Get the story to fuel your conversation today. I never told anyone because even at such a young age, I understood it was probably something I should keep to myself.
Later in life, I was bullied throughout elementary school and junior high for being weird. The thought of also being bullied because I was gay was unfathomable to me. My attraction to boys became apparent when I was 14, when I fell for a feminine-looking French boy. Fearing the social stigma of being bi — or, worse, fearing that "bisexual" would be perceived as code for "slut" — I made the decision to only hook up with boys throughout high school, telling myself that I would just repress my same-sex attraction forever.
But when I finally came out as queer in college, something peculiar happened: I went to Oberlin College, a liberal arts school where sexual experimentation might as well have been part of the curriculum.
Considering how anxious I'd been about coming out as bisexual as a teen, it was both shocking and incredibly freeing to find that everyone accepted my orientation right away. A few years later, I've stopped publicly identifying as queer; because I've never dated a woman, I didn't feel it was specific enough to me and my experience.
Instead, I identify as a heteroromantic bisexual , which means that while I'm sexually attracted to men and women, I only date men.
Figuring out a more precise descriptor of my sexual identity helped me understand who I am. And I'm not alone. With celebrities like Lily-Rose Depp and Miley Cyrus publicly coming out as sexually fluid, our culture is increasingly coming to terms with the idea that sexual attraction doesn't have to fit into a strict binary. It's a term used to describe those who are attracted to both women and men but are exclusively romantically involved with members of the opposite sex.
In an April piece for Cosmopolitan, writer Michelle Ruiz didn't explicitly use the term but did outline the dynamic of women who sleep with women, specifically: They're ladies who "self-identify as straight, who want relationships with guys, but also enjoy a woman's body and affection here and there. Indeed, when I put out a call for people who identify as heteroromantic and bisexual, I received an outpouring of responses from women who exclusively dated men but also slept with women.
While many of them said they were out to their current romantic partners, the majority of them were not out to their families. It's a little complicated. Rebloggy When sex and emotions diverge: Although people might separate their romantic orientations from their sexual orientations, some feel that these distinctions are problematic and steeped in centuries of homophobia. That doesn't need to be the case," Moore wrote.
Baldwin also emphasized that the labels gay, straight and bi do not "represent the sexual and romantic realities of a great many people. Many people experience both sexual and romantic attractions in different ways to different people and even different types of people. This can, but doesn't necessarily change over their lifetime. There are a slew of stereotypes associated with bisexuality, such as the idea that being bisexual means that you can't make up your mind or, as I feared in my high school years, that it makes you "slutty.
When I put out a call for people who identify as heteroromantic and bisexual, for instance, I expected to mostly receive responses from women, as women statistically self-identify as bisexual more often than men do. I was surprised to receive an outpouring of responses from men, who felt they couldn't be fully open about their sexuality due to fear of alienating male and female partners. For heteroromantic bisexual men, coming out to their female partners can have unintended consequences.
A fair amount of women lose interest in me upon learning my sexuality. I learned later that the coach turned his eye away because he heard I was a 'queer. While we consider it OK for women to experiment with other women because lesbian sex is "hot," men who experiment with other men are instantly labeled as gay. For men, coming out can be disastrous.
Most people think that sexuality lies in three basic categories: Sexuality is also perceived as something stable: Once you're out, you're out. And if you don't ever come out, you're straight — full stop. Our culture is slowly but surely realizing that there are many shades of gray when it comes to sexual orientation, and we're creating the space for sexual identities that weren't previously acknowledged.
While some might question the validity of these identities, it's clear that they help us make better sense of our sexuality and our world. That said, while using the label "heteroromantic bisexual" has clarified my sexuality for myself, I'd rather do without the labels to begin. Labels suggest that sexuality is somehow fixed, when in reality, it's forever in flux.
This fixed perception of sexuality is also why I haven't come out to my family and many of my romantic partners; I don't want to be seen as fickle. I know this speaks to larger issues about how our culture perceives bisexuality, but like Steve, I can't help not wanting to be judged regardless. As people find more specific ways to identify their sexual and romantic orientations, we should reconsider why it's important for people to come out, and how sexual attraction relates to identity.
And as we come up with more and more labels to describe who we like having sex with, we might find that in the end, we don't need any labels at all.