At twenty-five, I moved back to England from France to finish my PhD. Simultaneously, I decided that I would no longer deny my bisexuality. I have done the latter more effectively than the former.
I hardly knew any LGBTQ people and I didn’t know one self-identified bisexual person. I hadn’t done so much as to even kiss a member of the same sex and I was very slow and tentative in coming to terms with my attraction towards men.
I began this exploration of my sexuality by reading as much as I could, My search for information on bisexuality didn’t yield much to begin with. I really wanted a memoir written by a bisexual person to help me to process my sexuality. But I couldn’t find any, so I read memoirs by gay men and lesbians. These were interesting and informative, but they didn’t speak to my experience, and if they did it was as a challenge and/or a denial of it. In order to find out more about bisexuality I turned to the Internet. It wasn’t as easy to find information as I thought it might be. I didn’t really know where to look. So I trawled through random blogs, newspaper articles, and Tumblr. Reading these was often helpful, but one thing that kept coming up was the common statement from self-identified bisexuals, that they were bisexual, and they weren’t confused!
Images like this pop-up a lot.
As someone new to exploring and admitting their sexual preferences, I found this more like a goal to achieve than a sentiment I could readily embrace. I did find some encouragement in it; an affirmation that my sexual preferences were accepted and valid. But predominantly it made me feel like I couldn’t be bisexual, as bisexuality and confusion didn’t seem to be able to co-exist. And this only added to my confusion, because I felt like I was bisexual and I was confused.
I respect those who are un-confusedly bisexual. I’m even a little envious. I also understand how and why those who use the phrase above do so to respond to a culture which has told them that they are “just confused” when they’re not. It’s important. But I feel the need to claim for myself and other bisexuals in a similar position the right to avow and speak about our confusion, without it being stigmatized. People’s experiences are different.
I assume that many people who are attracted to more than one sex are somewhat confused when they first start to explore and avow their sexuality – and possibly also somewhere, or in various places, along the line. But I didn’t hear about this type of experience in the resources I found.
Most of us live in a society that tells us to be attracted exclusively to the opposite sex, but even if we’re lucky enough to live in a less homophobic environment, then heternormativity is still present in the belief that it’s an either/or situation. If it’s not, then you’re lying to yourself, or going through a phase [it’s normal, everybody does], or, God forbid, just confused!
BUT IT IS CONFUSING
Some days it just doesn’t make sense. Other days I think I’m just open to the world in a different way. On Tuesdays and Wednesdays someone’s gender really isn’t an issue for me, but then the following 24 hours I can be obsessed by wanting the specificities of a male or female body. It becomes exhausting, and I decide I will refuse to think about it any longer, which is inevitably impossible.
Just saying this out-loud makes me feel better. Trying not to be confused isn’t worth the effort. From childhood to my mid-twenties, I believed that you should be attracted to the “opposite sex,” and if you weren’t then you must only be attracted to the same sex. Straight or gay were the only categories of sexuality I had language for. Realizing that I fit into neither category is going to take a while to get used to. And it’s an ongoing process. I feel unsure about my sexuality some days – but I’m trying to embrace this feeling of confusion because it’s to be expected in the environment I live in, it’s quite normal when exploring one’s sexuality, and it’s valid.
Perhaps it won’t last forever. On bad days I really hope it won’t. I hope that it will fade into the past, and allow me to get on with my life. But this is just a ruse to a notion of normality. I’m new to exploring my sexuality and I can feel like I have to get it figured out, specifically when talking to people about my experiences and desires. People are often used to the prevalent discourses that exist about sexuality, and if you don’t fit into these, then they can force you to “pick a side,” or deny how you feel because they don’t understand. This has caused me huge anxiety and has only hindered the process of exploring my identity and sexuality. I’ve found that these negative emotions – from myself and from others – are really more about fear than confusion: a fear of confusion.
By admitting my confusion, I’m realizing that I don’t have to yield to these outside pressures to fit into a pre-defined space. Being able to say “I’m bisexual, and I’m confused” enables me to get on with my day, to refuse anxiety and fear of the unknown, and allows me to stay open to the possibilities that confusion in bisexuality offers me.
So I’m living with confusion.
Because we have the right to be confused.