For the fifth year in a row, POPSUGAR is dedicating the month of June to recognising LGBTQIA+ voices, having honest conversations about sexuality and gender, and honouring individuality, through personal essays and allyship guidance. A roster of contributors along with the POPSUGAR team are sharing these stories throughout the month, so be sure to find all our pieces here.
I’ve always loved women, but I couldn’t tell you when I realised I wanted to kiss one. Coming from a Catholic Italian family, I never imagined any of my future lovers to be women, and I think that image of what’s “supposed” to be stopped me from accepting my sexuality for a while.
It was only when I moved away to a place that no one knew me, where I felt I had the freedom to explore.
As young girls, we’re shown through media that we can use our sexuality to be in control, without any warning of how dangerous that can be. For me, being a ‘womanly’ woman, men have always been easy to attract. I learnt pretty early on that all I needed to do was show a little boob, throw about some banter, curl my hair and whatever I wanted – the job, the house, the drink – was as good as mine.
We’re socialised to be attractive and attracted to men, that honestly, it didn’t even occur to me that I could sleep with women. And then when I did, it didn’t feel unnatural or surprising like I’d assumed it would. It felt like something had clicked into place in my body and that I was expressing a part of myself that had been there all along.
But sexuality is complex and I find that many people still feel the need to put labels on everything. Whether it be the person you’re in love with, your parents, some old friends or a stranger on the street, it seems that people feel more comfortable when they can put a name to something.
When it comes to being bisexual, there’s a tendency to feel a little excluded. From my personal experience, it can be difficult to find people who relate or are willing to relate to you and there’s a generalised assumption that being bi is a “cop-out”. In gay communities, I’ve often been teased with sentiments like, “why don’t you just pick a side” or “you’re just being greedy”. In lesbian communities, there’s this bitterness towards my dating history showing more men than women, and more than once, that’s been thrown back in my face as though it proves that I like men more than women.
In truth, I never feel equally attracted to men and women at any given time. Sometimes, I feel more attracted to women than men and other times, it’s vice versa. My sexuality is fluid and although I label myself as bisexual, to me that’s a simplified way that I can describe my attraction to both males and females.
Bisexual stories are an integral element of LGBTQIA+ stories and I think we need more representation.
In an effort to share more stories like mine, I spoke to four of my friends that have identified or currently identify as bisexual.
Here are their stories:
Kokoda, 26, she/her
Laura Roscioli: Do you openly identify as bisexual?
Kokoda: Yes I do. I get a lot of backlash from my other queer friends who point out that I’m actually pansexual. But I aggressively identify as bi.
LR: Why do you reject the label of pansexual?
K: The label of ‘pansexual’ feels really political. I think it echoes the whole, “you’re also Irish too so you can’t identify as First Nations” response I often get. Like yes, I sleep with non-binary and trans people, but I just like having sex. I think I’ve only just fully overcome my own internalised biphobia so I just want to stay in my lane.
LR: Where do you think biphobia comes from?
K: It’s this internalised notion that bi people are greedy, that we’re just taking “a stop on the way to gay town”. It’s like you’re expected to choose just one label and stick to it, as though it’s unfair to do anything else. I guess I am a bit greedy; I mean look at all the hot people around us (!), but that doesn’t mean I shouldn’t be entitled to call myself bi. I still feel excluded from lesbian circles, and I find that they are the most difficulty to be my bisexual self around.
LR: Have you ever officially “come out”?
K: No, I never officially came out. I grew up with the notion that no one really needs to come out. It’s like announcing you’re right-handed or something. My family is open about sex and having conversations around sexuality and identity politics, so I never felt that pressure because no one ever made a big deal out of it. I think that’s why I find it difficult to sleep with or date girls I already know, if I don’t tell them I’m bi straight away. I find I’m about to have more intimate female experiences with strangers. Or maybe I just give off a more gay vibe now than I did in high school.
LR: When did you first know you were bi?
K: In high school. I was best friends with this girl from another school and we spent a lot of time together. She was almost completely out of the closet and I knew she felt romantic feelings for me and when rumours started circulating about us she didn’t do anything to shut them down. It was complicated because my high school boyfriend at the time was pretty abusive. Anything I said, did or felt that was anything but heterosecual he was pretty abusive about, and I’d mentioned to him that I also like girls so it was… messy.
Basically, on my 18th birthday, we all went clubbing and this girl and I made out in the bathroom and I never told my boyfriend. That night I guess was the night that solidified it for me. I also realised I was poly that night and honestly I find the poly community to be really accepting of bi-identifying people. I’ve felt more included as I’ve explored that avenue.
