Tumblr’s queer-quest had given me “bisexual” and it was the first label I felt especially drawn to, and it’s also the first label I started using publicly. I added “bi” to my Tumblr bio and used it in these spaces for months to test how I felt about it. I thought I felt sure.
Now I think maybe I’d just been desperate to fit in. I waited long enough to fit in somewhere and went all my teen years without it. So, I clung to this. I clung to needing a label to fit in somewhere even though this one wasn’t right for me. But thanks to Tumblr’s “everyone is valid uwu bend the labels however you need to” environment, I kept the bisexual label for years.
During the attraction-investigation of my past, I determined that I experienced some level of sexual attraction to a boy (as discussed before) and some level of romantic attraction to a boy (not the same boy), and both happened around 2012. I still couldn’t figure out if these were real attractions, or just the need to fulfill an expectation that society seemed to require of me. But at the time, I let them both weigh-in on the fact that bisexuality absolutely was my label.
Tumblr presented bisexuality in a few ways. Firstly, the platform consistently pointed out that attraction was not 50% men, 50% women. While this is no longer much of a controversial topic and is still a valid facet of the label, I saw this discourse so often during my early queer years that I thought it meant it fit me. After coming to terms with my non-heterosexuality, I’d been very aware that my preference for women was much, much high than any attraction I experienced for men. I recognized my attraction was probably 98% women, 2% men, and found that bisexuality described this. But at the time, I couldn’t distinguish the difference between compulsive heterosexuality and real attraction for men, so I kept using bisexual just for this fabricated 2% attraction to men.
After enough time had passed, and the only attraction I ever experienced for men stayed in 2012, I began understanding that I would likely never experience that attraction again. And maybe that the attraction was never actually experienced at all, but only a product of expectations. Even still, I kept the bisexual label because of Tumblr’s environment and my fear of limiting myself with labels.
Another Tumblr presentation of bisexuality came as attraction to 2 or more genders, which would include non-binary genders. While I’d be learning more about the LGBTQ community and meeting people who were non-binary, it became very clear to me that I experienced attraction to non-binary people and trans people, and especially more so than with cis-men. So, this definition of bisexuality was often paired with the example, “You can be attracted to girls and non-binary people and still be bisexual.” Therefore, experiencing attraction to men was no longer a bisexual prerequisite.
But what I had loved about the label then, was the fact that “bisexual” didn’t exclude any gender. By the second year of using the label for myself, I was so sure I would never be attracted to cis-men. And yet, I’d been afraid to limit myself with a different label for that possibility that I could be attracted to men at some point in the future. When I thought I was straight, it limited the way I experienced attraction to women, even when that attraction was very strong. I didn’t want to use a label like “gay” or “lesbian,” thinking that it might limit the attraction I could possibly experience for men the same way “straight” did for girls when I was a teenager.
Bisexuality is a label that fits many people in the queer community and people experience and express attraction in various ways under this label, which are valid. But what I did with that label was a sad stereotype. What’s worse is I’d been acutely aware of the stereotype, using bisexuality as a stepping stone to lesbian, which is probably yet another reason why it took that much longer for me to shed the label. I didn’t want to be stereotype. But I already came out to everyone as bi: my parents, my friends, everyone on Facebook. I feared being limited by a same-sex only label. But the bisexual label is what kept me stuck.
The next post will discuss “queer” as a label and the separation of sexual and romantic attractions.