30 Bisexual Women Discuss Their Long-Term Relationships With Men
A look into the experiences of bisexual women who happened to fall in love with men.
1. "I guess we can cross the bisexual off your chart, can't we? That was just a phase."
"I was in a new city, needed a doctor, so filled out my health history, my partners, etc. I've only ever been with my boyfriend and one woman, so it was a big deal when I wrote down that I was bisexual on that form. (At least for me; it was the first time I had identified myself in that way.) A year or so later, when I got pregnant, we went back in to the doctor to confirm and after we had heard our baby's heartbeat for the first time, seen that it was a real being, that our lives were about to change, the nurse comes in to do my examination (my boyfriend had left at this point) and tells me in a sly voice, 'I guess we can cross the bisexual off your chart, can't we? That was just a phase.'"
2. "Since I was attracted to boys, I just assumed I was straight and ignored the attraction I felt for girls."
"I'm a bi/pansexual woman married to a straight man. I grew up in a Christian, conservative family. My parents never said that homosexuality was wrong, but they never really said it was OK either. I think they didn't want to address it. But my church made it clear to me as a young person that it was only OK to be straight. Since I was attracted to boys, I just assumed I was straight and ignored the attraction I felt for girls. I never gave myself the chance to think about it because I was safe where I was.
Shortly before I married my husband, I finally left Christianity behind, for many reasons. This started a period of self-exploration for me. I was finally able to think about who I really am and what I really believe without some old white guy telling me the 'right' answers and condemning me for any deviance. It's been wonderful and freeing. Part of this was learning that I'm not straight. I realized that I was falling in love with one of my female friends (who is also bisexual). I also started to realize that strict monogamy may not be the best idea for me. I would very much like to be able to love more than one person, but my husband is and wants us to remain strictly monogamous. He never even seems to notice anyone else!
I think my parents would accept my bisexuality, especially since I'm married to a man and therefore not actually dating women, but they're still busy processing the fact that I'm not Christian. In a way, marrying a man makes it easy to 'hide.' People just assume you're straight. It can be freeing not to have to worry about people's negative reactions to even just seeing you with your partner. But on the other side of the coin, it makes me sad that I even need to hide or worry about these things."
3. "It's like coming out all over again."
"I have avoided telling my queer friends that I am in a relationship with a man. It's like coming out all over again and I've experienced resistance against it. It feels like you are mistrusted, that people think you have actively chosen to take the route of most privilege without considering the ways in which you are now held at the margins by the community you most identify with. I am new to this relationship and still trying to navigate how to move through both worlds. Sometimes it means passing depending on the context because it's hard to play the role of educator and/or be on the defense all the time. Even with friends, I've faced microaggressions in the form of jokes: 'How does straightness feel?'"
4. "I was trading messages with a gorgeous lady vegan baker."
"I think the weirdest thing for me isn't the judgment of other people (since I just pass for straight), but the idea of what could have been. Just before I met my current dude (4.5 years and counting), I was trading messages with a gorgeous lady vegan baker. I know nothing is that simple, but it's kind of Frostian: Two roads diverged in a yellow wood — except the woods are full of various genitals."
5. "I don't feel like there's a place for me at queer events."
"I actually came out as bi only a few months ago, and last month married a man. One of the reasons I waited so long was that as a fly-on-the-wall 'straight' woman, I heard so much bullshit against bi people from other queer folks that I felt completely unwelcome in the queer community. I love activism and I love running my mouth but even now, being out, I don't feel like there's a place for me at queer events."
6. "I was called 'selfish,' 'confused' and 'doing it for attention.'"
"A month or two ago at a house party, I told a few people I was bisexual. It doesn't mean much to me. It's just the way it is. Unfortunately, language boxes us in. On paper, I'm straight (I'm in a long-term relationship with a man) but I'm attracted to both men and women. I'm fluid. I tried explaining this, but I was called 'selfish,' 'confused' and 'doing it for attention.' The worst part is that this person was a friend, and he laughed my words away, as though sexuality were set. I explained the Kinsey scale, to no avail. I asked him if he liked tits, he said yes, and then I said, 'Well, so do I! Now we understand one another.'"
7. "I actually just came out to my youngest son a few weeks ago."