LR: Do you have any advice for people who are figuring it out?
K: It’s okay to love someone and still want to sleep with or love other people. It’s all about finding out how to cause the least amount of harm, where you can also express yourself and find people that will accept that.
Tasha, 28, she/her
LR: When did you first realise you were bi?
T: Hmm I think always? But confirmed with self and others around 19 or 20.
LR: Did you feel the need to immediately tell anyone?
T: My closest friends definitely, but also it wasn’t overly necessary to say it to them as it was no surprise. I’ve always been very open-minded and a loud advocate for LGBTQIA+ rights, so it all kind of fell into place.
LR: As a kid, did you have a pre conceieved idea of who you’d fall in love with?
T: Sure, they were always male. Ironic, right? I think it’s what we see in the media but also what we’re told is normal and expected. I grew up in a super Christian family, so I’ve had some wild things said to me about why being with a woman is just a ridiculous notion, and that biologically, men are the only logical option. I don’t think that there’s anything wrong with holding a strong belief system, but the things I was taught and experienced about relationships and sexuality didn’t help me in discovering my true self.
LR: Did you struggle to come out to your family?
T: Yes, absolutely. It took me being in a serious relationship with a woman for me to tell my mum and even then, I didn’t really tell her. She saw “6 months ❤️” written in my daily planner and put all the pieces together. I mean I’d been spending a lot of time Skyping with a girl on the other side of the world, so it’s not like I was hiding it. My mum was confused at first, but I think that’s ultimately because she realised that she couldn’t understand every aspect of me and that was confronting for her. She forced me to keep it from my dad for a few months, saying that it would be too hard on him, which was actually too hard on me instead. I pushed for a while and eventually, she told him. He took it better than her, to be honest.
My parents are both still a little weird about it. They accept me and my partner but ultimately I know that what they’d prefer for me is something different.
LR: Do you ever feel not accepted in queer spaces as bi?
T: I just get called a lesbian all the time. Which isn’t an insult but also not true? It used to happen way more about four or five years ago, which I guess is a good sign – people are broadening their minds. If it’s a group of my fabulous gay friends picking on me because they know it annoys me, it’s okay. But if it’s queer people who don’t know me that well, and insist after I’ve corrected them that I’m “just a lesbian”, then it bugs me.
LR: Has your partner ever struggled with you being bisexual?
T: She comes from a small island with very few grey areas so when she met me, she didn’t know a single bi person and didn’t understand it at all. She pretty much assumed I was a lesbian, but with time and honest conversation, she just got it. I remember one day she said:
“Hmm… wow… I think you genuinely are bisexual”. I was like… yes. Rose and Rosie are these YouTubers with great bi/lesbian relationship content that really helped as well. You can find their channel here.
LR: What was your sexual awakening?
T: I think my first “oh wow” moment was Drew Barrymore in Charlie’s Angels. Then, as a teen I was obsessed with Skins and I think I watched every ‘Naomily’ episode 100 times over. I should’ve known.
LR: Do you have any advice for others?
T: Do it! Be you! And don’t feel like that part of your identity is determined by who you are dating because I think that’s largely how the world views us. I remember feeling afraid that if I dated a man I would be magically kicked out of the queer community but that’s not true. Surround yourself with people who know and value all the parts of you and they will respect that how you identify is true.
Mitch, 28, he/him
LR: When did you realise you were bi?
M: I came late to the party. There was definitely some level of sexual thoughts around guys when I was a teenager, but I just brushed it aside as normal teenage hormones. I grew up in small town too, so I was really socialised to be straight. I didn’t want to acknowledge any other feelings I may have. I didn’t want to be gay.
When I think back though, one big cue was when I first started watching porn and I realised that I didn’t like watching any girl on girl moments or lesbian porn. This was in my late teenage years, but I discounted it really heavily.
LR: What’s led you to accepting yourself more now?
M: I mean it’s been a slow but steady progression. I play music, so as I’ve been hanging out with more gay and queer people in the music industry, I guess I started to consider it as an option for me, you know? No one was like, giving me permission, but it was no longer being rigidly socialised against. I started to find myself in pro-queerness environments, even online on Tumblr and things like that. It’s been an evolution of the past 10 years.
LR: Are there any main factors that have helped you?
