BI FOR THE LONG TERM

Diva (UK) - - Contents - Check out DIVA’S bi visibility blog at MUST BI PEO­PLE HIDE THEIR SEX­U­AL­I­TIES WHEN THEY FALL IN LOVE? WORDS CHAR­LOTTE DIN­GLE di­vahibi.tum­blr.com.

Must bi peo­ple hide their iden­ti­ties when they fall in love?

“So you’re a les­bian now?” said my ex-boyfriend ca­su­ally, plac­ing his pint glass down on the ta­ble and check­ing Twit­ter for the cricket scores. It was a week be­fore Christ­mas and we’d met up to shoot the breeze in a lo­cal pub. The pub kit­ten had de­cided I was her favourite punter, St Eti­enne were play­ing on the juke­box, they had my favourite ale on, I’d been chat­ter­ing ex­cit­edly about how many shares one of my ar­ti­cles had had, he’d been telling me about his new job... and ev­ery­thing was feel­ing well chilled and lovely. But those five words changed that in an in­stant.

Sigh­ing heav­ily (and, I’m not ashamed to ad­mit, hold­ing back a few tears of frus­tra­tion), I said: “No, I’m bi­sex­ual. You know that. I run a web­site for bi­sex­ual women. You dated me for about six months, dur­ing which time I was edi­tor of one of the lead­ing UK les­bian and bi women’s mag­a­zines.”

He looked at me for a mo­ment. “But if you’ve just started see­ing this woman and you aren’t plan­ning to see other peo­ple, then doesn’t that make you a les­bian? You’re only go­ing to have sex with a woman, so you’re a les­bian.”

“Erm, no,” I re­sponded. “I’m no more a les­bian now than I was straight when I was dat­ing you. I never cheated on you, as you know, but I don’t re­call you telling me I couldn’t agree with you that Shirley Manson was fit be­cause I was now ‘straight’. Or you say­ing, ‘ Hey, you’ll have to quit your job now you’re straight – I’ll buy all the beers from now on!’”

“But,” he stut­tered, tak­ing a par­tic­u­larly large swig of beer, “doesn’t say­ing you’re still bi within a re­la­tion­ship with a woman es­sen­tially mean you are ad­mit­ting that you’re open to run­ning off with a man?”

I rose from my chair, walked to­wards the bar and asked for their strong­est shot.

Bi­sex­ual iden­tity within a re­la­tion­ship can be a par­tic­u­larly wrig­gly and un­pleas­ant can of worms. In­deed, some de­cide to leave the “worms” firmly un­der­ground. Jemma, 25, has been with her fe­male part­ner for three years. “I just couldn’t tell her,” she says sadly. “She wouldn’t un­der­stand – she’d see it as a huge be­trayal. She’d start ask­ing all sorts of ques­tions: ‘ Why do you have to say you’re bi when you’re with me now?’ ‘ What if my mates think that means I’m not enough for you and laugh at me?’ It’s just more than my life is worth.”

How does keep­ing the se­cret take its toll on her? “It’s not much fun,” she re­sponds. “I’ve had to swear my friends to ab­so­lute se­crecy and keep re­mind­ing them not to men­tion the fact I’ve had a re­la­tion­ship with a man when she’s around. Hid­ing some­thing like this within an in­ti­mate re­la­tion­ship makes it feel some­how in­com­plete. I’ve heard all about her pre­vi­ous long-term re­la­tion­ship but she can never know about the man I spent nearly three years dat­ing in my late teens – the only per­son I’ve ever loved apart from her.”

Melody, 33, tells a very dif­fer­ent story. She’s been mar­ried to her male part­ner for 10 years. “He’s al­ways been ac­cept­ing of my bi­sex­u­al­ity,” she tells DIVA. “He’s never treated my bi­sex­u­al­ity as a phase, a fetish, an op­por­tu­nity for hav­ing mul­ti­ple part­ners or a threat that I might cheat. Th­ese are things pre­vi­ous part­ners of mine have strug­gled with when in­volved with me.”

Wendi, 52, en­joys a sim­i­larly un­der­stand­ing re­la­tion­ship. “My wife is very aware of my at­trac­tion to males,” she says. “How­ever we both recog­nise and un­der­stand the dif­fer­ence be­tween ad­mir­ing a per­son’s at­trac­tive­ness and pur­su­ing a more in­ti­mate con­nec­tion. Trust and faith in each other is ul­ti­mate!”

Dana, 43, is out to her hus­band – but not sure he en­tirely “gets” it. “This is com­pli­cated,” she ex­plains. “He com­pletely ac­cepts it, has no is­sues with it, not a prob­lem. But I’m not sure he un­der­stands that it’s an im­por­tant part of my iden­tity, even when I’m not in­volved in same-sex ac­tiv­i­ties.”

Out­side per­cep­tions of bi­sex­ual peo­ple’s long-term re­la­tion­ships can also in­volve a huge amount of prej­u­dice and bi- era­sure. Rita is 31 and has been with her girl­friend for 18 months. “I’ve lost count of the times peo­ple – my girl­friend’s friends in par­tic­u­lar – have re­ferred to me as be­ing a les­bian de­spite my hav­ing told them I’m bi,” she says. “I used to ar­gue it out with them but even­tu­ally over time I’ve be­come ground down and now I of­ten just let it pass. It ab­so­lutely kills me in­side, I won’t lie. I’m a keen bi ac­tivist and peo­ple eras­ing part of my iden­tity like this is so hurt­ful.”

Amina has been mar­ried for just over a year. “Ev­ery­one just as­sumes I’m straight,” she re­veals. “It’s aw­ful but I don’t usu­ally, well, put them ‘straight’! I wouldn’t know how to have the con­ver­sa­tion and ex­plain my bi­sex­u­al­ity. Bi­pho­bia is bad enough when you’re sin­gle: when you’re at­tached and com­mit­ted to some­one it’s even harder to ex­plain it – and to jus­tify why you need to talk about it.”

Sadly, the Christ­mas girl­friend came and went (well, mostly went). A few heated email ex­changes did lit­tle to ex­plain to my poor clue­less ex – who shall of course re­main name­less – why I’d sud­denly necked five ab­sinthes, com­man­deered the juke­box in or­der to play ev­ery­thing David Bowie/gold­frapp/skunk Anan­sie/ Blondie/grace Jones/ani Difranco/ Peggy Seeger/ Lou Reed/sia/ The Black Eyed Peas/green Day/ Placebo/ja­nis Jo­plin/ The Dres­den Dolls/ I’m-about-to-go- over-the-wordlimit had ever recorded and then left the pub.

If any­thing, in­form­ing him of the brevity of my lat­est girl- on-girl re­la­tion­ship in­stilled some­thing of an “I told you so, you con­fused woman” men­tal­ity in him. In­fu­ri­at­ing, to say the least. Even­tu­ally we reached an im­passe and com­mu­ni­ca­tion dried up. For all I know, he could well be sit­ting in a dark­ened room some­where, paint­ing Warham­mer fig­ures and wait­ing for me to come back and be “straight” with him again. He’ll be wait­ing a long time.

“I’m a keen bi ac­tivist and peo­ple eras­ing my iden­tity like this is so hurt­ful”

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