Don't let anyone tell you you're not bisexual enough
Not even your own bisexual friend
Can you recall how many times you’ve been asked to have a threesome? I can. The number is more than the number on my weighing scale, so you know it’s a lot. You’d think I’m Aphrodite incarnate for people to be jumping at a chance to get me in their beds, but it’s not my sex appeal — as much as it would’ve fanned my ego — but rather the simple fact that I’m bisexual.
An ex-boyfriend of mine thought it would be funny to dare my friend and I to make out. Safe to say, he’s been kicked to the curb. Rumours and misconceptions abound about bisexual women, so I take breaking the mythical bubble about bisexual land very seriously. Yes, I date women and men. No, it’s not a phase. I’m not a closeted lesbian afraid to cross over to the other side. I’m not just ‘passing time’ with women before I find the love of my life who’s — this comes as no shocker— a man.
I knew from a young age that I wasn’t heterosexual. But having been brought up in a small town in North India, I didn’t have the vocabulary to define my experiences until I saw Sunny Leone accept on national television that she was bisexual. I remember feeling the exact same way one usually does after polishing off a plate of mummy ke haath ka khaana. My brain was ecstatic at finally finding the word to describe how I felt inside.
But being bisexual is more than just making Katy Perry’s I Kissed A Girl And I Liked It your life anthem, even though you did kiss a girl and liked it. At its core, bisexuality is defined as an attraction to people who are of the same gender and people of a gender other than your own, so that can mean any two or more genders, according to psychologist Liz Powell, PsyD, author of Building Open Relationships. Not to be confused with pansexuality, which means an attraction to people of any and all genders, bisexuality is an attraction to multiple genders, but not all of them.
Okay, if you feel like you just read a quantum physics equation, this might make it easier for you. If I say I’m pansexual, that means I like all colours, be it cerulean blue, bubblegum pink, French violet, and even the drabbest, darkest brown. But, if I say I’m bisexual that means, I like multiple colours, but not all colours. Cerulean blues and bubblegum pinks or Pantone’s Colour of The Year 2022 Very Peri might make the cut, but I may not like muddy brown, and that’s completely okay.
For a long time, the meaning of bisexuality has caused confusion, not just among bisexuals and heterosexuals but also within the queer community. It’s been argued that bisexuality is transphobic, based on the assumption that the ‘bi’ in bisexual explains attraction only in the binaries (i.e., just ‘men’ or ‘women’). While the word ‘bisexual’ was conceived during a time when gender was not as well comprehended as it is now, bisexuals don’t date exclusively on the binary. Many bisexuals date non-binary people, and many non-binary people also identify as bisexual.
This misconception, when directed towards bisexuals, can cause feelings of guilt and shame. When Ananya Thakur* told a queer friend that she was bisexual, they slammed her for being transphobic. “Honestly, I was dumbfounded. I felt guilty. I thought I was being transphobic by identifying as bisexual.”
This guilt can often hinder bisexual people. It held me back, too. In school, I was very comfortable and accepting of my sexuality. Although my friends knew, I never felt the need to ‘come out’ because my bisexuality wasn’t dependent on whether other people knew about it or not. I had never dated anyone other than cishet men (heterosexual men who identify with the gender assigned at birth), yet I knew I didn’t need to tick it off a checklist to ‘confirm’ my bi-ness. That’s how self-assured I was, but it all changed when I went to college and became a part of largely queer spaces.
When I confided in a close friend, who also happened to be bisexual, she shook it off, telling me I was bicurious, the term for a heterosexual person who is interested in being intimate with a person of the same sex. She insisted that because I had never been with anyone other than a cishet man, I didn’t know if I really was bisexual. Although I didn’t instantly recognise the damage her casual dismissal of my sexuality had caused, the match had been lit. I no longer felt comfortable telling anyone I was bisexual, let alone accepting it myself. My brain thought, “hmm, it’s probably all the lesbian porn”, or “have you even had a crush on someone other than a man before?”, or “you’ve probably convinced yourself you’re bi because you want to be cool”.
The dearth of representation of bisexuality in pop culture didn’t help either. Until Bani J played a bisexual woman in Four More Shots Please! in 2019, we were largely ignored as a demographic. It’s always cathartic to see a version of yourself represented on screen or in books, like finding breadcrumbs of yourself you can follow back home. So I lived with the constant chatter of my thoughts telling me I was an impostor. Because we’re not shown what it means to be bisexual or what bisexual relationships might look like, bisexuality is generally misunderstood, leaving everyone to deduce meaning out of porn and raunchy comedy.
The erasure of my own bisexuality was so deeply entrenched in my mind, at this point, one could almost liken it to the flat Earthers’ crusade. You couldn’t make me believe it even if you somehow managed to make me see it with my own naked eyes, the roundness of the Earth, or in my case, the bi-ness of my being.
This prejudice towards bisexuality is rampant, even within the LGBTQIA+ community. Ankit Pandey, who identifies as a homoromantic homosexual, talks of bisexual erasure within the community. “Anything that is not easily understood or takes effort to understand, people shy away from it.”
Thakur says she feels her bisexuality is “invalidated” if she’s in a relationship with a man. “Because I’ve had more casual sexual relationships with men, I am perceived more as heterosexual than bisexual, especially in queer circles,” she adds.
It took me a long time to understand that being bisexual doesn’t mean I have to sexually and emotionally associate with several genders in an equal manner. I know my friend didn’t know better because she, too, had nobody to guide her.
Even if you haven’t had the same amount of sexual and emotional interaction with several genders, know that your right to claim your bisexuality won’t automatically evaporate into thin air — like doughnuts left unattended in the fridge.
Although I never felt the need to ‘come out’ before, after the years it took me to shake off the doubt, I can now loudly and proudly proclaim that I am bisexual. Every time I do it, the young Rishika in me does a little shimmy. Yes, I still sometimes feel confused about my sexuality but that’s only because the experience of one’s sexual identity can shift and flow over the years. I, too, am evolving as I go — accepting one label at a time.