M: Definitely. I’d say there are three main ones. Number one: hanging out with people who embrace queerness. Number two: the legalisation of gay marriage, which was just like mainstream acceptance. That was hugely important for me, because the mainstream representation of gay men had always seemed hyper-femme, which I didn’t identify with at all. Seeing masculine men that are gay made me feel like I could look and act like myself, but not be straight. Number three: exploring different elements of queerness and kink with sex. Although I’ve only had heterosexual sex, the more I’ve experimented the clearer it is to me that all these elements of kink, queerness and sexuality just paints on big picture, rather than lots of different, little separate ones.
LR: Have you officially come out to anyone as bi?
M: I’ve come out to the people that I feel the most comfortable with. For me, it’s been easier not to make a big song and dance about it or have any big “I’m bi” moments. It feels like a lot of unnecessary energy to put into something that really only affects me.
LR: How do you feel about your evolving sexuality at this exact moment?
M: I feel much more able to deal with attraction now. I feel able to be attracted to men. Although I wouldn’t say I feel attracted to most men, it’s nice to just feel it. I feel attracted to femme presenting people, whether that be women or men. In spite of all this growth, I don’t feel the pressure to race out and have sex, I feel liked I’ve confidently moved past that. I’ll do it only when I want to do it, not because I need to prove anything to anyone else.
Lu, 24, they/them
LR: How do you identify?
LR: What does queer mean for you?
L: I think for a long time I saw bisexual as a fit for myself, but then as I started to come to terms with my gender identity, bi just wasn’t really making sense for me anymore. It was this sort of realisation that was like, ‘hey, you don’t feel like a woman, and you don’t feel like a man, so you’re not ever really going to have a “hetero” relationship again’, which came with its own turning points. I view queer as an umbrella term (at least for myself) and I use that word because I know I fit under that umbrella, just not in really one particular part of that umbrella.
LR: Where has your gender identity journey led you to today?
L: I think journey is a really great word for it, because it’s seemingly never-ending. It’s something that I wake up and think about just about every single day. I remember being a bit younger, maybe around 18 and I met a friend’s sibling who identifies as non-binary and uses they/them pronouns, and something in my head just sort of clicked. It took me another four years at least to come out to friends, change my name socially, change my pronouns, all that sort of stuff.
If anything, it has made me more conscious of the people I date, especially men. So often, I feel as if I’m thrown into the box of women/woman-adjacent and it can be pretty invalidating. I’ve had to give men the time and space to say, ‘hey, this person I’m dating isn’t a woman, so maybe this relationship isn’t straight’ which has proven to be difficult in the past. Currently, not so much, as my partner is incredibly open and willing to rethink the way he defines his sexuality because of our relationship, and that is incredibly validating for me.
LR: Through understanding who you are, have you attracted different people?
L: I think I’ve just (over time) come to realise that I’m not set for that path of marriage and procreation, and my attraction to people has sort of shifted with that too. At the end of the day, someone who is willing and open to explore sides of themselves that aren’t traditionally “masculine” or “feminine” is really beautiful. That’s something I really find attractive, because it’s something I constantly aspire to myself.
LR: Did you ever have a coming out?
L: No not at all. I grew up with incredibly progressive parents. I remember one day my mum made an off-the-cuff comment saying, ‘if straight people don’t have to come out, why does anyone else?’. I guess part of me has just assumed my parents know, or more likely, just don’t care (in the best way). It’s a very lucky and unique situation so I definitely recognise that. At the same time, I’ve never really felt “ready”, purely because the labels never fit quite right for me.
LR: Why do you think people feel the need to label others?
L: I think it’s for their own comfort. People are obsessed with labelling and putting things in boxes (I get it, I’m a Virgo, we like to be organised). But it just shouldn’t matter. The only focus should be the relationship and us as people. If it were up to me, I wouldn’t label my gender or my sexuality. I don’t find it necessary. I do it because it makes it easier for other people to get an idea, I suppose.
There’s also a camaraderie that comes with having a label, which can be nice. I definitely feel a bit safer and more comfortable to just be myself and not worry about being misgendered around other queer folk.
LR: How do you navigate being queer in long-term/serious relationships?
L: To be honest, I was in an open relationship for a while and I can safely say that I hated it. I think there’s a misconception about queer people that we can’t be monogamous which just isn’t true. I find such comfort now that I’m dating someone who is also one of the best friends I’ve ever had. I think I have myself to thank for being open and communicative, not being queer. I’ve met plenty of queer folk that are terrible communicators, and plenty of straight people that are fantastic with communication. Being queer doesn’t define me or my relationships, I do.