It started as so many things do: with my attempt to wrest some sense from the world by writing a blog post. Assimilating an array of other people’s knowledge and understanding into a basic step-by-step, rough guide that works most of the time. The question? How does one communicate bisexuality.
A few years ago, I was told not to come to Pride. I was told this by a meet-up group for Pride on Facebook. I was asking some questions, I wanted to know what to expect and how to dress, etc.
I was told, ‘You should stay home. It’s not for tourists. Your presence will not be appreciated.’
I responded with ‘What makes you think I’m not L, T or B?’
The retort, no doubt thought up and long-curated with great delight, was ‘You’d better be. Because playing Schrodinger’s queer when you’re straight is really homophobic.’
Well, bravo. I didn’t go to Pride for another 5 years.
Even though I’m actually bisexual.
I don’t need that kind of hostility from strangers. Heaven help me if I’d just been an ‘ally’, right?
This led me to wonder how common my story might be. ‘Straight looking’. ‘Passable’. ‘Femme’. ‘Convincing’.
As a bisexual, we don’t necessarily NEED to always be flying the flag. We can take opposite-sex partners. We can avoid discussion of our sexuality with work and family. We can blanch out, tone-down and cover up. When the occasion arises, we can dress it up again. We can present different personas to different people, to make our lives run as smoothly as possible. We have the luxury of choice. We can represent, or we can hide. Most of the time, we alternate between the two.
Is this a wonderful luxury, that the rest of the rainbow flag often can’t access? In a way, yes. Nobody wants to have to fight all the time to be accepted. And yet it’s also a curse. Because we CAN hide it, we are often expected to. For the sake of manners. Not upsetting elderly relatives. For work. For the sake of having a modicum of privacy without needing to explain who we are and how we run our personal lives at every turn.
What is the result? We can become chameleons. We show what is expected. We develop multiple personas that we trot out when called for. Christmas dinner? Well, your conservative Dad doesn’t need to know that you were in a bi MMF three-way last week with the girlfriend sitting next to you. Parent-teacher meeting? Let’s get the frumpy middle-aged respectable look on, so as not to cause embarrassment or speculation. Time for work? Best tone it down to a conservative, asexual professionalism.
This is a generalisation. But this is also me. This is what I do. I keep myself as a neutral palette and dress to the occasion. Every outfit is a costume. Every look is an affectation, aimed at presenting who I think the situation most calls for. Who am I, even, underneath? In a free-choice scenario, if I had to pick a look and stick with it, who would I be? Do I have tattoo sleeves and a septum ring? Is my hair long? The famous bi/femme undercut? What on earth would I even be wearing?
Maybe this is just me. Maybe the vast majority of bisexual men and women have a strong confidence and unshakeable knowledge of themselves. A style they have chosen, that both defines and perfectly represents them. A look which says ‘Here I am, my lovable, respectable, yet hot bisexual self. All shown just as it should be.’
This is what I sought to find. How does one present oneself as bisexual? What is a bisexual identity?
And this, my darlings, is where it all got a bit tricky.
Whereas gay men and lesbians have a number of distinctive ‘looks’, behaviours and activities that can be pounced upon to solidify one’s place in the tribe (should one wish to), bisexuals really don’t. We are a bit lost. A lot of asking around and Googling gives an impression of a rather strange, hard to define bunch. Based on my results, these are the things that we can ‘definitively’ (ahem) say about bisexuals:
- Bisexuals like black leather jackets and denim jackets
- Bisexuals own the cuffed-jean look
- Bisexual men and women have septum piercings
- Bisexual women have their hair styled with an undercut or a bob with a fringe. Unicorn hair and bright multi-tone dyed hair is preferred.
- Bisexual looks for women under 25 are easy; boyish, biker, gothic, edgy, colourful, a little play with gender styles and clothing cuts. It all looks chic and feminine with a juxtaposition of masculine elements over a young, feminine and gamine frame. Contrast now, with the same elements incorporated when over 35 (and I’ve tried). The very same elements now suggest butch, trashy, crazy cat lady, lesbian, soccer mom (all of which are fine, desirable and sexy looks, and I’m not disrespecting them, but not what I am aiming for in this case.)
- Bisexuals can’t ride bicycles well
- Bisexuals can’t sit properly on chairs
- Bisexuals like to eat lemon slices
- Signalling bisexuality for a woman is about subtly balancing masculine and feminine adornments
- Signalling bisexuality for men is all about having really, really good hair.
- Bisexuals enjoy a little self-deprecating humour
This is what I’ve learnt from Google.
What I’ve learnt from actual human bisexuals is a little different. Mainly, that we lack a tribal identity. We don’t have a look, or way of being. We are just individuals. We either pass as straight or pass as gay. We aren’t confused, but we sure seem to confuse everyone else.
Is this a wonderful thing, or is this part of the problem?
Overall, there appears to be two ways to go to ‘look bisexual’.
- Be invisible. Bisexual visibility day isn’t until September, and there is a whole lot of info around about why bisexuality is so ‘invisible’ and how it’s culturally erased at every turn. I’d rather not only be visible one day a year. In spite of my Kinsey scale sliding around a bit in terms of my preferred aesthetic for sexual partners, my identity has, if anything, gone from nearly-straight to more proudly bisexual over time. That’s not because I have some pressing reason that I need to ‘come clean’ to the world. I don’t have a girlfriend who wants to meet the parents. I’m not being blackmailed by some 1950’s evangelist who thinks that anyone would really care. I’m just a little tired of having to be so many different people. I’m a little tired of the assumption that all female bisexuality is ‘performative’ for men, and the fact that hetero men don’t seem to see the difference between the two. I’m a little tired of female bisexuality being equated with nymphomania. I’m a little tired of all the bi-men I know feeling like they still have to hide who they are, because instead of being viewed as hyper-sexualised sex toys (as the women must contend with), they are viewed as ‘probably gay and in denial’, effeminate, or psychologically disturbed. I’m a little tired of everyone being invisible
- Be Proud. I’ve no idea what this actually means in practice, and how one shows solidarity, tribal affiliation and support for what is essentially an ever changing, hidden and non-homogeneous section of society. Hell, we cant even find and identify each other most of the time. But I’m going to try.
I’d therefore like to invite you all to a special little event this Saturday. With the assistance of my wonderful make-up artist friend, we are going to explore some looks about what it means to be ‘bi and proud’. We are going to laugh at the tropes of what the bisexual world is all about (because we are big on the subtle, self-deprecating humour, right?) and socialise and have bisexual make-overs in the amazing environment of the Apple Tree, this Saturday from 4-7pm. We will have bisexual snacks and drink bisexual drinks and get our bi-proud (or bi-invisible, as you see fit) party looks done for the wonderful Saturday night ahead, with a laugh and a wink and the excellent creative skills of your resident LGTBQIA+ friendly makeup artist and cosmetic consultant, CuriosityT. All are welcome at this Bi event (as with our beds, right? Wink wink) regardless of gender or orientation. It’s just a celebration and exploration of the bi aesthetic and identity.
Then part 2 of this exploration of what it means to express a bisexual identity will be coming up soon. So please do message me with your thoughts, stories, ideas, complaints, outrage, jokes, memes, photos (except dick pics) and lived experiences. Unicorn Hunting is for all of you. For you to tell your own truth. Because seeking the mythical dream, capturing it and bringing it to life is what it’s all about.
Baby ducklings (bisexual and otherwise) xxx