Sunday, October 26, 2014

From The BiNet USA Mailbag: Answers for a teen girl looking to be less confused


Recently we received a wonderfully, touching and amazing note from C. who was struggling to understand her bisexuality and what it all meant. I wrote this response to her but I'm eager to hear from others in our community on what they would have said! 

Hi C. Thanks for writing us at BiNet USA. First off please know that you're not alone, there are many of us who have felt the same way. In fact the Human Rights Campaign just released a report on the experiences of bisexual youth that you can find here:
http://www.hrc.org/blog/entry/supporting-and-caring-for-our-bisexual-youth

You can join us in conversation and ask this same question to our members on Facebook here: https://www.facebook.com/groups/binetusa


You can also join our more private yahoogroup by visiting here:

https://groups.yahoo.com/neo/groups/BiNetUSA/info

Either of these spaces is full of folks who are interested in supporting each other so please feel free to copy and paste your entire question into a message for either group.

My personal advice is below:​

On Bisexual Identity and Experience
Congrats on coming out to yourself first of all, that's the first step for many bi people, just recognizing their bisexuality. The modern definition of bisexual that is most commonly used in our community is: “I call myself bisexual because I acknowledge that I have in myself the potential to be attracted – romantically and/or sexually – to people of more than one sex and/or gender, not necessarily at the same time, not necessarily in the same way, and not necessarily to the same degree.” - Robyn Ochs

So it's normal that you'll have questions about how bisexuality works and there's not a ton of answers out there but what we do know?
  • ​You don't have to be attracted to men, women and/or other genders all the time at the same time (if you are, that can be totally normal too and is often called polamory).
  • ​People along the bisexual spectrum (could include pansexual, fluid, queer, non-monosexual, polysexual, multisexual, omnisexual) represent anywhere from 40-51% of the entire LGBT community so there are a lot of us and a lot of different ways to be us!​
  • However most bisexual people report lower levels of affiliation with the LGBT community. This is possibly related to the level of "biphobia" or fear of bisexuals which can exist in both straight and gay spaces, and in fact most bi people report feeling unwelcome at times in the LGBT community. This is not always the case but generally we like to tell you about it so you're prepared for it. ​
  • ​ Recent reports show bi people being more likely than gay or lesbians to have kids and be parents. So you could totally end up like bisexual icon Angelina Jolie who's got tons of kids and has created her own type of family with partner Brad Pitt.​
We also know that bi people report high levels of disparities, or crappy things that happen through no fault of their own. Young bi women in particular are more vulnerable to sexual assault, bullying, harassment, drug/alcohol abuse, self-injury like cutting, depression, and eating disorders. 

BUT WAIT THERE'S MORE! Bisexuals also report high levels of resiliency and survival, in fact all throughout history bi people have made major impacts and have been creative forces who've driven past and through their troubles to help others. I hope that may be the case for you, as it was the case for me once too.

On Coming Out
There is a lot of pressure to have everything figured out, but it's perfectly normal to not have a handle on everything related to your own sexuality! One ten year study of bi women found them changing labels from bi to lesbian to straight to lesbian to bi in some cases. In part this is because if you're dating a guy people might think you're straight, and if you're dating a girl people might think you're gay. But you were born a bit more complicated than that, perhaps. And that's actually kind of cool. So take time in figuring out what it means to you and if anyone says to you CHOOSE, you can just tell them you know that you don't have to. Its ok to keep it to yourself and also allow it to belong to you. Meaning if someone wants you to exercise your bisexuality by making out with someone, you should totally feel like you DON'T have to do that just for them. Unless you wish to of course. It's so important to understand that being bi is something we get born with, so how we decide to share our true selves is UP TO US!

On Community
It is so very important for you to have folks you can talk to regularly about this, so please do consider joining us on Facebook. We share pics of bi flag colored kittens, Etsy crafts like bracelets and talk about movies and tv too. It helps sometimes to have a place where everyone might not know your name, but they get you and they understand what you're going through a bit better than a lot of people could...because they went through it too.

On Parents
Please feel free to share my response with your parents if you want to. You can also send them a link to the HRC Bi Youth report or this other report by The Movement Advancement Project, "Understanding Issues Facing Bisexual Americans":

Getting your parents more information might be a good idea. It may be that with more information your parents might better understand you and what you're trying to understand about yourself.

​For more resources please also visit the Youth page on the Bisexual Resource Center website:

Do you have some advice to share with C.? Please leave it in the comments!  ​

P.S.
My bad! I forgot to mention the awesome bisexual advice column "Ask Tiggy" to C. so I sent her email with that info. Please check out "Ask Tiggy" for more great advice: http://asktiggy.wordpress.com/