Many of the rules that we've gone over so far make sense for bisexual outcomers as well as gay or lesbian ones. However, as an intaker you should be aware that the bisexual outcoming comes attached to a set of issues all its own. This is why we recommend you practice on gays and lesbians first and then work up to this. Bisexuality is a challenging concept, and if you try to engage it without doing some warmup exercises you may hurt yourself.
The first thing to avoid, when being come out to by a bisexual, is failing to take this seriously. Do not assume, for instance, that "I'm bisexual" is just a less frightening way of saying "I'm gay." It is possible that this is all just a stage on your outcomer's inevitable progress up to the queer end of the Kinsey scale, but you have absolutely no way of knowing if it is or not.
Similarly, you should not assume that "I'm bisexual" means, "essentially, I'm straight, but I really want that special cachet that only comes with a queer identity, and this is my way of claiming it." We will be dealing with the true wannabe--an intensely annoying class of person indeed, but that's not important right now--in "Beyond Coming Out." By identifying as bisexual, your outcomer is risking just as much as a gay or lesbian person, and s/he would not do this if s/he didn't mean it. In fact, s/he is letting him/herself in for a lot of flak from both sides of the continuum, and indeed increasing his/her chances of never being fully accepted by his/her family, since parents with bisexual children often continue to cling for decades to the hope that eventually they will marry, settle down, and altogether forget about this whole queer thing.
Just remember that this is one of the cardinal rules: Never second-guess an outcomer. It is unkind, and unwise. If you don't want to be wearing your fettucine alfredo back to the office, you must accept your outcomer's assessment for what it is and not go making pronouncements about what s/he really means.
But, you are asking, what does my outcomer mean, really? Well, fortunately, we're here to answer your
Not necessarily. Just as some heterosexuals long for nothing more than commitment and marriage, while some will date as many people at one time as their schedule and stamina can handle, some bisexuals are out there looking for Mr. or Ms. Right, and some are looking for action and plenty of it. "But...if you like men and women, how can you ever be satisfied with one person?" I hear you cry. Let me explain.
A lot of this confusion can be put down to etymology. A bi-cycle has two wheels, right? Something bi-lateral has two sides, right? A pair of bi-noculars has two...noculars...right? So a bi-sexual must have two...sexual partners, right? And this is how rumors get started.
For some reason, when sex is at issue the great heterosexual public becomes confused about the difference between "either/or" and "both/and." Watching old Sesame Street reruns should clear this up for you, but in case you didn't have the foresight (or the available technology) to tape them when you were three years old, here it is again: when selecting a partner, the monogamy-minded bisexual will choose either a man or a woman. S/he will not seize upon both a man and a woman.
Another problem is the idea you may have that sexual orientation is something static that cannot change. For this reason, you picture the bisexual sitting in front of a mirror getting ready to go out and saying to him/herself, "What do you think--the gay hat, or the straight hat, this evening?" and you think to yourself, "That's not right. You oughta pick one hat and have it bolted to your head." And then you think, "OK, the hat metaphor's not working for me, clearly, but isn't it a little weird not to be able to make up your mind? I bet these people take forever to order in restaurants."
Well, we're sure that if someone of your taste and sense ponders this question for a moment, you will see the answer. You probably, for instance, have found that you are attracted to more than one physical type, and can, say, see the merits both of blonds and brunettes. Has this branded you forever as the kind of indecisive waffler that drives everyone crazy in the grocery store oscillating for half an hour between Mrs. Butterworth and Vermont Maid brand maple syrup? Why no. It marks you as someone who has an open mind and has not wedded himself to a particular and rigid romantic ideal. If you should be dating a blonde, and be out on a stroll through the park, you might look at a passing brunette and think, "Now there's a fetching creature." But you probably will not unceremoniously drop your date's hand, spin 180 degrees, and charge after this person shouting "MUST HAVE!! MUST HAVE!!!" Similarly, a bisexual dating a woman may look at Keanu Reeves with lust in his/her eyes, or have idle and impure thoughts about the priest during afternoon mass, but this does not automatically translate into leaping up in front of the congregation and doing it on the altar.
To conclude: You yourself, gentle reader, have probably "played the field" in your day. So have most people. The only difference between you and your outcomer is that your field is much smaller. This means s/he has a wider selection to choose from, but s/he will not necessarily take home any more items to try on than you do.
Because we're just better. No, seriously. There's a lot you can do in a gay or lesbian relationship that you can't do in a straight one. Wear each other's clothes, for instance, or make out in a restaurant bathroom. Condoms do get expensive, but you can pay for them with the money you save on emergency home pregnancy tests. Elderly relatives don't object to your sleeping in the same room when you visit. If you're nervous about your prowess, you can always practice at home on your own equipment. And both of you are from the same planet, which is always nice. For instance, you are less likely to find yourself in a situation where you are saying, "I'm not entirely happy with how the relationship is going--can we talk about this?" and the other person responds, "Gimme back the remote control or there's gonna be trouble."
