When I first began to think that I might not be straight, it felt like an antibody had infiltrated my brain. After 21 years of being blissfully content with my identity, here was something threatening to dismantle the neat, well-kept foundation I had built. Whenever these thoughts tried to creep in, my brain would automatically reject them, as if they were quality-control rejects on a conveyer belt.
As months ticked by, it became obvious that the filtering process I had installed was failing miserably. The thoughts were still there, and they were growing. When conversations about sexuality arose, I would blurt out a semi-belligerent confession of my queer status, like a child caught shoplifting.
I can count on one hand the number of times I’ve simply said, 'I’m bisexual'. It always sounds like an apology in my mouth. I navigate my sexuality like it’s a disappointment that needs softening: “I think I might not be straight. I don’t know but I might maybe be bi?” When I say bi aloud, it’s accompanied by air quotes and a grimace.
My sexuality epiphany raised more questions than it answered.
I remember sitting alone in my room at night when the realization that I was queer — or ‘not straight’, as that was as comfortable as I got with the label — hit me. More than anything, I was furious with myself. How dare I keep something like this from me? How dare I not know this about myself? Like the obnoxious Gen Z I am, I hold a naively confident understanding of myself and my identity. Grappling with this plot twist made me rethink every other preconceived notion I had about myself.
I didn’t have the same realization that follows many queer people’s coming-out moments. You hear it time and time again — “Oh, I was totally in love with my best friend!” “I had a crush on my childhood neighbour!” — the reflections that make things make sense and click into place. Instead of my ‘ah-ha!’ moment, I felt more confused than ever. My sexuality epiphany raised more questions than it answered.
Because ‘bi’ as a prefix means two, I assumed that being bisexual meant you were attracted to men and women — a binary definition that didn’t fit in my personal wheelhouse of attraction. Definitions of bisexuality have evolved over time; Minus18 defines it as attraction to the gender the same as your own, and to other genders — or attraction to two or more genders.
Being bisexual doesn’t mean experiencing a 50/50 split of attraction between two genders — in fact, it’s normal to lean towards a specific gender. As activist Robyn Ochs says, “I call myself bisexual because I acknowledge that I have in myself the potential to be attracted — romantically and/or sexually — to people of more than one gender, not necessarily at the same time, not necessarily in the same way, and not necessarily to the same degree.”
I didn’t go through the bi rite of passage and my lack of female crushes left me feeling a little less than worthy.
You see, I’ve been in a long-term relationship with a man for almost six years. Before that, I was completely smitten by crushes on male students in school. I didn’t go through the bi rite of passage and my lack of female crushes left me feeling a little less worthy. My lack of experience leaves me feeling a lot less worthy.
While I can academically and logically work through my insecurities, I can’t seem to make it stick. Biphobia — the stigma, prejudice, and discrimination towards bisexual people — runs so deep that I cannot seem to untangle it from my own relationship with my sexuality.
How dare I call myself queer when others are more queer than I am? What if it is a phase like everyone says it is? Why do I think I can take up this space? As a socially anxious person, it was like someone telling me to go to a raging house party by myself, where everybody already knew each other. As a Chinese Australian woman, I’m already acquainted with feeling alienated at the best of times, so why would I choose to enter another community where I could be met with more delicious layers of rejection and hurt? And it’s not just an internal battle either — why would I want to admit to being bi when 44% of Australians say that they’re not at all open to dating someone who is bisexual?
But in the same way that Australians shouldn’t paint an entire sexuality with one brush (date us! I promise we’re nice!), I shouldn’t paint the bisexual experience with one stroke. Listening to other bi coming out stories in their awkward, uncertain and messy glory, helped me come to terms with my own story.
As a baby queer, I’m relishing in the experimentation that the territory comes with. While supremely stereotypical (and maybe a bit problematic), I cut my hair shorter! I wore a boiler suit! I dyed bits of my hair blue!
What I’m learning is to embrace this grey area, this unknown. I’m going to get it wrong some of the time, but the more I’m in this, the more I realize there’s not really a right or wrong. This unknown is actually written into the queer experience. The Q in LGBTQIA+ doesn’t only stand for queer, it stands for questioning.
It’s becoming widely accepted that people don’t have to subscribe to labels or have big coming out moments anymore. But for me, vocalizing that yes, I am in fact bisexual has been nothing short of healing. My voice may shake, and my eyes still may be downcast, but it’s no longer a confession, it’s an affirmation.