By Michael Kimmel | Life Beyond Therapy
I recently met a new client, a man who identified as bisexual. He asked me, at our first session, “Do you believe in bisexuality?” I admit I was a bit stunned by the question. “Of course, I do,” I replied. He said, “My previous therapist told me that bisexuality doesn’t exist.” I kept my mouth from dropping wide open, but, inside, it did the drop. “How can this be?” I thought to myself, “How could anyone be so ignorant?”
Today I was talking with a friend who is celibate, straight Catholic priest. We were talking about straight men and their fears of touching other men and he said, “Yeah, isn’t it amazing how most straight men are attracted to other men, but it scares the hell out of them?” I asked him, “Are you?” He said, “Yes, I find other men attractive. I think we all do. Most of us don’t do anything about it … but we feel the attraction nonetheless.”
When a long-term relationship (with a man) ended for me shortly after moving to San Diego, I went to the Bisexual Group that met at The Center. I used to think that I was exclusively gay, but, now, I was surprised to find certain women at my gym very attractive. I wanted to explore these feelings. I told a friend that if Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie came up to me and said, “Hey, would you like to have a threesome with us?” that I’d have absolutely no hesitation. I found both of them very attractive.
Lately, pansexuality has been in the news with the coming out of singer/actress Janelle Monae. And, of course, queer is another descriptor that many in our community employ. With all these ways to describe ourselves and our community, what does it all mean and what do we do with all these terms?
This wonderful variety of descriptors allows us a degree of self-definition that we have never had before. You can define yourself and that can change if you so desire. I have clients who identity as gender neutral, gender queer and non-binary. How great that we have all these ways to describe ourselves. Sure, it can appear confusing if you don’t know what they mean, but as our world changes and expands, we can refuse to grow and learn (and become rigid and bitter) or we can welcome new information and experiences into our lives.
When I lived in San Francisco, I used to go to an event called “The Pansexual Ball.” It was a lot of fun (and a pretty wild scene). Their New Year’s Event was definitely for the sexually open-minded and adventurous. I met amazing people at these events, people who were so far beyond labels that I gave up even trying to find the “right” ones.
If you’re unsure what these terms mean, ask the people who use them, if you can, or Google them if you must. I opt for the former. I learn more from how people describe themselves than from textbook definitions of different kinds of sexuality. For example, I really liked this woman’s description of her bisexuality:
“I like men and I like women. I’m attracted to both, fantasize about both, have dated and kissed and enjoyed sex with both.
“If you lined up 100 people I’m physically drawn to, maybe only four would be women, but the depth of attraction I’d feel for those women would be the same as for the men. This was true when I was 23 and entered my first romantic relationship (with a woman), and it’s true now that I’m 38. I do not think of myself as 4 percent lesbian but 100 percent bisexual.
“My longest relationship was with a woman, and I pictured a wedding, trips to Europe, raising kids. I’ve been to couples’ counseling with a woman. Even when I’m gray and wrinkled and have had my life forcibly downsized and my driver’s license revoked, and my wardrobe reduced to velour loungewear, I will still go both ways.”
So, whether you (or someone you meet) call yourself bisexual, pansexual, queer, non-binary or something else, can you open yourself to new possibilities for self-definition for our community, or will you resist change and growth?
The choice is yours.
— Michael Kimmel is a licensed psychotherapist who specializes in helping LGBT clients achieve their goals and deal with anxiety, depression, grief, sexually addictive behavior, coming out, relationship challenges and homophobia. Contact him at 619-955-3311 or visit lifebeyondtherapy.com.