The Bi-Stander: “Pick a side, already!”

By Drea Sebastiano-Stanley

I’ve lived my whole sexual life in what feels like limbo. When I was an adolescent, it seemed like just about all my friends were happily sexually active, while I was naively perplexed when my crush even glanced my way. I felt immature to think that sex was inevitable and therefore absolutely terrifying. I stood as the bystander and a confidant to my friends watching their high school romances play-out – often dramatically. 

Intimacy was always a casualty. A regretful statement constantly uttered amongst my friends is “Why did I have sex with him? I feel so used.” This break up would then take up all the room in our friendship. For months, all our conversations consisted of decrypting spats between the young lovers and decoding side glances during math class. When we hung out, we speculated, gossiped, and stalked. This teenage boy was now my heartache too as he became a big force in our friendship and even the glue holding us together. My friend has shrunken. It was terrifying to me that a girl I admired had now become obsessed with her relationship’s ending that she could care less about our friendship ending. I had made up my mind really early that I should hold out on “putting out”. 

Whenever I dated someone, sex was an unattainable level. I surrounded my insecurity and fear for sex as well as my body, with a “you’d be lucky, because my vagina is the HolyGrail” mentality. At the back of my mind, I was afraid that when I finally gave it away, there would be nothing left of me – that I would have nothing left to offer them. 

When I finally had sex, I was out of high school, started college, and in my first “real” relationship. I did not feel consumed and empty after I lost my virginity, instead I felt the opposite. I felt empowered and intune. I had finally tapped into something I knew was always there: the hue of sensuality, femininity, and confidence – truly the power of the pussy. 

This confidence was not short-lived. It grew as I experimented in my early twenties with partners I could trust. In my relationships, I felt in complete control. My male cohorts even frequently referred me to as “Ball-Buster”. There was always a conflict of power with my male partners, which led to a plethora of relationship endings. It seemed like I was a fun “challenge” to take on that kept the relationship interesting and spontaneous yet later someone who was not stable, trustworthy, or possible to bank-on. 

I had developed a sense of confidence in my sexual ability with both men and women, but not in myself as a partner. Then, I met her. All I had learned and thought I was an expert in was gone. It was like learning to write a paragraph eloquently and then to be told to code in javascript. I had fallen in love with my best friend who was a woman and very much a lesbian. I never thought of myself as straight or gay or having one preference of sex over the other. I always was just on a quest for the perfect partner or a soulmate of sorts…. 

Moving into this realm was actually easier than I thought. The relationship began in tandem with what is often referred to as “my coming out” story, which didn’t feel like the call-to-action plot that I had witnessed from others. There was no sitting my parents down and saying a terrifying phrase: “I may be gay.” I avoided this conversational fully by introducing my new partner to friends and keeping things very vague. I tried very hard to avoid any kind of label of my relationship and feelings and, therefore, avoided any blatant coming-out conversation. 

Not wanting to label myself but rather the new relationship mystified many. The question, “So you’re bisexual then?”, always seemed like the appropriate response, which was sometimes within earshot of my new love, who also sometimes implied she wanted me to pick a side. The problem was that the word “bisexual” made me cringe. No, I wasn’t or rather I was still figuring it out. I was in love and it just happened to be with someone of the same sex. 

“But you find her attractive sexually, then? As a women?” was also a response. 

I should fucking hope so. Somehow, to the straight community, this preference change also lowered my ability to assess my relationship and judge my feelings. To the straight world, I became easily distracted, inept, and confused 

You would think I could then seek solace in the gay community. I did but then the relationship ended. The thing that no one tells you is that coming out and constantly defending your feelings and sexuality never truly ends, even after a relationship does. When I ended the relationship, my LGBTQ tribe went missing. I had started dating men again and felt like they saw it all as a sham. I had lost my place. My straight friends seemed to have a similar thought process as they summarised a heartbreaking-end to a two year-long, often fulfilling and devastating relationship to “You just missed the dick…huh?” Yes, someone literally said this to me. 

When I started dating men again, my backstory was a hard thing to get through. They would ask about my last relationship. I would tell them. It was always the same facial expression: eyebrows raised shortly followed by “So you’re bisexual then?”

I wasn’t ashamed of dating women. This one in particular was one of the most loving and empowering relationships I ever had – but I was scared. I had a lot of fears that now I know a lot of bisexuals can relate to: Admitting I have dipped into both ponds was somehow translated to and could be seen as experienced, knowledgeable, and intimidating – although I was NONE OF THESE THINGS. And somehow, to a potential partner, my emotional baggage instantly doubled – or in a much worse situation, I became a conquest, or a challenge once again. 

Someone close to me recently came out as bisexual. I was one of the first people they told. Instead of encouraging them to express themselves, I want to cry now when I think about how I responded: 

“Don’t come out until you have to,” I said referring to a relationship. 

I expressed this awful sentiment because I still feel like a bystander whenever I have to explain my new partner to straight friends and how I belong to my gay community. I am not a threat nor am I wishy-washy. I am a stable partner that provides unconditional love, and is just looking for my one. 

Drea occasionally is a commentary writer, poet, and stand-up comedian. She frequently has a problem with committing to “labels” and resides in Seattle, WA…for now. Follow her journey on Instagram (@dreadomenica).

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