“So how many guys have you had sex with?”
“Oh hell, I couldn’t even tell you.”
“More than you can count?!”
“I wasn’t aware we were supposed to keep a list.”
“But it was before you came out, right?”
“Yes. Mostly. Most before and some after.”
“So you’re Bi.”
It wasn’t a question, it was a statement (as evidenced by the period rather than a question mark at the end of the sentence). And I resented it; but not for the reasons you might think.
I understand that bisexuality is not viewed as “legitimate” (thank you Todd Akin!) by some because they believe that bisexuals are in denial of their true sexuality … either gays with one foot on the heterosexual side of the fence in order to keep up appearances in their “other” life, or straight folks just dabbling in homosexuality either because it’s the hip thing to do or they’re just a little curious.
I get all of that, but all of that has nothing to do with my resentment. I’m not bi-phobic. Considering the various and complex factors that play a role in our attraction to others, odds are that a percentage of people will end up with feelings for both genders. Bisexuality is as normal and natural as homosexuality, heterosexuality or any of the other sexualities that people identify as. So it wasn’t being called Bi that bothered me. Bi is just a word and, unlike sticks and stones which can break my bones, it can never hurt me. What got under my skin was being labeled according to a definition that varied greatly from mine.
I dislike other people slapping labels on me. Unless, of course those labels happen to be things like awesome, genius, talented and hilarious, which are true and totes rad (I’ve been spending a bit of time with some 20-somethings lately and it seems that words now have too many sylls and shorts them makes your sents more simp. I believe this is a verbal variant of text-speak but furth rees is req).
On the subject of mis-labeling someone’s sexuality (but not entirely on the subject of this post … I suffer from Adult Tangential Tendency, please bear with me), I find it interesting, but not at all surprising, that when a straight person is mistaken for gay, the mistaker is often embarrassed at their glaring social faux pas while the mistakee, shocked, protests, “I’m not gay!” and may go on to ask trusted sources what it is about them … what’s wrong with them … that would make anyone think they’re gay. On the other hand, when a gay person, myself for example, is thought to be straight, upon learning that they’re not, people offer up things like, “Wow! You don’t seem gay!” or “I would have never guessed!” in a complimentary and congratulatory manner … Well done! You sure had me buffaloed! Great costume by the way, you look just like a regular woman … Again, interesting but not surprising, because naturally the assumption that you’re gay when you aren’t is bad, and the assumption that you’re straight when you aren’t is good, right? Right. *sigh*
Moving on …
My definition of a lesbian is a woman who has a sexual and emotional attraction and attachment to other women that she does not and cannot have for men. My friend’s somewhat more complex definition is a woman who is attracted to other women and has never had sex with a man; or only did so before she a) realized she was gay, b) realized it but was trying to repress it or c) was closeted. Once the declaration of “I am lesbian, hear me roar!” or “I’m here, I’m queer, get used to it!” or whatever it was we chanted (I can’t remember exactly … I was pretty drunk and somewhat distracted by the little hottie from Chattanooga beside me) in the ritual initiation ceremony at our super-secret lesbian headquarters (yes, it really does exist!), any and all sexual contact with men is verboten and by violating this rule she relinquishes her lesbian status and becomes bisexual.
So it should come as no surprise that she whipped out her well-worn copy of the Lesbian Rules and Regulations Manual (the solemn distribution of which is also part of the initiation ceremony and my copy of which I haven’t seen since said ceremony, although I’m pretty sure I left it in Chattanooga’s hotel room) and began flipping furiously through the pages to see if I was in danger of having my lesbian membership revoked entirely, when I revealed that not only had I had sex with men and not only had some of it been post-coming out, but quite a bit of it had actually been good.
I know. Shocking, but true.
It didn’t seem to matter to her that the last of the one-on-one sex I had with guys was still in the early part of my coming out period, or that later in life it’s only been while generously and selflessly helping friends explore their FMF curiosities (apparently being young and terribly horny is no excuse; nor is being older and terribly horny, even if you add another woman into the mix). According to her, it simply isn’t possible for me to be a “total” lesbian because the fact that I’ve had and enjoyed sex with men proves I’m sexually attracted to them. Period.
Oh really? I’m pretty sure it actually proves I have nerve endings in my vagina and clitoris that respond to stimulation because I also have really good sex with vibrators, dildos and my hand but I’m not sexually attracted to them, either. Okay, maybe my Hitachi Magic Wand (which I’ve also developed very fond feelings for). I mean, how can any woman not fall for a jack-hammer cleverly compressed into a sleek, handheld device? And who can deny getting tingly in her nether regions at the thought of an orgasm so powerful it can literally render her unconscious? Admit it, you love that sexy bitch, too.
So what do you think? Is it about the actions or the emotions? The attraction or the reaction? What kind of lesbian are you? And more importantly, what kind of lesbian am I?
