The Sunday Times Magazine: Having it all: what is it like to be bisexual in 2018?

bi sexual

When did I realise I was bisexual? I suppose the obvious answer is when I fell for a woman but still fancied men. I was 15 years old. Perhaps it should have been obvious earlier, given my mixed bag of teenage crushes: Courtney Love, Kurt Cobain, Germaine Greer and Leonard Cohen. If my first love was a girl, my first relationship was with a boy. Since then, my affections have haphazardly swung between genders with little fuss. As the presenter Courtney Act sweetly says in the new TV dating show The Bi Life (think Love Island with twice the chance of sex): “When I fall in love I don’t think about gender.” Or as I might more superficially put it: “I just kiss people based on whether I fancy them or not.” If my relationships haven’t fallen 50/50, that’s not down to desire, but laziness — going out with women takes so much more effort.

For some, coming out as bisexual is fraught with difficulty. Not for me. I suppose I was lucky growing up. My parents were divorced, so I rarely spoke to my dad about dating. My Ab Fab mother was desperate for a gay child, so I rather enjoyed not telling her when I started kissing a girl from school. If I’d hoped being bi might elicit some shock from my friends, it’s barely registered a flicker as I’ve come out to different friendship groups over the years. The more cynical ones just accuse me of finding something new to write about (as if!). The more annoying straight women see it as a chance to experiment. Someone asked me the other day if my female friends worry I fancy them. I hope not. If anything, being bi has clarified the distinctions between lovers and friends.

As I’ve got older, bisexuality has become less controversial, more fashion statement. As new generations reject traditional labels of gender, race and relationships, so the same thing has happened with sexuality. A YouGov survey in 2015 found that 23% of the population didn’t feel they were totally heterosexual. Among young people, that number jumped to 49% — almost enough for a sexual Brexit. The most recent Office for National Statistics survey into sexuality in 2016 found the number of people who identified as bisexual had increased by 45% in three years. It’s fair to suppose that percentage has only increased since.

I’ve always assumed we all exist somewhere in the middle of this Kinsey scale of attraction. Who doesn’t fancy Brad Pitt? Or wouldn’t experiment with Kate Moss if she tried it on? It rather amazes me anyone still finds bisexuality shocking when Tracey Emin has married a rock. Ritch C Savin-Williams, a psychologist specialising in gender studies at Cornell University in America, believes completely straight people don’t exist and that sexuality lies on a spectrum. He conducted a study of men and women watching porn, measuring pupil dilation, an indicator of arousal, and found even those claiming to be totally straight were turned on by same-sex fumbling. Porn channels regularly report their most popular category among women is “lesbian” (as it is for men).

I’ve often wondered if I’m bisexual for the same reason I became a journalist: I’m nosy. I never want to let an experience pass. Something suits me about “queerness” that stands outside boundaries. There’s an appeal in not having to limit yourself.


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