Next up on our series for bi-visibility week, Gaysi speaks with Tanisha Rao. We discuss the process of discovering one’s own identity, reconciling with it and reveling in its liberation, and the struggles that stem from common misunderstandings around bisexuality. Read on.
Q. When did you first realize you were bi?
The first time I considered the possibility of being bisexual was when I was 16. I was in my first year of junior college and found myself experiencing sexual and romantic attraction towards my peers, with no clear preference for any sex/gender identity. I thought it was a passing phase and that I would eventually settle on one particular sex, but soon realized that that was never going to happen. Luckily, when I was about 14, my father had explained to me that sexuality was a spectrum and not a checklist, so it wasn’t too hard for me to come to terms with my bisexuality.
Q. Are you comfortable with the label?
I am now. I used to associate bisexuality with promiscuity and infidelity, and thought it was just a made-up identity that people used as an excuse to act badly but once my father explained how fluid sexuality can be, I began reading more on the subject and interacting with LGBT groups online and realized it was just as normal as hetero- and homosexuality had always seemed.
Q. Would you say your sexual orientation is an important aspect of your identity?
I wish it wasn’t but it is. I believe sexual orientation should be about as boring a detail about any individual as their blood group or hair color, but I have to admit that a lot of my social confidence, my sexual liberation and overall open-mindedness towards other people’s sexual identities and preferences comes from my own orientation and the journey that led me to its discovery.
Q. Do your friends and family know?
Yes, they do. I’ve had the coming-out conversation with nearly all of my friends but my favorite moment was when I came out for the very first time to my childhood best friend, and she looked at me plainly and said, “Okay. So?” After that, it was pretty easy to remember that my orientation was my business alone and that nobody else should have an opinion on it.
Q. Have you experienced biphobia?
Do endless, unwarranted invitations to threesomes count as a form of biphobia?
The worst was when my partners, usually boyfriends, would tell me that they were worried I would cheat on them because I had ‘twice the number of options’ they had. The most common one though, is being asked why I won’t make my mind up about which sex I’m actually attracted to, or being told that I’m just fickle and greedy.
Q. Do you think people assume you are gay or lesbian when you tell them that you’re a bisexual?
Yes. A lot of people tend to assume my orientation based on the gender of the person I am dating at the time or brush me off as a lesbian who’s too scared to ‘own it’ and I think a lot of it stems from the common misconception that bisexuality is just a phase.
Q. How did the journey begin?
I remember having a bit of a rough time in school — all my friends were already beginning to explore their sexualities while I hadn’t felt anything more than a fleeting crush from time to time. The idea of sexual attraction completely baffled me. All of that changed when I began the first year of junior college and met a girl who could sing Adele songs effortlessly and had the prettiest hair I had ever seen. Just when I started wondering if I had been gay all along, I met a boy who I completely hit it off with and he could make me laugh at the most ridiculous things and I realised that I was almost equally attracted to both of them and their genders seemed to play no role in my feelings for them.
Q. What have been the beautiful or memorable or exciting aspects of your sexuality?
Just knowing that I’m able to explore and enjoy so many different kinds of personalities and identities, that I can have far more versatile experiences than most of my friends, and to know that my interests in or attraction towards a person aren’t bound by the limitations of sex chromosomes or gender identity makes me feel extremely liberated. Being able to equally appreciate masculinity and femininity in other people has also helped me get in touch with my own masculine and feminine sides and has allowed me to feel far less confined to traditional aspects of femininity.
Q. How did you reconcile with this aspect about yourself?
I figured if Angelina Jolie could be as fierce and charitable as she’s known to be and still be a proud bisexual woman, then maybe my orientation didn’t automatically make me unfaithful or untrustworthy either. Hell, even bonobo monkeys display bisexuality in the wild.
If an ambidextrous person isn’t asked to choose between being left-handed or right-handed and isn’t labeled as either one depending on which hand he’s using at the time, why can’t sexuality be treated the same way?
Q. You want both. But what if you cannot have both all the time? How do you reconcile with your desires in a climate that considers monogamy superior or naturally desired?
I haven’t quite figured that one out yet, to be honest. Most of the people I’ve dated have expected monogamy from me and I was afraid if I said anything, I’d come across as the cliché bisexual who is never satisfied with what she has, so I would compromise and be monogamous. In the future though, I plan on being more upfront about it with my partners and hopefully an open and honest conversation should help both of us find what we’re really looking for.
Q. Do you know other bi-folks?
Not nearly as many as I would like to. I know quite a few bi-curious women but not many that are openly and comfortably bi. I have also rarely encountered an openly bisexual man who hasn’t eventually come out as gay.
Q. Where does one meet bisexual persons?
Tinder? Tumblr? The annual Pride march? Or perhaps whilst getting a haircut at Mad O’Wot. Who knows? Your guess is as good as mine.