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The best of both worlds?

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SEPTEMBER 25, 2012

It always ends up being the same conversation. I’ll say, “Oh yeah, I like women too. I’m bisexual.”  And then some smug, arrogant person who assumes to be an absolute authority on every single person’s sexuality will tell me “No you’re not. You’re just young and trying new things, and eventually you’ll settle down and put that all behind you.”

That’s when I feel like punching in faces and obliterating everything that person believes about his or her own sexuality. Who is anyone to tell me that the feelings I have for somebody I’m attracted to aren’t real?

Each time I tell someone I’m “bi,” there’s an inherent fear of being invalidated and then not being able to substantiate myself. When I am drawn to someone’s looks or personality, I don’t see a man or a woman. I just see an attractive person. People ask me all the time if, deep down, I have more of a preference for one or the other — and, honestly, I don’t. When it comes to loving somebody, gender is nothing but a social and physical constraint.

There’s a widespread refusal to extend acceptance and credibility to people who identify as bisexual. Bisexuality raises many issues concerning how sexuality is defined. In a society that heavily enforces heterosexuality as the norm, the fact that some people pursue relations with both genders is confounding and simply unbelievable. Why deviate if you can supposedly “choose” to be normal and straight?

The most common things bisexuals hear are “you’re just a straight person who wants attention” and “bisexuality is just a phase, and you’re only experimenting” and “bisexuals are just confused, and eventually they’ll come out straight or gay.”

According to James McCary’s “Human Sexuality,” sexual orientation can only be self-defined, if it must be defined at all. It is a part of a person’s identity that goes beyond who that person has sex with. It extends to an individual’s emotions, thoughts, hopes and dreams, and it seems politically incorrect to blatantly deny all of those components of someone’s identity.

Bisexuals are also accused of reaping heterosexual privileges and being accepted as part of mainstream society even while they carry homosexual feelings and tendencies. But this doesn’t consider the fact that being “part of the mainstream” denies bisexuals a meaningful part of themselves. Why would I want to deny the part of myself that loves being intimate with women for the rest of my life?

And if you’re not straight in our hetero-normative society, you can only be the complete opposite of straight, which is gay. This dualistic way of looking at sexuality is inaccurate, and it limits potential to realize the full extent of desire. Extending legitimacy to the fact that someone can be both straight and gay might threaten people’s own sense of their hetero- or homosexuality, which they take for granted as fixed. The fact that there are people who refuse to stay on just one of side of the straight-gay binary threatens heteronormative beliefs and the argument that sexuality is something one is innately born with.

It’s problematic to impose a rigid identity, because people are rarely just one thing throughout their entire lives. Bisexuals are neither completely straight nor completely gay, and there are lots of people who fall in between these three categories. There’s an entire spectrum of sexuality that society needs to recognize as valid.

This simply leads to the question of why sexuality requires clear labels. Is that person bisexual? Is this going to be a one-time thing during which one sees someone of the same-sex and then goes back to being normal? Does it really matter?

If society were genuinely accepting of all sexualities, people wouldn’t have to label their orientations because they would be free to be intimate with whomever they feel attracted to at whatever point in time. Occasionally, curiosity gets the best of us, and we wonder what it would be like to be with the person of the same gender. But we forcefully suppress such thoughts because it’s socially unacceptable.

My argument is not that being bisexual is the best way to live and that being completely hetero- or homosexual is invalid. But as a bisexual who has experienced stigma from both straight and gay parties, I think it’s important to respect the lifestyles of those who choose not to stick to just one side of the spectrum. Society should simply accept and give legitimacy to all sexual identities people choose to embrace rather than reluctantly doling out rights on the basis of inborn tendencies.

People say that being bisexual is like having “the best of both worlds,” as if each gender inhabits a completely separate world. Rather, it’s more like having the best of the entire world, and that’s something to which everybody is entitled.

Contact Nadia Cho at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter: @nadiiacho.

APRIL 17, 2015