Well, you may be the kind of ravening nymphomaniac who will do anything in a skirt (or necktie, as the case may be), but that doesn't mean that everyone else shares this lamentable lack of discrimination. Most people, in fact, find some of the people in their gender of object choice attractive, but find the vast majority of them about as tempting as a cold Spam sandwich. It is e'en thus with bisexuals--they are attracted to some men, and some women. That does not mean they want to nail everything that moves.
It is really unfortunate for all concerned that in the popular imagination a desire for commitment is so attached to femininity, while promiscuity is considered a masculine trait. It means that as far as mainstream America is concerned, lesbians don't really have sex so much as nest, and that once they've built their happy homes what they mostly do is, in the immortal words of Sylvia Plath, "just lie around and hug," while a gay man, if you raise the question of monogamy, will invariably respond, "True love? Long-term commitment? BWA-HAHAHAHAHA!!! Excuse me, my loins are aflame, I must go and find myself a hot 18-year old for a quick, anonymous fuck." It also means that many people assume that bisexual men are walking around with invisible signs plastered on their chests reading "Mild-mannered heterosexual by day--LOVE GOD OF THE GAY UNDERWORLD BY NIGHT!!" I shouldn't really need to say this, but of course all these things are NOT, in fact, true. If your boyfriend is a monogamous sort of fellow, there is no reason you should trust him any less because he's bisexual. If he isn't, and you are, that's gonna be a problem whether he's bi or not.
NO. I know this isn't how it works in Hustler, but most women who love other women really prefer not to be slobbered over by some Cro-Magnon het boy while they do it. Hard as it is to believe, most women who date other women do so because it offers them things they can't get out of a relationship that involves a man. We're not saying your girlfriend and your friend couldn't make each other very happy, but if they do, they won't be inviting you along.
All right, repeat after me: EVERYTHING HOLLYWOOD HAS TOLD ME IS A LIE. This is true even for heterosexuality, but it goes double for homosexuality and triple for bisexuality. This is not to say that if you keep expecting your bisexual women friends to be licentious, amoral killers who wear no underwear and are still willing to fuck Michael Douglas even if they look like Sharon Stone, you will not eventually goad one into reaching for an ice pick; but that's just because there are limits to everyone's patience.
This'll be easier on your brain if you stop and ask yourself this question: when you are not dating someone, do you cease to be heterosexual? Most likely your response is, "Of course not, and I'll fight anyone who says different." This is because you see being straight as not a matter of who you sleep with, but who you'd like to sleep with if you should be so lucky. Similarly, a bisexual person does not turn in his/her queer credentials when s/he enters a heterosexual relationship, because the desire and potential are still there.
It's true that this is a tricky question, since so much of sexual identity (or identity period, for that matter) is determined not by what one is, but by how one is treated. It's hard enough to make homosexual desire visible when one is actually dating a member of your own gender; when one is dating a hetero partner the rest of the world becomes leagued in a conspiracy to permanently reclaim one for heterosexuality. People pat one on the head and offer one treats--mortagages, blenders, social acceptance, that sort of thing--and in general say, "You wouldn't want to upset everyone by reminding us that you're one of those unclassifiable people that really screws with our precious binary systems, would you? Of course not. Have a biscuit." But how your outcomer plans to deal with this problem is his/her own business. Your responsibility is to let him/her be the judge of who s/he is, and not take The Man's word for it.
So, armed with all this knowledge, what should you do when someone comes out to you as bi? Well, you don't want to immediately say, "Wow! Great! I just got done reading about that in this keen etiquette manual! So are you monogamous, or what?" No, the point is to use this knowledge to avoid saying unfortunate things in reply, such as:
It will also help to realize that in addition to the things that gay and lesbian people are touchy about, there are special things that will set your bisexual outcomer off. A biggie is this idea people have that bisexuals are really gay and lesbian people who just don't have the guts to go all the way. So it's important that in your response, you show that you recognize that you are dealing with a horse of a different color. "Hey, y'know, my aunt's a lesbian too!" will fly even less well in this context than with an actual lesbian outcomer, who will merely be thinking, "So explain to me why I should care?" while the bisexual outcomer will be thinking, "I'd be better off trying to explain this to Newt Gingrich."
Also, it is impolite to greet this announcement with a shrug and a "So...why are you telling me this?" It may seem to you that if your outcomer's bisexuality is still at the theoretical stage, this is information you don't really need to know. After all, if the person is married to or monogamously dating a person of one gender or the other, does it really matter that it would be possible for him/her to go the other way? Shouldn't we wait and burn that bridge when we come to it? I mean, you could go through your whole life straight and We Need Never Know. Well, your outcomer wants to tell you this because s/he feels that it's important for you to know. S/he probably has a reason for this. Listen for what that is and respond accordingly.
Onward to Chapter Five: Spreading The News, Or Not
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Copyright ©1996 The Plaid Adder. Do not reproduce this material without the express permission of the author.