On some extremely basic and incredibly non-specific level, I think sexuality can be defined by what “feels right”. For instance, when I was in various heterosexual relationships I thought both our sex and our actual relationship felt “right”, but I knew I was attracted to and had previously had sex/relationships with a few different women, so I said I was bi. Later, as I came to understand myself a little bit better (by which I mean a whole-eff’ing-lot better) I realized nothing about being with men felt “right” to me. But being with a woman that I feeling physically and emotionally connected to? That definitely feels “right”, and now I know the difference. I am a lesbian. So in the end, i guess what that boils down to is another entirely undefinable idea, that sexuality is what each individual makes of it, no one else really knows.
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See, I have trouble telling men apart. I do have some wonderful male friends (a few of whom are actually straight), but it’s always a great relief to me when men in movies have different hair cuts or are different races. Then I can tell the bad guys from the good guys. But I never, ever get confused about the chicks.
Sexuality exists on a continuum, and being a lesbian can mean being capable of an emotional and sexual connection to a woman that isn’t possible with a man, or it can mean being unable to conceive of men as sexual creatures outside of the way I understand cats as sexual creatures. (Ok, I know they do get it on sometimes, but I don’t really get it and kind of try not to think about it because, frankly, it’s a little gross.) The bi comment came from confusing someone like me with the only way to be gay. It isn’t. I suspect there are a lot more lesbians out there like you than there are like me. Carry on!
(And that means some people can be straight and still be able to get it on with a woman….)
Your comment was months ago now, but I feel compelled to respond – thank goodness I’m not the only one! I’ve never met anyone else who struggles telling men apart. I’ve told a few people, and they looked at me like I had two heads.
It made following the movie Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy utterly impossible.
Oh my god. there are actually other people who can’t tell men apart? :-O I thought I was the only one!!
I’m in a fairly new relationship with a woman and I called each phase of our relationship progression “earning my rainbow stripes” 🙂
I don’t think you have to have any certain level of “gayness”. You are attracted to who you are attracted to and you love who you love. I’m not so sure the requires a complete history of your previous mates. It’s more about your current situation. Your blog cracks me up!!!
So which stripe are you on now?
Nothing insightful or juicy in my comment. Just wanted to say that I really enjoyed the subject matter of your post and they way you wrote it. Plenty of “yes” moments as I read it and a few good chuckles as well. Thanks for sharing.
Thanks for taking the time to comment and for your kind words. I appreciate it.
I like what Karen says… isn’t this about what’s inside a person? This was a good post to read. I like the way you point out it isn’t good practice to label others. It’s exclusionary no matter how you look at it. Some things aren’t traffic light simple. Why insist on red/green or black/white in something as broad as the spectrum of human sexuality? Or even religion or politics or ethnicity… for that matter.
Exactly. And I’m anything but a red/green, black/white person … which is why I’ve adopted a forgainst stance on many issues. For instance, I’m a rabid supporter of First Amendment Rights but Hate Speech and bigotry turn my stomach, so I am forgainst KKK rallies. Likewise, I don’t like being labeled but everyone is entitled to their own opinion, so ultimately I guess I’m forgainst my friend’s insistence that I’m bisexual.
I like that word. I’m gonna try it out in my life. It might fit many situations. For instance, I liked Ann Romney’s speech last night… but I’m against the entire party’s platform… which would make me forgainst Ann Romney? That seems about right.
Oh yes. It’s definitely what’s inside a person that matters. For me, I’m hoping she keeps her nails short. 😉
ok, I think your sexuality has more to do with what you fantasize about than the actual sex of the person lying next to you (or hopped up on the kitchen counter, or sprawled in the backseat of the car). What are you thinking about when you whip out the Hitachi Magic Wand? If it’s boobs, than you’re 100% certified lesbian, and you should go out and get that tattooed on your butt.
When I whip out The Wand I’m usually thinking, “Please don’t let me be surrounded by EMTs about to defibrillate me again when I regain consciousness.” I like the tattoo idea, it would go well with my Nobody Knows I’m A Lesbian t-shirt.
Five star lesbian!
Wow! 5 Stars! Do you offer turn-down service?
What exactly is a five star lesbian? There really *should* be some sort of rating system, you know, like they use for the movies. Five stars could mean “Run, don’t walk, to take this lesbian out!” Four stars could mean “Take her to dinner, but don’t let her order the lobster.” Three stars, “Invite her over to microwave some popcorn and catch a Netflix.” Two stars, “Just hang, and maybe make out if there’s wine.” And one star is “Don’t bother.”
You must have somehow gotten your hands on a copy of the Rules and Regulations Manual because those are exactly the ratings we do use. Wait a minute … you’re not originally from Chattanooga, are you???