Hello! I’m relatively young and for years I’ve imagined myself as bisexual because that was what seemed to fit me at the time. I’ve used the label among friends and LGBT peers for a long time, and I’ve always stressed it in conversations regarding sexuality and dating. However, recently I feel as though I wouldn’t actually be able to have a relationship, romantically or sexually, with a man in any capacity. I want to dip my toes into trying the lesbian label, but I am aware of the stigma surrounding bisexuality, especially of the idea that it’s a “phase” to “grow out of,” and I fear that if I were to proceed I would only support this harmful notion. I understand that human beings are not stereotypes in and of themselves and that individual experiences aren’t the be-all and end-all for an entire group, but for some reason for me specifically I can’t seem to shake the idea that I’m doing something bad by doing this. How can I figure out what the right path is? Is there a right path? Why can’t I treat myself with the same grace I give others when they’re also trying to figure themselves out?
There are many people who will try to be strict about the definition of “bisexual” and “lesbian.” At times, I have been that person. I have also been a person who identifies as both at different points in my life. I know you’re not asking about me and my journey, but I think that’s important context to start with while we’re getting to know each other.
I think the real reason I’m telling you this is to get at the final question you’ve asked, which I think is the crux of the issue: Why can’t you grant yourself the grace that, I assume, when reading the sentences above, you gave me? I think it’s hard to shake ourselves out of our own heads long enough to stop beating ourselves up about any multitude of things, but one way I’ve found works for me is to quite literally look at the things I’m beating myself up about as if a friend had brought them to me and asked my opinion. If I had a friend who had previously identified one way and, when given more time and space to understand themselves and their desires, realized that label may no longer fit, how would I react? Probably, mostly, with joy they were one step closer to feeling comfortable with themselves now.
Because really, I think that’s all we can be: comfortable with ourselves now. I don’t really want to spend too much time on whether you are “doing something bad” by getting closer to feeling comfortable with yourself, though I deeply understand.
Bisexuality is stigmatized, misunderstood, and often maligned, and I also will staunchly defend it, stress it in conversation, etc. But there were also times where I doubted whether it was the right label for me, where I decided it was not, and then where I returned to it again.
Do people think I am a phony or furthering stereotypes, or or or? Maybe! But people also think I am straight sometimes (I’m not), people also think I am white sometimes (I’m not), people also think I like mushrooms sometimes (I do not!). Another stereotype about bisexuality is that it’s actually just straight girls looking to ~fit in~ or attract the attention of men: Should that stop anyone who has previously identified as straight from coming out as bisexual once she knows that she is bi? What else are we supposed to do but try to wear what clothing fits us best every day.
People identify all sorts of ways for all different reasons, dating back as far as language has existed, probably. At the end of the day, our labels are a shorthand. You could start calling yourself a lesbian immediately, or start telling your friends you are moving away from dating men, or start using words more like “sapphic” or “queer” or just “gay,” or even continue to use the word bisexual without ever dating another man (that’s allowed! There are no rules that say who you have to date to be bisexual!). All of these, potentially, could encapsulate the way you see your sexuality playing out in the world, and only you can choose what feels good to you. Your life is yours, not a poster for bisexuality or lesbianism or any other label that feels like it might fit.
Now, if you started claiming bisexuality isn’t real, a different conversation might need to be had. Barring that, I say the right path is whichever one you choose, whether it’s dipping your toe, diving in head first, or any number of ways to behave at a pool, all of which, most importantly are supposed to be fun.
You can chime in with your advice in the comments and submit your own questions any time.