"I actually just came out to my youngest son a few weeks ago. He's 15 and his older brother is 18 (and hasn't been told) and I'd been wondering for a long time about how to address it with them, if I needed to address it, or if I should just let it be. My husband and I have been together since college — 29 years this past February — but I didn't realize I was bi until after we were married (25 years this October). I told my husband as soon as I made that realization. (It's one of those things that when you put the pieces together and suddenly you're like, Ohhhhhhhhh! You know that you've hit on the truth.) And, for most of our relationship, all it's really meant is making some past relationships with women make a whole lot more sense.
In the past year, my younger son has started asking some really insightful questions about gender issues and sexual orientation (like, 'Why is sexual orientation defined only by what body part goes where?'). A couple of weeks ago, during one of our conversations, I knew I had an opportunity to share this facet of myself with him. So I asked him, 'What do you think I am?' It took him a long time to answer, and I said, 'You've never really thought about it, have you?' And he said, 'Since you're asking, I'm assuming the answer isn't straight.' We had a great conversation about what being bisexual means, perceptions of it in both straight and gay culture, and what it means for me personally. His only real questions were if his dad knew (yes) and if his brother knew (no).
For him, it was just another thing to know about his mom, to file with things like my being a writer, growing up in Connecticut, etc. But for me, it was an amazing experience of feeling like he was finally seeing a more complete picture of who I am. Plus, honestly, it felt good to say it out loud. Even living in San Francisco, the assumption people make about me is that I'm straight."
8. "I am a bi woman currently dating a bi man."
"I am a bi woman currently dating a bi man. Often, when folks discover our sexual preferences it's met with positivity and support. But every now and then someone will look at our relationship and assert that they are the ones who get to categorize us. Lesbians often do not think that I am gay enough or that I am pretending, or see my current relationship as me hiding my true self to blend in. My partner too gets similar remarks. I think, based on our conversations together, that he gets remarks like these more often than I do. Our sexuality as a couple, too, has been made into a fetish by straight folks thinking that our relationship is a gateway to their forays with threesomes."
9. "I reference ex-girlfriends in conversation when relevant."
"I reference ex-girlfriends in conversation when relevant, which is one way to address [invisibility] I guess. When we moved into our new house, which is in a pretty normal sleepy community, it was almost Fourth of July and everyone had American Flags so we got a rainbow American Flag and put it out. I kind of held my breath waiting for neighbors to react, but they were like, 'Yay! Cool flag!' Even the 75-year-old lady with the NRA stickers on her car was a huge fan."
10. "Oh my good god, I am actually having this conversation over coffee and toddlers."
"One of my most jarring experiences as a bi woman was when, in a play group, one of the other mothers asked really earnestly, 'What would you guys do if your kid turned out to be gay?' And I was like, 'Oh my good god, I am actually having this conversation over coffee and toddlers.' They were fine when I said, 'Um, actually...' but the whole experience was pretty invalidating. It was the first time I felt like I was masquerading as straight."
11. "Every single day."
"Every single day there is at least one, and usually more than one, instance where my corporeal reality is negated by friends, acquaintances, colleagues, strangers. I think i've only ever been acknowledged and respected for who and what I am via writing — in the territory of textuality — where apparently other writers and artists will let my sexuality be what it is. In the world, not so much."
12. "Two of my guy's friends have a wager on how long before I 'hook up' with a single (straight) girl in our circle."
"It's typically early on in a relationship or friendship that I share that I'm bisexual and have been intimate with both guys and girls. What's surprising to me is the amount of people who follow up with questions about my experiences with girls, but not guys. For example, it's not usually appropriate (at least in our circle of friends) to ask how many guys a girl has been with or how many girls a guy has been with, but the moment I shared that I had been with girls, there was no hesitation in asking how many or how often or how far we had 'gone.' Now, had those questions been asked to me about ex-boyfriends, many would have quickly asserted that I didn't need to answer and the interviewer would have been scolded.
Currently (because they think it's funny), two of my guy's friends have a wager on how long before I 'hook up' with a single (straight) girl in our circle. It doesn't seem to matter to them that I'm in a relationship with their friend and if there was a single (straight) guy in the group, that suggestion would be offensive to everyone involved."
13. "I'm more of a sliding Kinsey scale gal."
"I'm more of a sliding Kinsey scale gal. I'm definitely still figuring out where I land (bi vs. pan) but for sure getting more comfortable identifying as not straight to my friends and people I interact with on the subject. That said, being in a very typical-looking straight relationship means people assume I'm straight so there hasn't been much 'coming out,' and it has been a struggle for me to identify and be active in any community because of my relationship status."
