The burdens of being bisexual

By Leah Trinidad
Arizona Daily Wildcat
October 25, 1996

Bisexuality has surfaced on to the mainstream through cover stories in Newsweek, in films like "Threesome" and characters on television sitcoms like Sandra Bernhard on "Roseanne." Campuses seem fertile ground for sexual experimentation and discussion of bisexuality. It's everywhere, but a concrete understanding of bisexuality is often difficult to find, even from self-professed bisexuals.

There is no absolute definition for bisexuality. This is exemplified by the scale that Dr. Alfred Kinsey created for his 1948 report on human sexuality. The scale goes from zero to six, in which zero represents someone with entirely heterosexual feelings, and six represents someone with entirely homosexual feelings. Anyone who falls between these points could be considered bisexual.

Marian Binder, a psychologist with Campus Health Services, said that within sexuality are distinctions between people's feelings, identity and actions, and bisexuals vary in each of these categories.

"Bisexuality is about the fact that people are diverse in preference and choices. People can have bisexual feelings, but not necessarily bisexual actions, or have bisexual actions and not necessarily bisexual feelings," she said.

Like homosexuals and heterosexuals, bisexuals come to terms with their sexuality in different ways and at different points in their lives. Many agree, however, that they can have meaningful emotional and physical relationships with both women and men.

Time is what eventually brought David Murphy to the conclusion that he was attracted to men as well as women.

"It's not like when you're gay and lesbian and you have a definite sense that you're different from an early age," said Murphy, a hydrology graduate student. "Usually there's some questioning involved with that, and it's the questioning that makes you think you're gay or lesbian. I didn't really have that because I was already attracted to women."

Kevin Zimmerman, a Russian and journalism junior, also felt that becoming aware of his bisexuality was a process.

"There isn't a point where I could say (I became) a bisexual," he said. "When I was in first grade I had a girlfriend and fell in love with girls. In eighth grade I fell in love with a guy. I just realized I liked guys too."

When one of Michelle Krassow's friends came out to her four years ago and told her she was a lesbian, Krassow started to consider her own feelings towards women.

"I looked at (my emotions) and decided, 'You know, I am attracted to the same sex too,'" said Krassow, a chemistry and art history sophomore. "I later came out to her, after I had seriously thought about it."

Some bisexuals choose to ignore or suppress their feelings because they don't understand them.

Serenity Cressler thought the homosexual feelings she began to feel at 14 meant she was a lesbian, so she avoided them.

"It didn't make sense to me, because I was also attracted to guys," said Cressler, a creative writing and women's studies sophomore. "I had a fear that I might be gay. I didn't know what bisexuality was, I didn't know it existed. It was pretty easy to ignore those feelings for the time, but as I got older it became increasingly harder to ignore."

Some bisexuals feel that their bisexuality is only a stop on the way to becoming homosexual. They later realize they don't have to choose.

Cressler said, "I thought I was gay, and bisexuality was leading me into becoming gay, a transition. But now I can't deny I am attracted to men."

Murphy said, "I had people telling me that if you were bisexual, you were going to become (only) homosexual. I've been aware of the Kinsey scale, and I saw no reason why somebody couldn't fall in the middle and stay there.

"And still to this day, both my straight and gay friends will tease me, 'Oh, you just haven't decided yet,' and I'm like, 'No, I'm pretty sure', I'm already 26!"

An overabundance of bisexual stereotypes keep many people from having any kind of understanding of bisexuality.

Krassow said, "The way I hear it from a lot of people is that a bisexual is too greedy, or they can't just decide at all."

Murphy said, "I hear that people think bisexuals are promiscuous and will have sex with anyone or anything. Fortunately, being in college, I tend to deal with people who are more educated toward this type of thing."

Bisexuals feel they can have relationships with either sex, but some do have a preference. Both Krassow and Cressler feel more attracted to women at this time. Zimmerman feels more physically attracted to men, but more emotionally attracted to women. Murphy said he doesn't have a preference.

Sometimes preference is construed as an exclusive interest in either homosexuals or heterosexuals. Often the labels are used by bisexuals themselves.

Zimmerman said, "If I say I'm more sexually attracted to guys, but I'd rather have a woman for a companion, people are confused and they say, 'Oh, you're just gay then, and you want to fit into society.' "

Krassow said, "I usually tell people I'm gay, just because I tend to talk more about women and am more attracted to women. I've gotten a lot of opposition for that. (Lesbians) want me to say I'm straight."

Murphy said, "People call me gay, and that's fine. It's a problem when they start to think it. I don't mind it for the purposes of organizations or lobbying, for getting political power, or even for social reasons."

Because bisexuals do not fit the rigid standards of heterosexuality or homosexuality society, they are often shunned by both.

Jeff Tarantino, a computer engineering freshman, said that some homosexuals refuse to believe bisexuals can have true homosexual feelings.

"I'd be nothing less than a hypocrite if I discriminated against somebody else for the same reason I was discriminated against. It would be the pot calling the kettle black. It would defeat the purpose."

The apparent sexual ambiguity of bisexuals shouldn't be considered wrong, because sexuality can change over time, said Binder.

"A person may label themselves heterosexual and only after 15 or 20 years of experience decide they're bisexual or gay, or the other way around. Because coming out as a gay person requires much more of an act of decision than coming out as a straight person, you assume that there's a little less of figuring that out later."

Ultimately, bisexuals are looking for the same thing heterosexuals and homosexuals are-love and companionship.

"I think when it comes down to it, it doesn't matter who it is, what gender is in our life," said Zimmerman. "We're humans, we need people to give us support, to care for us. It doesn't matter if you're gay or straight or bisexual."