Recently I wrote of the human desire to reduce the complexities of our experiences to a single point, to pursue singularity instead of embracing contradictions. We can mourn, and feel joy, be apprehensive and excited, fear the unknown and need to embrace it. This pursuit of oneness – the one of romantic ideals, one true path to enlightenment, one right way to live your life, or to feel, or to love, impacts multisexual (bi, pan queer) people in many different ways.
We live in a society which still questions, and stigmatizes those who experience attraction, either sexual or romantic, to more than one gender. I believe this is partially because of our obsession with the singularity, with one right way of being. Which is not to say that there is anything contradictory about being bi, pan or queer, but that monosexual (straight, gay and lesbian people) can see it as a contradiction. In a society where attraction to only one gender is the norm any other way of being appears confusing and contradictory to many.
Therefore a recurring aspect of the pursuit of oneness as the goal is the idea that being multisexual is “just a phase”. It is Bi Visibility Day on Sunday, and something which many, many, many, bi, pan and queer people, myself included, are so used to hearing is that we will “grow out of it”. Our identities are framed as an immature aberration which will be fixed with time. To be whole, adult, and authentic is associated with being monosexual, and anything else is simply a phase one goes through on that journey towards discovering your true self.
Now, I do need to say something about phases here. or the idea there is anything wrong with your ideas of who you are changing. Life is “just a phase” and we are all in a constant state of change and flux. I am reminded of the story from Greek philosophy of Thesuses’ Paradox. Plutarch wrote;
The ship wherein Theseus and the youth of Athens returned had thirty oars, and was preserved by the Athenians down even to the time of Demetrius Phalereus, for they took away the old planks as they decayed, putting in new and stronger timber in their place, insomuch that this ship became a standing example among the philosophers, for the logical question of things that grow; one side holding that the ship remained the same, and the other contending that it was not the same.
There is a wonderful Ted video exploring the Theseus Paradox and identity
Every cell in your body has been replaced, on a deeper level, you will have thoughts today which will have been impossible to you 10 years ago, your attitudes, ideas, even your beliefs will hopefully have changed. I say hopefully because to change is to grow and to become more aware of how much is possible. Given this to expect us to always be “the same” is to expect us to be statues carved out of stone, rather than living breathing human beings.
So, in many ways the “it’s just a phase” charge leveled at multisexual people speaks to a deep resistance to any change. What if bisexuality is, for one individual just a phase? What if a gay man realizes they are bi, or a lesbian that they are pan? Does it make their previous identity any less valid? That would be like saying because today we are replacing the oars on Theseus’ boat it never was Theseus’ boat to begin with, which is quite clearly ridiculous. Part of this is the idea of non heterosexual, and none cisgender people being somehow deceitful. The historical, and often still vital necessity of keeping private our sexual and/or gender identities to avoid harm is reversed, and presented as harmful to the majority. Laws, stigma, hate crimes, are ignored, and instead we are presented as inauthentic, a “trap” for the unwary. A change of identity is not presented as the evolution it is but instead as either an attempt to deceive or proof that gender and sexual minorities do not know themselves as well as cis het people.
I personally believe that this idea of trapping the unwary, used as a slur against trans people, also explains some of the hatred and prejudice against bi people. It is the idea that somehow you are presenting yourself as other than you truly are, and deceiving opposite gender partners which runs through so much biphobia.
Most multisexual people are settled in their identity of course, as much as monsexual people, although there may be an issue with not having the language to describe their feelings. This is part of why days like Bi Visibility Day are so important, I still remember growing up and thinking I was a really awful lesbian, because I was not just attracted to girls. Who I was did not change as I learned the words bi and queer, but how I could talk about who I was did.
Bi people, and others who come under the multisexual umbrella, are seen as contradictory by a world which resists contradictions. Our identities are challenged because the dominant narrative is that we must fit with the straight lines of monsexuality. Many therapists unfortunately pursue this narrative, bi clients are encouraged to “come out” as gay or lesbian, bisexuality is used as a diagnostic criteria for BPD. It is assumed multisexual people are somehow on the journey towards their true selves, rather than accepting, and affirming that for many being bi, pan, queer, polysexual, or however they chose to define it, is a place they have reached, not a place they want to move away from.