14. "I totally feel the weirdness of passing."
"I totally feel the weirdness of passing, though in my case it's complicated a bit because my first novel is a queer (bisexual, but not only) retelling of a Greek myth. I've talked a lot in interviews that are available online about being bisexual, and anybody who picks up the book can read some lesbian sex scenes I wrote. So I feel as though people often know I identify as bisexual, but whether or not they take my identity seriously, well. Not always sure about that."
15. "I seek out the wider queer community, and sometimes get side-eyed because a 'straight' couple is entering the space."
"I seek out the wider queer community, and sometimes get side-eyed because a 'straight' couple is entering the space. It's also complicated because I felt compelled to hide the side of myself that is attracted to women until my early twenties. I grew up in the South and, for example, after fooling around with a friend from school, I got teased and called a lesbian. I think this is part of the reason I want to so fiercely claim my bisexuality now. Making up for lost time, I suppose."
16. "I feel like my bisexuality is invisible."
"I don't feel removed from my bisexual identity because I married a straight guy. I feel like my bisexuality is invisible."
17. "I admittedly feel insecure about dating men and not being 'queer enough' to hang."
"Some people leave their sexuality at whoever they're dating, but my sexual identity plays a heavy role in who I share a community with. I have barely any straight friends. My longest, most serious relationship was with a trans man. But deep down I feel like bisexual people are especially mistrusted in my community, particularly when we're in functionally heterosexual relationships. I felt like I couldn't bring my previous boyfriend around my friends because he was so painfully straight and not well versed in culturally queer things. And I admittedly feel insecure about dating men and not being 'queer enough' to hang."
18. "Oh, were you a college lesbian?"
"I live in a gay resort town and people often ask me what it's like living in a gay town. They talk to me as if I'm straight... When I mention women I dated in the past people sometimes say, 'Oh, were you a college lesbian?' and laugh. Which is, y'know, hurtful. This whole piece of my identity, and relationships that mattered to me, are being treated liked ghosts. Not even ghosts. More like something that never existed."
19. "Some friends claimed they knew all along I was never 'into girls' anyway."
"When I first came out as a queer woman (my term for myself) I felt immediately embraced into a secret club — first in NYC and later in St. Louis. But once I found a man attractive, and acted on that attraction, I felt as if I had betrayed these other women and trans guys who had become my friends. This included not only people my own age, but mentors in my field, as well. When I began dating a man (who is now my husband) and told my gay female friends, the response was, as you might imagine — but I hadn't imagined — not positive. One friend said, 'You aren't allowed to switch teams.' Some claimed they knew all along I was never 'into girls' anyway. Others stopped taking my calls or inviting me to parties. Some of these women are still my friends, but we are nowhere near as close as we once were."
20. "I can't talk about my love life with my closest friends, who are gay or lesbian. "
"I used to identity as a lesbian, until I fell in love with a cisgender man. And then a trans man. And then my friends stopped talking to me and I was called breeder and I was excommunicated from the gay and lesbian community. I have been in relationships with many biological men and biological women, many trans men and women, and a few gender neutral lovers have come into my life as well. I feel like I can't go to queer dance parties and I can't talk about my love life with my closest friends, who are gay or lesbian. My queerness is less valid than other people's when I love a man."
21. "Actually, I'm not straight. I can see why you thought that, but I'm bisexual."
"One day, I was talking with a colleague. He was telling me about a conversation he'd had with a mutual acquaintance of ours. I had come up in this conversation, and my colleague, a gay man, had told our acquaintance that I was straight. After a shocked moment of silence, I interjected, 'Actually, I'm not straight. I can see why you thought that, but I'm bisexual.' My colleague was shocked. It had never occurred to him that people in opposite-sex relationships *who work in the queer movement* might actually be queer themselves."
22. "I've been married for almost 14 years and my husband is aware and comfortable with my bisexuality."
"I've been married for almost 14 years and my husband is aware and comfortable with my bisexuality. I don't feel disconnected from my bisexuality. It is very much a part of who I am. But there isn't a friend or family member in my life, outside my husband, who would identify me as bi. At least I don't believe so."
23. "Sometimes when I am particularly anxious, I find myself questioning whether I'm actually attracted to women."
