My boyfriend talks about what it’s like to date a sex toy reviewer. Apparently it’s pretty cool.

• This “dinner table debate” between Dan Savage (gay sex columnist) and Brian Brown (president of the National Organization for Marriage) is very interesting. Particularly hilarious: Brown’s assertion that “just because you believe something is wrong, it doesn’t mean that you make it illegal” (he was talking about divorce, and apparently didn’t see the irony in this argument) and his usage of the word “marginalize” to describe what same-sex marriage advocates are doing to the church. Ha ha, yeah, us queer folks are so big and strong and we’re always bullying the poor weak church. Right. You go on believing that fable if it makes you feel better about your bigotry.