(9) Read the label
Updated: Apr 11, 2020
Katrina said she thought it must be harder for someone with a bisexual partner, than someone with a heterosexual partner or a homosexual one, because there would be double the chance of them finding a new one. Katrina likes thinking. Katrina does argue illogically when it suits her to do so (sorry Katrina, that is your prerogative, you are a healthy, nearly 14 year old), but she does also throw you perfectly logical questions and philosophical thoughts.
I suppose if you were to think of every person of the opposite sex that you met, and every same sex person you met, that maybe this person does it for me, maybe I fancy them, then Katrina has a very good point. And actually even if you are not thinking this at all, and I am not and never have, then she is still right, in a way. If you fall for a certain personality, if you fall for brown eyes, if you fall for sad eyes, thoughtful eyes, if you fall for a tidy brain, a logical brain, a slightly ditzy brain, a wild spirit, a safe bet, a high earner, a philanthropist... then if you are not excluding nearly half the population, you are indeed nearly doubling the chances that you might fall.
However, it is important to say that I have never spent time in a relationship looking out to see who else I could be with. When I was with Ian, I was for Ian, not for anybody else. And I am not for anybody else now that I am in this relationship, it is just Isabelle. I am not looking at males or females in that way, and never have, whilst in a relationship. I should say I fell in love with Isabelle and allowed myself to do that, without knowing that she had ever lived with a woman. I saw her as being in a happy, long term relationship with a man. I allowed myself to fall so completely purely because I thought there was no chance there at all. By the time I found out that in fact she had had relationships with women before her 24 year monogamous relationship with a man, and that she might also be possibly interested in me (and please don't read from this that I assumed just because she had, that she would be!) it was far too late. I could not turn back.
Before Isabelle, it never crossed my mind that I might EVER be with a woman, purely for the reason that I had not been with a woman. It had never entered my head. I had seen girls kissing at teen parties, girls who had boyfriends, and had taken it for granted that it was just to shock. I think in their case it probably was. I didn't watch Brookside but I heard all about that scene. I thought at the time that if I had put my lips there in the right place at the right time, of course I could kiss a girl. But I would not dream of putting them there. It didn't cross my mind to.
I am not sure that I want a 'bisexual' label. I had the 'heterosexual' label before for 44 years and it turned out that it was not the right one. I assumed it was the right one, just because it always had been so. Someone we know suggested that at the time of being with men, we were heterosexual, but now that we are with women, we are lesbians. That doesn't seem to fit either. If I am a lesbian now, then why did I love Alex, Andrew, Ian without thinking there could be a possibility with Sandra, Andie or Gill?
By the way, there is the whole label within labels thing.... some lesbians refer to themselves as dykes. Others hate the term. Some lesbians have always had relationships with other lesbians. Some have always fallen for straight girls. I am not sure if there is a term for that. Did you know the term 'lipstick lesbian' existed? Wikipedia says..... 'a lipstick lesbian is slang for a lesbian who exhibits a greater amount of feminine gender attributes relative to other gender expressions.' If I were a lesbian, I think I would be a lipstick one. There are also, apparently, LUG lesbians (lesbian until graduation). Likewise GUG and BUG. But I digress.
There was a theory put about, in our small community as to why the teacher had jumped the fence - Odious-Shop-Man, that stupid phrase on your gleeful face, as you delighted in being the first informant (hate to tell you that Loud-Fish-Van-Man got there before you with some of the villagers) - that my personality may have changed after a violent knock to the head, sustained in a high speed water slide expulsion. Crunch (my cheek). Click (I am a lezzer now). It wasn't formulated quite like that, and maybe there is something to it - random nerve pain certainly made it impossible to be functioning fully with some serious staffing issues, but really, does that make you fall in love with another woman? By the way, the french for lesbian is lesbienne, which I quite like.
