Stephanie Lever shares her personal experience of being bisexual in a heterosexual relationship for TWSS Issue #16.
I’m pretty sure that I could count on one hand the times that I’ve actually called myself bisexual. I’ve always been very happy to just say that I like who I like and that’s that. But however much I prefer not to put myself in a ‘box’, I have been wondering a lot recently about whether there is a reason I’ve chosen not to define my sexuality too clearly in the past, and have come to the conclusion that being in a two-year relationship with a guy may have something to do with it.
Because of this relationship, coupled with the fact that all sexual/romantic liaisons I ’ ve had (with a few exceptions) have been with people of the opposite gender, I have never really felt that I have the right to identify completely as a part of the LGBTQ+ community, just due to my utter lack of experience. I was raised with an extremely liberal mindset, so it never really occurred to me that I might myself be doubting what I knew to be true: that no matter who your relationships have been with if, with anyone at all, sexuality is personal and valid. It’s very easy to know this and assure other people of it confidently, but it’s often a much harder thing to tell yourself.
Being in a long-term monogamous relationship, it occasionally feels as if somehow your sexuality becomes your partner, and having spoken to friends about it, this seems like a fairly common experience. The question of sexual preference is left largely untouched – I’m sleeping exclusively with my boyfriend, so it can easily become something that I no longer need to give any attention to. It, therefore, seems as if I have a completely separate identity; separate to the me who lives my everyday life and has a committed boyfriend. This idea unsettles me, it isn’t right that such an unexplored yet intrinsic part of who I am should be pushed to the side merely as a result of who I choose to date at any given time.
Not only does my relationship tend to sideline my sexual orientation in my own mind, making it a part of me that I’ve never really had to fully confront, but general interactions I had with boys as I was growing up have made me view lesbianism in a specific way, to the detriment of how I viewed my own bisexuality. The hyper-sexualisation of love and romance between two women is perhaps the biggest impact that being LGBTQ+ in a heterosexual relationship has had on my life. My boyfriend has never particularly liked hearing about people that I have been with in the past, especially when we first got together. However, my relations (sexual and/or romantic) with girls, although few, never seemed to fit into this offensive category of topics we didn’t ’ t like to breach. Instead, it was really ‘ interesting ’ and ‘sexy’. It has always seemed as if my history with other girls has been of far less value than that with boys, it wasn’t the same currency and not to be taken seriously. The perpetual sexualisation of lesbianism practically renders it illegitimate when compared to the guys that I have been with. Rather than being a part of my own identity, my attraction to girls becomes a commodity for guys to commandeer and get excited over, imagining all the threesomes that I must want to have, making me cool and fun and different. In a way, recognising this is a step towards reclaiming my bisexuality as belonging completely to me.
I think that most people suffer from impostor syndrome in some form or another; it’s very easy to feel like you are not quite enough. However, it is important to remember that regardless of your relationship status, or range of experience, we are all valid. Whether I choose to label myself bisexual or carry on just ‘liking who I like’, whether I ’m in a straight or gay relationship of any length, my sexuality is my own to explore and define however I see fit.
Illustration by Rivka Cocker.