My friend once called me out for posting a spate of ~misandrist~ content. She said she was trying to determine whether I had recently killed a man, or if was really happy with one.
I was really happy with one.
She assured me that she, too, “flexed her misandry muscles” the most when she was in a happy relationship with a dude.
My friend’s commentary on the discrepancy between my online and offline lives made me wonder about the need to emphasize my queer, feminist criticality of men and masculinity. Were my sass posts meant to compensate for my utter adoration of a particular man? Were they meant to disguise the reality that there was a dude in the picture? There is something about dating a straight dude that makes you feel really queer, but alone, so maybe I was searching for an outlet to express or assert my queerness? Only my therapist could tell you. Though this line of questioning is specific to a particular kind of relationship formation, it’s certainly not the first time my relationships have raised questions about my intentions and personal ontology. Here is a short summary of my worries.
When I’ve dated women, I’ve wondered if I was *really* gay. Now, happy with a dude, I wonder if that means I’m *really* straight? These questions seem to gather urgency the longer the relationships last, the latter of which could be particularly devastating for someone like me, whose career feels premised on being a queer femme.
I’ve dated, loved, crushed on, and hooked up with both women and men, so it should be categorically obvious that I am neither straight nor gay. I also came up (and out—ha!) under the perspective that we are the experts on our sexual and romantic identities—they are intrinsic to us and are valid regardless of who we are dating, crushing on, or sleeping with. Despite my own history of dating people of a variety of genders, and despite being equipped with the ideology that says my identity is true if I say it is, I find myself measuring my experiences against other queer/pan/bi people I know. Have I dated as many same-sex people as they have? Who are their long term relationships with? Who do they date short term? Who are mine? How do we compare? Does that mean anything? Are they queer-er than me? I am constantly on a quest to figure them out, hoping that means I would get a clear-cut answer about myself.
Anecdotal evidence tells me I’m not the only queer worrier. Even armed with our own varied and sometimes vast experiences and feelings, we still internalize the monosexist norms that circulate in our society. It doesn’t help that we often notice these norms circulating in a very visceral way, like hearing a friend remind your girlfriend, “straight girls are always straight” or another ask if you’re “going back to dudes.” No wonder we are pushed to question the authenticity of our experiences and feelings.
I was on a date once—with a dude (omg why do I think it matters?!)—and I started telling him about my recent fascination about seeing pregnant people in public. Seeing them made me wonder what it felt like to feel sure about something. Though I’m quite certain now that pregnant people are filled with doubts and anxieties, I would see them and think “wow, you made a decision and you’re prepared to stick with it for 40 weeks and then also the rest of your life. What does it feel like to be sure? Calm? Content? Is that what being a monosexual feels like?”
All of these worries leave me to wonder if anxiety is an inherent part of bisexual identity. If bisexuality had an affective state, would it be an anxious one? When bisexual people are construed as “greedy,” double-dipping,” “confused,” or simply just “sluts,” are we really just overwhelmed with anxiety, worried about what our relationships say about our true selves, and looking to other possibilities as some sort of litmus test, or verification? Does anxiety structure bisexual orientations and affections? Is there such a thing as bisexual certainty? What is its shape? How does it feel?
Being bisexual feels like wondering; discovering; shrugging. I would love to say I am bisexual and proud, but the truth is more like “bisexual and ambivalent,” or even “bisexual and lol ok.” You could say that being bisexual worries me, in that it gives me lots to think about, to worry about. This is not to say I don’t like it, being bisexual is really cool; you get to say things like “no thanks, I’m gay AND I have a boyfriend,” and it feels true. Being bisexual feels like living multiple truths at once; occupying multiple planes—but that can be a hard place to get comfy in. Theorists will tell you queer is a destabilizing category, and I have to wonder, destabilizing for whom? Queers are just as destabilized by our queerness as the straights; I would even suggest that we are even more destabilized by it.
Perhaps being bisexual only feels uncomfortable and curious because monosexuality is treated as the norm (even though I really, really don’t think it is, but I digress), and bisexual people are treated as cute little oddities (if not the aforementioned confused sluts) by our monosexual partners and peers. Perhaps it is actually not bisexuality that makes me anxious, but rather the pressure to be monosexual that does it. What’s more, perhaps it is the fear of being monosexual that makes me nervous; because, really, who would want to leave behind their flighty, quirky essence, flitting around out there on its alternate plane of existence?
“She may, structurally at least, have abandoned her butch, but this cannot be reconceived as a return to heterosexuality. And, possibly more threatening still, should her and her lover go their separate ways, there is now no way of knowing which gendered gaze [she] might return next.” Clare Hemmings, Out of Sight, Out of Mind? Theorizing Femme Narrative