Love + Relationships Personal Stories

Am I Even Bi? Trying To Tell The Difference Between Bisexuality And Curiosity As A Woman

If I look like a straight, talk like a straight and walk like a straight, then… Am I even really bi?

Spoiler Alert: I am

“She’s just a Katy Perry dyke,” was a phrase Aman*– my closest friend at the time – bandied about when I was in college. He was who I looked to to understand the queerverse because, back in 2008, I was simply a straight girl that sometimes thought other girls were cute. But I’d never dare tell him about it; all his friends were queer. And to him, there were straight girls, queer girls, and girls that kissed other girls for attention – i.e; the ‘Katy Perry dyke’, a direct remnant of the year’s pop hit I Kissed A Girl And I Liked it that plumbed a woman’s attraction to another woman from the POV of the male gaze, reducing it to a party trick.

I grew up with exposure to queer groups and queer culture. I was going to queer film festivals by my second year of college, reading queer lit in local libraries, and, as many ‘woke’ folks like to say (and would have tattoed on their foreheads if they could), ‘I had a lot of queer friends.’ I had the luxury of having it in my life in a significant way versus people that grow up with queerness as this vague, distant thing.

The downside was that, to a very unsure 19 year old, it was the most daunting of arenas. At that time, I thought of myself as a cis-het woman who was curious, sure–but aren’t we all? And as that inquisitive cis-het woman, I felt… judged.

I remember the first time I hung out with Aman’s friends, at one of Bangalore’s oldest coffee houses that had been crumbling since my childhood. It was where they often convened for strong filter coffee and conversations that I found deeply alienating. There was a code to this culture, one I couldn’t access as a ‘straight’. It was laced with shared experience, similarly-held political views, a deep knowledge of the community and its nuances. And it held – at its nexus – a cardinal trait that was common to each member, that terrified me the most: an Unshakeable Confidence.

It was a theme that I continued to see as I left college and moved through a masters in film to working at a fashion magazine. Fashion is as inherently queer as a space can be, and I continued to be surrounded by fabulous gay men who made no bones about who they were – from their dramatic dressing to their camp carriage. But nowhere in the myriad queer men (and far, far fewer queer women) that I encountered did I descry an iota of self-doubt. I don’t doubt that it had been a defining part of their journey; it was just never there for the world to see.

Amidst that sea of mettle and pluck, it was easier to tuck my thoughts away in the corners of my mind as curiosity. It’s always an easier route than rigorous self-exploration, than asking yourself questions you’re not sure you want the answers to. And if everyone who was queer had known it – so innately, so unwaveringly – all through their lives, then perhaps I simply wasn’t? I liked men, very much. I had always had boyfriends, never a girlfriend. I hadn’t once felt even the tiniest bit uncomfortable in my straight relationships – it was a full and complete happiness (in the context of sexuality, at least). If I look like a straight, talk like a straight and walk like a straight, then… Am I even really bi?

The only trouble was, it didn’t feel that neat of a compartmentalisation. It didn’t explain why I had had feelings for a girl doing an MBA at college, or why I was drawn to both Dan Humphrey and Serena Van Der Woodsen on Gossip Girl growing up. I had never acted on any of these feelings – save for a few drunken moments in my early twenties that were easy to guise as ‘youthful misconduct’. The big question I asked myself was – if I had only ever been with men, did I even qualify?

It was a big, looming question; one that kept me on the precipice of ‘straightness’ for several years. Feelings are just feelings, right? You can feel sad without being depressed, or feel jittery without having an anxiety disorder. It seemed too overarching a claim to make with no ‘experience’ to really back it up. I had just about convinced myself that I simply had a case of the ‘I wonder’s – and that was that. All the evidence pointed to straightness. Open and shut.

It was only when I chanced upon a Reddit forum that I finally began to prod at that neatly packed away decision about my sexuality. It was inundated with women and men just as confused as me, with questions that had only half-formed in my head articulated to perfection. And a stream of comments that voiced the many variations of thought that usually followed in my head soon afterward.

Some of it was cerebral; folded expertly and steam-ironed in perfect parcels of thought. But most of the thoughts and ideas lay in a comforting, tumbled heap, like unsorted laundry. ‘I had a crush on a boy in high school.. But I haven’t since,’ said a 29 year old man. ‘I think I mostly prefer women, but I do like the odd guy,’ said a girl who’d been in a serious relationship with her girlfriend since 2016. ‘I’m afraid to tell my friend I have a thing for her because she has a boyfriend,’ said a 17 year old. ‘I think I’m mostly straight, but I’ve kissed a few guys – is that weird?’ said a man with an Eric Cartman photo for a profile picture.

And it was in that swirl of uncertainty that I found home. There were no clean lines, no definitions. The feelings were varicoloured, shape-shifting. Changing course, causing disquiet, bubbling latently, charging forward confidently. There were no right answers; just the soothing reassurance that there were no wrong ones. Sexuality was simply a journey, with many bewildering turns and unlabelled passages. And it was completely okay to get lost, as long as you enjoyed the ride. It really didn’t matter where you ended up. It only mattered that you kept going. 

*names changed.

This story was about: Bisexuality Identities Sexuality

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Saumyaa Vohra is a journalist and editor. She is currently writing her first novel, titled ‘One Night Only’.
Saumyaa Vohra

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