Given that sexual labels for some people are often a matter of semantic juggling, I have used the following criteria to come to the label I wear which is “heterosexual with extenuating circumstances”.
Ideology: I believe that everyone has within him or herself a measure of masculine and feminine, whatever current society deems these traits to be. In all those magazine pop psychological quizzes and online personality inventory profiles I always appear at both extremes of feminine and masculine as they define them – highly nurturing and more aggressively assertive than average, for example.
I feel also that for most people when succor and human warmth are sought a loving touch, a tender embrace, the smell of another’s skin , all have no gender. Under certain circumstances such as at war, prison, boarding schools and bomb shelters, many heterosexuals have and do turn to their own kind for comfort and sex and find it satisfactory. The fact that people are sexual will take precedence over what variety of sexual as need and circumstances dictate.
Affectional Relationships: At any given time in my life my intimates are generally relatively evenly distributed between male and female. Thus I am perfectly “bi-affectional”. The qualities I prize in those I love are not gender related. I value personal style, a joy of life, talent, wit, empathy, humor, honesty, and a lusty appreciation of matters sexual and sensual, a healthy acceptance of themselves, and, of course, of me.
Almost every person who has been meaningful in my life was someone I was instantly and instinctively attracted to, almost as if I knew at first meeting, man or women, that this was going to be someone special. Meeting someone like this, it is generally I who goes awooing in whatever way seems appropriate to the situation. My courtship is always guided by the social circumstances of our connection and by the reception to my overtures rather than the gender of the desired friend.
I enjoy spending hunks of time with the people I love – hanging out, laying back, kicking off shoes, and talking intimately about life. I want to eat together, laugh and cry and gossip. It’s this particular quality of non-genderspecific love for my intimates that allows me to occasionally identify as bisexual in political sympathy with nary a qualm.
The absolutely only difference in what I do with or want from the people I love which is not based on the individual’s idiosyncrasies is that with the men in my life, whether straight, bi or gay, I have usually been sexual at some point in the friendship. With my women friends, of whatever orientation, I have not. I t just has never felt necessary to translate my love for a woman into a sexual language. This may be a peculiar difference but it is a major one.
Sexual expression: I am by profession(s) a sex educator, psychotherapist, lecturer and writer. They all overlap. Most of what I teach in whatever form is communication skills, of which sexual behavior is a salient part. Some time ago, wearing my writer’s hat I answered a want ad for someone comfortable with both the English language and adult material. The job tuned out to be for a part time editor for a men’s magazines exclusively devoted to breasts (actually to “tits”) and only peripherally to the women thereto attached. The publisher, amused at even interviewing a woman for the position, reviewed my qualifications (looking mostly at my writing portfolio and only occasionally down the front of my blouse) and offered instead of the advertised job, to have me write an article for the magazine.
We shook hands, I went home, sat down at my typewriter (this was some years ago), and…nothing. I found I couldn’t think of a thing to say about breasts, jugs, tatas, bazoombas, etc. except from the perspective of being the custodian of two of my own which, over the years, had brought me attention, some wanted and some not, much pleasure, and occasional grief. During six months of my life they were even exquisitely functional. But the publisher, and certainly his readers, were yawningly uninterested in the feelings of the person behind the appurtenances. I only felt equipped to write from that perspective, an Owner’s Manual, so to speak, not as an admirer.
At the time I originally began to write this piece slated to be included in a book on bisexuality, I was engrossed in writing my first novel, originally called Gay Infatuations (later changed to Bluebirds of Impossible Paradises and finally recently published. Both titles came from a Logan Pearsall Smith quote: “Peacock vanities, great crested cockatoos of glory, gay infatuations and painted daydreams – what a pity it is all the Blue Birds of impossible Paradises have such beaks and sharp claws…”. The novel tells the story of a heterosexual woman’s complex relationships with a series of bisexual and gay men. The writing of it was therapy for me at the end of an intense sexual friendship with a bisexual man.
Men who have had to look at society’s myths about manliness and reject some of them in order to come to terms with their personal perceptions and feelings are more likely to be in touch with those perceptions and feelings, more willing to explore and express them, a quality that is mandatory in anyone with whom I might become intimate. I have found men who identify as bisexual to be more sexual in general, more inventive and playful, less repressed. The blend of masculine and feminine seems to complement that same dichotomy in me. It makes a good fit.
There are other reasons for my life’s run of bisexual friends/lovers which are less a matter of my opinions and prejudices. Many of the men I meet in my profession chose this area of specialty because of their own unconventional sexual predilections. It’s a field where I am more likely to encounter openly bisexually-identified people.
There is also an indefinable something I call the Fatal Attraction, fatal in the sense of fated rather than deadly…and maybe that too. Whatever one’s concept of Nature’s order, we all know people who habitually fall into a manure pile to emerge clutching buried treasure and others onto whom all the miserable luck in the world seems to descend. There is a word for the latter in Yiddish, a schlimazel. (The clumsy person who always spills hot liquids is a schlemiel; the lap they fall onto belongs to the schlimazel.) In other words, there are people who seem to be singled out for a particular fate – good, bad, or neutral. I can’t tell you how many random social gatherings I’ve been to – real estate office openings, birthday parties for the cousin of a neighbor, people I’m stuck with in a stalled elevator – at which the one man I find attractive or who eagerly approaches me, eventually turns out to be bisexual. I had no idea there were so many. Perhaps I create them!
Some years ago, during a weekend seminar, a healthy mid-forties man in a stable long-term same sex relationship, spoke to the group leaders about his perplexing feeling of attraction to a woman in the class. The group leaders, colleagues of mine, needed only to exchange glances. Out of the more than fifty people present they knew who it had to be. In a later staff meeting, I, feeling less sexual, less attractive, less interested in connecting with anyone than I had in years, grudgingly admitted that there was one man I did find somewhat interesting. At the end of the weekend he approached me. Our talk ended with exchanged smiles and my words “You don’t need to understand this. Just accept the fact you got caught in my Karma.”
If there is such a thing as an honorary bisexual have I been unknowingly nominated. May I now apply?