Is it cheating to realise, while dating a man, that you are also interested in women?
Most people don’t seem to think so. However, for me, acknowledging that I could like someone of a different gender to that of my partner worried me; I was concerned by the thought that a hypothetical future partner could be so ‘other’ from my current boyfriend.
Is it despicable to simultaneously be able to be attracted to a different shape, or softer lips?
It is easy to think so. The process of questioning my sexuality while being in a relationship has brought an endless stream of uncomfortable questions into my mind.
Why am I suddenly realising that I am bisexual when I am in a relationship with a man? Would my boyfriend think that a subtle sexual repulsion towards him made me start to wonder about women? Or that there is a woman that I like more than him?
These questions, though illogical and unfounded, plagued me for months.
In reality, the reason for the realisation was that I’d left the ultra-conservative microcosm I’d been raised in, relocated to Canberra for university, and I could finally breathe. However, it still took a long time to admit the truth about my sexuality to not only myself, but also to my boyfriend. I was scared that it would raise the questions in his mind that it had raised in mine.
Alongside this, I also felt bound by the widespread heteronormative expectation that if I hadn’t come out, then I was automatically straight. I constantly felt that my straight-passing was a deception, which he would one day find out. I likened it to cheating in my mind; an irrevocable secret that was always at the back of my thoughts. I compared my ‘straight masquerade’ to fucking someone else, believing that there would eventually come a day when he would find out and we would be over.
Even though I could have kept my sexuality secret without it impinging on my love-life, what ultimately compelled me to tell my boyfriend was a desire to be myself. I felt that, even if we continued to date indefinitely, I would not be authentically experiencing my true identity, and neither would he, unless I came out to him.
It was not easy. I sat on a mattress placed at an awkward angle on his bedroom floor, half-wrapped in a blanket, and couldn’t speak for a few minutes. I’d never run out of words before, but nothing could escape my mouth. Before I spoke, I had already decided that when I told him, he would end our relationship. I sat with him, sobbing, telling him over and over that he was going to break up with me once I told him my secret, but I was still too scared to tell him. Understandably, he assumed that I had cheated on him, and he became more and more agitated as I found myself unable to talk.
Eventually, he passed me his laptop so I could write it out instead. I typed: “When I was in year eight, I had a crush on a girl.” I watched him read it, certain that there was scrutiny all over his expression. I felt the discomfort that tends to accompany any admission of guilt, but I also felt relieved to finally have my lie exposed. He tilted his head up, looked confused for a moment, and then said: “That’s it? I thought you’d had sex with another guy!”
I can’t begin to articulate how much his reaction shocked me. I had obsessed for months over the fact that I was bisexual, but to him, it was merely a trivial revelation. In reality, he didn’t give a fuck, as long as we loved each other and were still in a committed relationship.
Not all partners would necessarily be understanding, however, I do think that it is very easy to catastrophise about someone’s reaction to your sexuality. I feared that my boyfriend would respond with the same vein of covert homophobia that I had experienced at school. As a teenager at an all-girls school, I had watched my friends’ refusal to befriend queer* classmates. Their reasoning was that, if their friend was homosexual, they were probably in love with them. They even contemplated how disappointed they would be in themselves as parents if their child were to be queer.
However, at university, my environment was distinctly different. Telling my boyfriend that I was bisexual was still super hard, but now I know that it shouldn’t have been.
I am just so grateful that I’ve finally been able to tell someone. However, almost all of my friends still don’t know about my sexuality, particularly my friends from school. But at least you now know too.