(UPDATE: I’ve recently made peace with the word bisexual as it is used to describe my sexuality. See this post for more.)
There are words in my language that I do not like. Words that, when said, grate on my nerves as if I had been cut open & had tiny bits of shrapnel put inside my wound.
One of these words is bisexual.
The moment I typed out that I was bisexual, I felt a jolt of energy pulsate through my body, as if I had just licked a battery, as if I had been startled by a noise outside & a million tiny hairs on my body stood on end with alertness. I could feel my breath halt for just a few seconds at the utter realization of that one truth: I am bisexual. I ruminated over this one sentence & the rest of the writing for several days after it was composed, not entirely sure if I had the guts to publish it.
And when I finally did decide to publish it, I felt that same jolt of electricity, that same zap of in-the-moment presence that accompanies any hard or exciting or scary choice I make. It’s hard to explain the feeling. It’s part exhilaration, part queasiness, part soulful elation.
I felt those three things again, coupled with that jolt of electricity, when I actually spoke the words I am bisexual to a listening ear. Only this time, the sensations that moved through my body lingered longer. It made me dizzy. I couldn’t stop wondering if I had spoken too spoke, said too much, revealed a part of me that perhaps needed to rest longer.
And then all of that anxiety & self-doubt vanished, & I stood in awe of my truth & the courage it took to spill it.
Since I’ve confided in people about my sexual orientation, both on this platform & in my personal, face-to-face life, I have found myself, while retelling my “coming of sexual-age” story, grimacing at the word bisexual. It’s a word I trip over, a word that bothers me. I feel no connection with this word.
It only tells a small fraction of the people who hear it who I am, what I believe, what I feel as a woman with sexually & romantically fluid preferences. It’s a word that, upon hearing it, signals to the brain a certain type of scenario in which a certain type of person performs a certain kind of role.
It’s true that I am a certain type of person — a certain type of woman — who performs certain kinds of roles. But the archetype this word, bisexual, represents is does not fit me.
What fits me? What fits?
I know that I am attracted to both women & men in the most different, paradoxal ways.
I am attracted to women for their delicacy, their softness. I feel passion for their bodies, their voluptuousness, their daintiness — for when I look at them, I see myself, a mirror image of my femininity, & this soothes me, lulls me. I am attracted to the cyclical ways of women, the peaks & valleys of their emotions, their depth of feeling. I see women & I want to be engulfed by their feminine essence, filled up with their potency. I am attracted to & intrigued by women for the same reasons I am curious & captivated by my own self.
I am attracted to men for their brawny, intangible masculinity, a trait that is so elusive in its spiritual essence. And that masculinity, which is so apparent, even if they are not dangling it in front of my face (which is even better), stirs in me a raw, heart-quickening kind of carnality. To be frank, the masculine energy of most men drunkens me, & my first reaction, the most immediate predominant impulse I feel, is to fuck & be filled up by them.
And this is where it gets tricky. I have felt the same sensations of masculine & feminine delight with people who are not within the usual black & white gender binary. People who are trans. People who possess chameleon-like qualities to become masculine & feminine interchangeably, intermittently. People who challenge my ideals of what it means to be female & what it means to be male.
Bisexual doesn’t fit me because my sexual desires extend way past the bi in binary.
So then what fits me? What fits?
There are other words I could use. I could use queer, but I don’t feel a connection with queer because I don’t feel queer — as in, odd, strange, slightly ill (from the dictionary’s definition). On the contrary, I feel lively, open, sensual.
I could use pansexual, which essentially means that I am gender-blind & that genitalia is an irrelevant feature in determining who I am sexually & emotionally attracted to. This word doesn’t make me cringe, & I’ve actually used it when describing my sexual preferences. But pansexual — as with polysexual — isn’t a word most are familiar with. And while I’m not opposed to educating people on the terminology, I’d rather there be a word that has a simplistic finality to it, one where the chances of additional questions being asked would be small.
And there is a part of me that feels that pansexual doesn’t resonate because it implies that anyone — all — are welcome to be my beaus & lovers, & that I will express my erotic nature with them equally. While I have yet to test this theory, I feel that this is not true for me.
I long to be with men for their masculinity, & women for their femininity, yes, but there are other features that can coincide with this openness. Personality traits, emotional maturity, common interests. What pansexuality suggests to me is that I am attracted, no matter what, to all people. And truthfully, many people do not resonate with me, nor I them.
What I know is that I am not straight or gay or bisexual in the common use of those words.
What I feel is sexually fluid, a sensual inclination (& freedom) to move from & towards different sides of the sexual-identity & erotic spectrum; to feel a resonance with people who understand the innermost parts of me, to flow like water with my attraction to them & their attraction to me, & to ebb with the rising & falling that accompanies it.
I feel an openness to know people’s souls, to become intimate with them in ways that are not being exercised frequently enough. I feel a desire to become familiar with bodies — bodies that vary in size & in color & in shape, because I long to experience the diversity that comes along with consciousness, not just with sex & love but with food, music, knowledge, religion, desires.
I feel a natural tendency to fall in love, to care for people with the utmost attention, to give to them parts of myself that I feel they deserve because they are beautiful, captivating, intelligent, unique. And I feel a pull towards those whose spirits I feel I’ve danced with in past lifetimes, where the music we could make would be so exquisite & harmonious if only we’d give it a decent chance to begin.
My sexual preference is more than just sex. It is about connection, empathy, playfulness, openness, respect, & mouth-watering attraction with the ability to flow & move with range as I do.
I have yet to find a word that encompasses that & the rest of it without compromising the truth of who I am.