Tuesday, 28 June 2011

Bisexual - or just greedy?

I have read a number of blogs recently which have mentioned bisexuals, and the following comment appeared on my recent post on same-sex marriage:
Could you clarify something for me, since I am not totally clear on everything you have said here. You rightly point out that part of the marriage vows are "... forsaking all others, be faithful for so long as you both shall live."

How do bi-sexual people do this? Do they deny one part of their desires, and only have one partner for life? Or do they have two partners, and "faithfulness" then means "faithful toward two different people at the same time", and so is redefining "faithful" to mean "not monogamous"?
The fact that such questions need asking show the misunderstanding there is about what it means to be bisexual.  This often leads to confusion among Christians (and even among some of the gay/lesbian community).

Those who are honest and open enough to say they are bisexual, often run the risk of all sorts of unspoken assumptions being made.  Indeed I used to do the same.
I remember making the crass statement once to someone who I now know to be bisexual, that I couldn’t see what the problem was – “if you’re bisexual you should simply find someone of the opposite sex to fall in love with – and then all would be well.”

Others seem to think that all bisexuals want to ‘have their cake and eat it’ needing sexual partners of both sexes to feel a sense of fulfilment.
So what is the real story on bisexuals?  Are they indecisive, fickle or greedy – or is there something deeper going on?

The following is the story of one married couple who have worked through this issue.  It is used with their full permission:

‘My wife & I are dedicated evangelical Christians. I am not bisexual – but my wife is.
The strange thing is – I always knew that.  Even though we couldn’t talk about it because I didn’t have the language or understanding to do so, I knew.   Soon after we met and fell in love I somehow knew that if our relationship didn’t work out, her next partner would probably be a woman.  I don’t know how I knew, but I did.
We never talked about it – how could we?  I was still a conservative evangelical believing that all same sex relationships were wrong.  On one level, we didn’t need to talk about it.  We were in love with each other, and in time, we made our marriage vows to each other, promising to love and care for one another, forsaking all others, until death do us part.
And yet, we did need to talk about it, because until we did, there was a part of who my wife’s identity that was closed off from our relationship – and that meant that there was a part of her that she could not share with me, and which I could not receive and seek to understand.
It was many years later - after I had realised how wrong I had been about gay and lesbian relationships – that we were able to talk together about this part of her which we both knew was there, but neither of us had been able to verbally acknowledge.
Now before any minds start racing with questions and wrong conclusions, let me state categorically that:
> My wife and I have both been faithful to our wedding vows.

> We have each ‘forsaken all others, to be faithful to each other, and we are just as committed to our marriage vows now as we were 20 years ago on our wedding day. 

> Since we have been able to talk with each other openly, there has never been any sense in which my wife has sought a same-sex partner any more that I would seek another opposite-sex partner. 

> We consider that either of these would be adultery, and we are dedicated to one another.
But since we have been able to recognise her bisexuality, and talk to each other freely, our relationship has grown.  My wife no longer needs to hide or ignore a part of who she is, and I have come to value her even more.  She has come to know that I love her for who she is (with nothing hidden) and I know that she chose me out of all the people she knew – not just the men!’
So the assumption that bisexuals will always ‘need’ or ‘choose’ to have partners of both sexes is clearly not the case.  In fact, I would argue that among Christians, almost all bisexuals I have encountered would say exactly the same thing.  They seek to live faithful dedicated lives with their partner – whatever sex that partner is.
There are of course some who choose a different path – just as there are heterosexuals who decide (for whatever reason) to have ‘open’ relationships or join ‘swingers’ clubs. I personally do not understand such an ‘open’ lifestyle, and would say that is not what marriage is meant to be.
There also those whose marriages have not proved to be the life-long, life-giving commitment they had hoped, and after a marriage breaks down a bisexual person may then fall in love with someone of the same sex.   But that does not make bisexuals greedy, indecisive, or fickle – just human.
All too often, Christians start at the wrong end of the issue.  We get pre-occupied with sex, rather than starting with love.  What most people long for is to meet the person who they fall in love with, and who falls in love with them.  If that love is deep enough, then a partnership will follow, and for many, the desire to make promises to each other in marriage.  This is the same whether you are gay, straight or bi.
The hard bit is to live out those promises (and not just the sexual ones) in a life-giving, life-long partnership – and that is exactly the same whether you are lesbian, gay, straight or bi.  It requires commitment, dedication and the strength to say ‘no’ sometimes out of love for your partner.
The only difference between bisexuals and gay/straight people is that their orientation means the person they fall in love with could be of either sex.
Which brings us to the heart of the issue:  being bisexual is about orientation, not about lifestyle.  Statistically, most people are attracted to people of the opposite sex, but some are attracted to people of the same sex, and some are attracted to both.  It is what we do with those attractions that matters.
It is high time that allowed bisexuals to be recognised for who they really are, not as some distorted stereotype.  It is time for us to listen rather than assume. 
As another Christian bisexual said to me recently, “I am bisexual and my lovely husband is straight. I do find I face a lot of problems if I am open about this, because of some awful assumptions and prejudices people have!  Even in LGBT circles I (very occasionally) face problems because people think I am being dishonest or do not belong in a gay Christian group.
It is time for bisexuals to be able to speak freely about their sexuality without having to battle with the prejudice which would keep them silent.

The T-shirts pictured on this blog are from The Bisexual Index, and are for sale! 

There is also an excellent FAQ page which is an good place to find out more.


  1. Thanks for this, Benny. Very meaningful.

  2. Until "meeting" conservative Christians online I had never encountered this "bisexuals want a partner of each sex at the same time" theme, although I had heard a lot of the greedy/undecided/trendy theories - and I have in my 40s and have worked in some fairly unreconstructed places. Is it some myth that is passed around that particular group?

  3. It's no different to being straight and married. It's all about choice and, having made a decision, sticking to it. A straight person who has made a commitment to be faithful to one person doesn't feel less fulfilled because they can not sleep with every person of the opposite sex they find sexually attractive. It's the same for bisexual people with the exception that they will obviously fancy both men and women. A straight man who fancies both blondes and brunettes and who marries a brunette, may fantasise about blonde women from time to time, but he won't spend his whole life feeling unfulfilled because after making the free will choice to commit to a brunette he will never get to have sex with a blonde.

  4. Thanks for sharing this, Benny.

  5. Thanks everyone!

    @ Joan of Quark - I don't know where it comes from but it is a common misconception which is doing the rounds in evangelical circles as one of the reasons why same-sex marriage is wrong - hence the Archbishop of Sydney's outburst recently saying if we allow same-sex marriage, polygamy is next. Wherever it comes from, it needs dismissing asap.

    @ MadPriest: Absolutely - well put!