"I identify as bisexual but I have a lot of trouble telling people about it because I've never actually been with a woman. I've basically skipped from one monogamous relationship with a man to another for about six years, and had very little time in between to figure out what to call myself or how to identify. Sometimes when I am particularly anxious, I find myself questioning whether I'm actually attracted to women, or if I'm just buying into the patriarchal, heterosexualized image of Woman, if that makes sense. It's hard to navigate the divide between being attracted to someone and admiring someone, I guess."
24. "I've seen snide comments on Facebook about bisexuals being greedy or indecisive, and I've struggled with slapping them down without outing myself."
"My now-mother-in-law insisted to my now-husband that he shouldn't be involved with me because I will inevitably cheat on him, since I can't be satisfied with a man. We've been together for seven years and so far I've been able to restrain myself from cheating, but I guess there's always next year. I've gotten into the habit of referring to my husband as my partner, both because I don't think our marital status is the most important part of our relationship and because my partner's gender matters less to me than that he's my love and support and friend and partner in all things.
My social circle is fairly progressive but I've seen snide comments on Facebook about bisexuals being greedy or indecisive, and I've struggled with slapping them down without outing myself. At the same time, I struggle with why it matters whether I out myself or not, and how much I can and should contribute to bi visibility when I'm in a monogamous partnership.
Offline, it is even more difficult. I'm a licensed therapist, and in grad school we were encouraged to identify our own biases and learn about diverse populations. Enough of my classmates were conservative that I didn't feel comfortable being out to the whole cohort, but it was important to contribute my personal experiences to a room full of privileged straight people who mostly tried to be accepting but couldn't understand why they couldn't 'love the sinner, hate the sin.' The other bi woman in the group was out to me and a few others but was too afraid of losing her job to share her own experiences. When I graduated and began working with children, I understood her reluctance to come out. I trust my co-workers but I need the trust of my clients and their parents. Unfortunately that means being seen as straight."
25. "Most people assume I'm straight."
"Most people assume I'm straight because I have a femme identity. I was married to a cis man for five years, and now that I'm single again, folks want to hook me up with guys, even though I'd like to also date women, and have been out as bi/queer for 20 years."
26. "So you're straight now?"
"My boyfriend and I were both totally gay-identified when we hooked up. He was not 'straight-acting' and at the time I 'looked like a dyke' and was very politically active in the campus gay community. If anyone was the butch in the relationship it was me. People were like, 'So you're straight now?' and all I could do was laugh and ask, 'Um, have you MET us?'
Then we traveled to Peru to stay with his family and their reaction to me/us (him having come out in high school) was so undermining to his identity and past struggle that he freaked out and dumped me, suddenly seeing me as heterosexual society forcing him back into the closet."
27. "I can't help but be pissed off when I'm not given the chance to be seen as my whole self."
"I prefer queer to bi because I am attracted to people who are more than either just male or female — I reject that binary. I recently got introduced as a party as someone who is 'intellectually queer' and I was hella pissed. To quote Harvey Milk, 'Fuck that, motherfucker, I'm GAY.' As a femme I have very little visibility, and that's OK, I know who the eff I am. I have compassion for people who are confused; I know it is complicated. But I can't help but be pissed off when I'm not given the chance to be seen as my whole self, complications and all."
28. "I feel like I have to demonstrate or prove my queerness."
"I feel like I have to demonstrate or prove my queerness to policing queers, like it's quantifiable or any of their effing business to begin with."
29. "Oh yeah, you are a dyke, just come out."
"In college, I hooked up with both men and women, but my next love was a bisexual man, who I ended up marrying. We had several breakups before we were married during which I had relationships almost exclusively with women. Altogether, I was with my husband for almost 14 years, and we were married for almost six. Right now we're going through a divorce because the relationship had become problematic for several reasons. I began to discuss this with people, and found that many of them didn't believe that bisexuality exists, not really — several close friends of mine were like, 'Oh yeah, you are a dyke, just come out,' and others were like, 'Maybe you're not really gay,' and others were just skeptical that I can truly be attracted to both men and women, and enjoy sex with both genders."
30. "The feelings and attractions I still have — these are all an important part of me."
"The girls I crushed on growing up, the feelings and attractions I still have — these are all an important part of me. To act as if marrying a man has 'de-queered' me is to deny me the right to be my full self."