Bisexual Rationality: Betty Lightbulb’s Story

As an initiative to build bisexual and pansexual solidarity and visibility, I posted an ongoing call for contributions. This story comes from Betty Lightbulb.

I asked my friend when we were 11 if she thought we would grow up to be lesbians. Her reply “no!” was not disgusted, just vehement.

I asked my dad once why I wanted to do wees when I saw people kissing on TV. All I know is he got very awkward and possibly said “talk to your mother”. My parents had a sex ed policy of we just had to ask, which is problematic when you are a nerdy, oblivious child.

I found myself attracted to a male soap opera star. I learnt many years later he is gay in real life.

I went to a conservative Catholic girl’s high school. No-one came out whilst I was there. Not that I thought I needed to come out. I’d never kissed a boy or a girl and what does coming out even mean?

Some of the girls in my year started hassling people by telling them they were lesbians and made a big show of backing away from them as if they were going to suddenly jump them. They eventually tried it on me, but I said, “you think you’re that attractive? Please.” They left me alone after that.

I came out in first year uni. Not because I felt like it was time, but because I was on the verge of dating some guy, I’d taken him to a ball or something, and I didn’t want to date him. So I told him I was bisexual and therefore confused and stuff. He didn’t give a shit, just asked me if I thought Angelina Jolie was hot (the only bisexual female celebrity at the time I think).

I told a few of my friends, who asked if I liked any girls. Because I thought she was hot, I said my friend Mandy, but I thought that about a lot of women. I didn’t want to date her, but people seemed to want an answer. One friend fell into the cliché trope of telling me I was greedy. My reply: not only am I not attracted to everyone, in the same way that she’s not attracted to every man, but I don’t have/want access to straight women, men who are uncomfortable with it, nor men who would want me to get it on with another woman for his pleasure. That logic made sense to her, but bisexuality still doesn’t.

I told my mum. I got this long winded speech about how she had thought she was a lesbian because she “admired the older girls at school”. She would’ve said, “don’t tell your father”, because she thinks anything that upset her would definitely upset him (I found this to be largely untrue). The upshot of the conversation was that she’d believe me when I brought home a girlfriend. I didn’t bring home anyone for another 3 years, a boyfriend. She’d well forgotten by then.

My first date was with a guy, 12 years older than me. I was 19. The first person I thought I was in a relationship with was a guy my age. We weren’t. He ‘cheated’ on me with a guy and a girl. I asked him if he was gay, I didn’t care, I was bisexual I said. He was just using these encounters to have me dump him.

I lost my virginity to his friend who I’d been friends with for years. We dated for about 6 weeks until he dumped me, saying we’d had sex too soon. What does that even mean? A few months later, some friends said they heard he had a small penis. How would I know? I’d popped my cherry with him. Like I gave a shit anyway, it’s what you do with your junk that matters.

I never really discussed being bisexual much. I would mention it at need; my friends knew I wasn’t straight. But because I had never dated a woman it didn’t seem real, like I had no claim to queerdom so I didn’t approach the queer community.

I went through an extended period of being unwittingly asexual. I thought there was something wrong with me that no-one wanted to date me. I wasn’t actively looking, indulging some repressed female need to be asked, it seems. Maybe I was oblivious; I certainly got hit on at night clubs but, gross, so does everyone by ‘those’ guys.

It turns out there was something wrong with me physically: I have irritable bowel syndrome, and till I started properly treating it, I was blocked up emotionally, sexually and physically (despite it manifesting in diarrhoea). My osteopath untwisted my pubic bone one day and suddenly I was looking. I mean LOOKING, desiring, feeling.

So finally, two months before my 31st birthday, I found myself in a ‘real’ relationship. A relationship with a 21 year old woman who had been in several long term relationships. I was so excited about seeing someone and actually having sex (on a regular basis no less!) that I forgot to worry about the queer nature of my relationship. It worried her, she was (is?) straight.

Turns out it is a big deal and it isn’t. None of my friends batted an eyelid. I would hold my girlfriend’s hand and people would catcall. Some of my female friends in relationships with men would confess their bisexuality. My mother sulked for weeks and then cried on me “this isn’t what I wanted for you!” My dad just shrugged his shoulders, despite asking me weeks before why “they” want marriage equality. My flatmates all asked me individually if I was a lesbian. When I said no, they became more confused. I would wait for them to ask me what my sexuality is. I waited a long time.

I found out being bisexual is not cool with the hipster kids. I was accused of being transphobic, which I have a huge problem with on behalf of trans* people, in that it denies them the right to identify with being men or women. I should instead have been accused of being prejudiced against non-gender binary folk, since people took the ‘bi’ in bisexual to mean two in the sense of man or woman. When I first encountered these accusations, I freaked out as if I was wrong. I should be pansexual apparently. It did fuck me off though that no-one seemed to accuse monosexuals of being transphobic towards trans* people of their gender. The more I thought on it, the more paradoxical it seemed.

I went to a queer conference and attended a session on queer invisibilities and discovered bisexual erasure. Thank fuck. I am not wrong. I am bisexual.

My bisexuality is not binarist and it is not transphobic and I am well offended at people telling me what my sexuality is. Ask me. I am happy to tell you about my sexuality, my sexual identity, my coming stories, my experiences.

I dated a transwoman. I didn’t even know for the first month: I suspected, but she clearly thought I knew so never actually told me. I worried more about saying or doing the wrong thing than about her trans*-ness. Several of my friends congratulated me on my acceptance and openness. I wanted to yell and scream at their prejudice. How dare they deny trans* people the right to a relationship based on their fear of genitalia!

Once we talked about my experiences picking grapes in France and I found myself being asked why I didn’t fuck anyone whilst there. I explained why I hadn’t fucked any of the boys, then realised I should explain why I hadn’t fucked any of the girls. It was like, because I wasn’t queer-identified then (even though knowing I was bisexual), I forgot about the women. I didn’t fuck anyone there because I was asexual at the time and her casual flippancy asking about my sexual history actually freaked me out. I was embarrassed on a lot of levels.

I am learning about my gender identity and presentation. I am proud to be queer, because through my sexuality I am becoming educated, I meet the most amazing people. I am reading so many gender books. I make art about how we look at women. I am trying to listen. I keep learning. I keep loving. I have learnt I give too much and love too hard and my heart breaks. I have learnt that I need to learn to let go to better receive sexual pleasure. I am learning about my privileges, because I am white, cis, middle class, well educated, and and and.

I am angry at the ignorance of the cis, white, het community. I am happy to dialogue but I am sick of being looked down upon. I am angry that I am only just becoming my queer self. I am angry that I read books on feminism that are trans-exclusionary. I am an angry feminist.

I don’t think I really see gender. I don’t mean that in the way of erasing someone’s gender identity, because that is so important. I mean it more that I see the person and their gender is secondary to that. I am attracted to a personality and a human and a body, and the gender of that body is definitely part of it but not something that changes my attraction. I have never understood being straight or gay, I rationalised being bisexual before I even was sexually aware. It simply makes sense to me.

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