Let Us Define How We Identify

“A known bisexual stereotype is that we do not exist. It’s easy to believe that we are not here because you don’t see us as easily as you see gay, lesbian or straight people.” Liora Sophie Halevi writes about identity and stereotypes of bisexual women


“I believe that bisexuality exists but it’s never balanced, there is always a more dominant side,” said Naama Cohen in an op-ed published on Israeli website Mako pride. Naama identifies as lesbian, and wanted to know what all the fuss is about if occasionally she wants a man. So there you go, Naama. There’s no fuss. You are allowed to occasionally be with a man and still identify as lesbian. Sexual orientation is a matter of identity and you have the right to define it yourself, and it is our duty to respect your choice.

But there are other sexual orientations that are different than yours. Bisexual orientation exists regardless of your belief. We all experience sexual attraction somewhat differently. We are different, it’s only natural that it will not be exactly the same for everyone. It is possible that in Naama’s case the attraction to men and women is not balanced and keeps women more dominant, but it’s important for people to know that it’s not like that for everyone. There are people, myself included, for whom it’s very difficult to answer the question ‘But the bottom line is, which do you prefer?,’ Because it would require me to make a Nile-long list of advantages and disadvantages of men versus women, and even then I probably wouldn’t be able to decide.

In those years when we’re still searching for our identity, it is easier to fit our desires into the desires of others instead of stating unequivocally who we are. It’s easier to be what we’re expected to be, because we are surrounded by homophobia on all sides, by messages that not only are we not allowed to be what we want, but that actually there is no such option. The desire to fit in and be like everybody is strong, no doubt. We hear all the time about the young boy coming out of the closet and identifying as bisexual and only after a few years he comes out again and declares he is gay. The problem is that it creates the stereotype that bisexuals are actually either “closeted gay” people or “straight who only experiment.” And then the one who grew up and studied and concluded that he’s really bisexual, and people don’t believe him. “It will pass,” they tell us. “It’s just a phase.” So no, it’s not just a phase.

Imagine you meet a guy you like and you would like to know if there is a potential attraction between you. Asking “Hey, are you attracted to me?” is too direct. “Are you attracted to my gender?” – sounds a bit intrusive. It’s most comfortable to ask “How do you define yourself?”. If you get an answer such as “straight”, “gay” or “Pansexual,” it will answer your question. Once you get to know him you can conduct a deeper conversation about sexual identity, and then he may tell you he was straight and yet it’s intriguing to him to be with a man. This does not rule out his straight identity, but it’s not something he would tell you if you had met ten minutes ago. Therefore, definitions.

Definitions can give us a feeling of being strangled, trying to force us under the title that does not accurately represent us. This is true for all definitions: religious, secular, straight, lesbian, feminist, even a man and a woman – because this comes with a set of stereotypes, so we are in a constant battle to show the world who we are despite indications that were attached to us. Definitions are shortcuts to help us communicate with the environment.

And if we’re on the subject of definitions, it’s important to note that whoever is attracted to both men and women sexually is not necessarily interested in romantic relationships with both. Our romantic tendency does not always coincide with our sexual orientation. We have learned to distinguish between sex and gender, that not everyone who is a “man” is necessarily a “male” and anyone who identifies as a woman is necessarily “female”. It can very well be that someone who has a sexual attraction to both sexes is interested in having a romantic relationship only with men or with both or neither. Bisexuality is not necessarily equivalent to Biromantic.

There are unpleasant stereotypes for everyone. For example, the stereotype that lesbians “just have not yet found the right man.” A known bisexual stereotype is that we do not exist. It’s easy to believe that we are not here because you don’t see us as easily as you see gay, lesbian or straight people. When we are in a relationship with the opposite sex, we’re assumed to be straight and if we are in contact with a same-sex partner we’re assumed to be lesbian or gay.

In order for people to know what our sexual orientation is, we have to come out every time in the face of every person we meet. Who wants this? Who has the strength to be asked questions like, “Don’t you miss the other sex?” on a daily basis, and the most exhausting of all – “Do you want a threesome?”. There is no problem with someone who occasionally wants a man but identifies as lesbian, but let’s not forget that also, some people’s identity is, ‘Why not both?’.