Just a Bisexual Girl Dating in a Gay/Straight World: Exploring Bisexuality
I am a 47-year-old bisexual woman who has been thrown back into the dating world after a good 15-plus years of passing as a heterosexual-ish married woman. I say heterosexual-ish because before getting married to a white, cis heterosexual man; a good handful of acquaintances, ex-lovers, and friends knew my history of exploring bisexuality, about my bisexual identity, and that my sexual and romantic tastes were diverse.
Throughout my high school and college years, I spent time learning about and exploring my bisexuality though there were more men than women and I was not “out” to my family. With a younger sister who identified as gay, an unhealthy relationship with my parents (who were pretty, damn conservative), and a sexual orientation that was largely unaccepted by both the straight and gay communities, living openly as a bisexual woman seemed unwise if not impossible.
My Bisexuality Erasure Story
As a femme presenting woman, dating men has always come much easier to me than dating women. This is an especially frustrating aspect of my bisexuality because frankly, I am generally more attracted to women than men. But, at the age of 29, I found myself single with a young child so I entered the dating game once again as what would appear to be a heterosexual woman. I quickly met a great guy who fell in love with me and my little girl, and within a short time, we were pregnant and married. The picture-perfect heterosexual married couple with kids. It was…challenging.
My ex knew from the jump that I was bi. I never tried to hide my bisexuality. And to him, it wasn’t an issue. He assumed I had had my days of exploring my bisexuality and had settled. So, I tried to pretend it wasn’t an issue for me. But it was.
I was living a life that never fit quite right. We made friends with other married couples with kids, but I never saw myself reflected in their relationships. I always felt like I was missing something, but I couldn’t put my finger on it. While my partner was at ease in his role as husband and father, my skin crawled like an ill-fitting costume. I felt out of place and oftentimes couldn’t wait to get away from gatherings made up of husbands and wives because deep down I feared the discovery of my dirty, little secret: I was faking it.
I was faking enjoying the role of the traditional wife—a role I secretly despised. I was faking enjoying the conversations about husbands and marriage and raising kids that my peers seemed unable to get enough of. And I was faking not loathing the strange way that the men and women separated into different spaces at parties to talk about things I cared nothing about. The men always bantering about sports and outdoor activities and the women always talking about…well their men. (Insert long, slow eye-roll). It was exhausting and there simply wasn’t enough booze to make it bearable.
I told myself there was no reason to tell people I was bisexual. I mean, I was married to a man. I was never going to be with a woman again. Never. Ever. What an awful thought. And you know how it goes. Something that important left unexplored and deemed forbidden by the vows we make when we are too young to know what we are getting into begins to call to you in a voice that will not be ignored.
Embracing An Authentic Life & Exploring Bisexuality
Fast forward a handful of years right through a whole lot of stories that I don’t have the time to tell right now and a move to Portland, Oregon; my husband becomes my ex and I’m back in the dating world ready to explore my bisexuality like a goddamn millennial! (If only.)
First, let me get a couple of things out of the way. My ex, who I will refer to as my parenting partner from this point on, is one of my very best friends. We currently still live in the same house together with our kids and function like the kickass family we are while carrying on separate dating lives. (Yes, we have separate sleeping spaces and no, we don’t bang). My kids are older (tweens/older teens) and aware of my bisexuality and our beautiful, unconventional family life, which is very Portlandia.
Now that that is out of the way, let’s move on to the important stuff: What I’ve found out about bisexuality in reality.
Bisexuality in Reality
Being an openly bisexual woman existed only in my fantasies for the longest time. I had a whole lot of years to imagine exactly what I would do if I had the chance to date women again, and I was just so sure I knew how everything would go. I’m going to be straight with you (only for a moment), I was wrong about almost everything.
Being a single bisexual woman in 2021 looks a whole lot different than it did back in the late 90’s/early 2000s. In some ways, meeting women is easier. Long gone are the days of awkwardly trying to find out if a woman you just met and instantly have a crush on is queer by hinting around the subject until something gives. Dating apps put me in front of men and women alike and allow me to announce my sexuality upfront. Seems like it would be easy enough, right? It is not.
In fact, it was so difficult, and I was so desperate to connect with other bisexual women and start exploring my bisexuality that on a whim I created a PDX Bisexual Women’s Meetup. Thinking no one would sign up, I created the group and left on a week long vacation without checking to see if anyone wanted to join until I returned home. To my surprise, over 150 requests were waiting for me upon my return.
Today, the group has moved to FB and has almost 700 members, and is growing larger each day.
Running the Portland Bisexual Women’s group while dating as an openly bisexual woman has been eye-opening. I have learned that my story is not at all unique. I’m constantly surprised by the number of women who join the group with stories that are similar to mine. Some are newly single; others are married and in a monogamous relationship with a man but need acknowledgment of their bisexuality. And others are in open and polyamorous relationships and dating both women and men.
I suppose you could say that I officially “came out” in September of 2020 on Bi Visibility Day. My coming out story consists of an Instagram and FB post announcing the day and its significance. At 46, I guess I just didn’t feel the need to draw a bunch of attention to my sexuality, and most of those who are closest to me already know.
I’ve been dating and exploring life as a single bisexual woman now for a couple of years and I have learned a lot of important shit about being bisexual. I am passionate about being part of the effort to end biphobia and bi-erasure—especially in the LGBTQ community. I’m also passionate about educating the public (both gay and straight) about the plight and risk factors that bisexual women are faced with. So, after a lot of thought, I decided to move forward with my own column in an effort to help educate and inform while giving both gay and straight folks a front-row seat to the sometimes hilarious, sometimes heartbreaking, and often heartwarming shitshow that is the dating life of a bisexual woman in her forties.
The Risk Factors & Reality of Being a Bisexual Woman
Before I sign off, I want to leave you with these important research-based statistics to consider as you form your own opinions about bisexual women.
Risk Factors for Bisexual Women From the CDC
New data from the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) shows that bisexual women experience significantly higher rates of rape, physical violence, and/or stalking by an intimate partner compared to both lesbians and heterosexual women. From the CDC report based on data from the 2010 National Intimate Partner and Sexual Violence Survey (NISVS)
- The lifetime prevalence of rape, physical violence, and/or stalking by an intimate partner is 61% for bisexual women in comparison to lesbian women (43.8%), gay men (26%), bisexual men (37.3%), heterosexual women (35%), and heterosexual men (29%).
- Nearly half of bisexual women (48.2%) and more than a quarter of heterosexual women (28.3%) were first raped between the ages of 11 and 17.
A newer study found that bisexual women are more likely than heterosexual women to be raped during their college years. Nearly 2 in every 5 bisexual female college students will be sexually assaulted by the time they complete four years in school, which is significantly more than the 1 in 4 heterosexual women, and the 1 in 4 gay and bisexual men who are likely to experience the same.
Bisexual women are also more likely to be depressed and consider suicide than straight women. A recent study from researchers at Drexel University found that young bisexual women score significantly higher on a survey measuring current suicidal thought than both straight women and lesbians. Surprisingly, lesbian respondents were no more at risk than straight women for depression, anxiety, substance abuse, and current levels of suicidality.
All in all, the studies and articles I’ve read and researched point to an increasing societal acceptance of same-sex attraction and relationships. However, bisexual identifying women aren’t enjoying the same gains. Here’s to hoping that being open about and sharing my own experiences will help pull back the curtain on both the misinformation and fantasies attached to bi women and help reveal the truth about bisexuality in reality.