I know that just as I fell absolutely in love with Ian, so I fell absolutely in love with Isabelle. I have always known I fall absolutely. I only recently learned that I fall in love with a person, not a gender. I suspect there are far more people like that, who don't know it of themselves, than do know it. This got me looking up other possible labels and recently I have become aware of the term 'pansexual'. Wiki gets it slightly wrong, 'Pansexuality, or omnisexuality, is the sexual, romantic or emotional attraction towards people regardless of their sex or gender identity.' Wrong, according to a post on 'Affinity' : 'Throughout pride month I saw the terms pansexual and omnisexual being used interchangeably. However, they are not synonyms of each other (thus being why they each have their own day during pride month); there is a big difference between the two that needs to be acknowledged.' And then it goes on to say: 'The key difference being the fact that pansexuality is the attraction to people regardless of gender, meaning that they could date a man, a woman, someone identifying as non-binary or anyone else without said person’s gender playing a part in whether they date them or have the capacity to love them. Whereas omnisexual is the attraction to anyone despite their gender, meaning they could also date a man, a woman, someone identifying as non-binary or anyone else, while noticing their gender but not caring how they identify.'
I am sure from this that I cannot be described as pan-sexual. I am very aware of a person's gender. I am very aware of my own gender. Being a female is very important to me. Maybe I am a lipstick bisexual? (I have also recently become aware of the term 'cisgender' - I have been largely ignorant of all sorts of terminology. Cisgender denotes a person whose sense of personal identity and gender corresponds with their birth sex. ) I love that I am a female - I would not want people to assume things about me based on that, but that is a different kettle of fish. So it appears that I might be omnisexual - attracted despite gender.
I also have found out that the 'bi' in bisexual does not, as I first thought, mean attracted to both males and females, which implies a gender binary. A.J.Walkly writes in her shared blog, Bi the Bi (in which two bisexual writers and activists have an ongoing conversation about bi-issues) that it is rather that the 'bi' is more to do with being attracted to those the 'same' as us and those who are 'different'.
Omni or bi, then? And does it matter? Isabelle says that if you were to put a label on me I would probably try to prove it wrong. I hate the assumptions we make of people we meet. I could have sworn that someone I didn't know well was gay, an entirely heterosexual man, who just liked pink Pringle jumpers and who spoke softly, with a slightly camp manner. I recently found out that my assumption of a former colleague that she was heterosexual just because she was in a heterosexual relationship and had children, was absolutely wrong. I label or infer a label without thinking about it, and just as when others wrongly label me, that doesn't sit well.
Sometimes labels really help - in the case of my brother with his Asperger's. Maybe if Isabelle had had a label..... Sometimes I wish I could have had a label that said 'Yes, I do want children. No, I cannot seem to have them. Yes, I am heartbroken. Please don't assume that because I don't have, that I don't want.' But otherwise, Isabelle is probably right. If I were given a label I would probably want to blow it out of the water.
I recently came across this, from the Bisexual Manifesto, 1990:
'Bisexuality is a whole, fluid identity. Do not assume that bisexuality is binary or duogamous in nature: that we have “two” sides or that we must be involved simultaneously with both genders to be fulfilled human beings. In fact, don’t assume that there are only two genders. Do not mistake our fluidity for confusion, irresponsibility, or an inability to commit. Do not equate promiscuity, infidelity, or unsafe sexual behavior with bisexuality. Those are human traits that cross all sexual orientations. Nothing should be assumed about anyone’s sexuality, including your own.'
I think most people looking at me might make many assumptions. My facebook profile pic for example - do I look like a person who holds a trophy engraved with the words ' Shotokan karate - kata champion, Scotland 1997' (In the purple belt category)? When I carry my backpack of solo camping gear, do you assume I wear long velvet dresses to cook in?..... Do I, in my high boots and feminine work wear, look as if I can swim faster than most men in an average swimming pool? Do you see Quiet (especially so in awkward situations) and think Boring? Certainly, you would think, when you see me - 'heterosexual female'.
I clearly have a lot more reading and thinking to do about labels and assumptions. For now though, Suzanne Gillies, formerly known as 'heterosexual', doesn't entirely trust them.