On the Definition of a Lesbian
Depending on who you talk to, I am or am not a lesbian. If you define a lesbian as someone who resides on a small island off the coast of Greece, then I am not a lesbian. If you define a lesbian as a woman who is exclusively attracted to women, then I am not a lesbian. If you define a lesbian as a woman who emotionally, sexually, and spiritually centers her life around women, then I am a lesbian.
Today, I claim the word bisexual as part of my identity. In the past, I shied away from the term for a number of reasons, mainly because it's a lot harder for people to accept bisexuality as a bona fide identity rather than some phase I'm going through. Right away, men want to know (and it's always been men):
For about two years, I identified as a lesbian, even though I continued to be attracted to both sexes. Sometimes, I said I was a lesbian. Sometimes I said I was gay. Sometimes I said I liked girls and boys. If I was feeling the need to be really, really exact, I'd say I was a lesbian-identified bisexual, but that's quite a mouthful.
Men vs women vs straight vs gay vs bi
I'll spare you the sordid details of my dating history. I've dated men, women, heterosexuals, bisexuals, gay men, lesbians, and even some folks who pushed the boundaries of gender. In case you were wondering, dating women isn't any easier than dating men. Dating bisexuals isn't any easier than dating "purely" straight or "purely" gay people. No particular gender or sexual orientation has cornered the market on insanity; trust me, I know.
I recently left an exclusive, monogamous relationship with a woman that lasted about five years. We met in 1998, and I moved in a year later, so please spare me the U-Haul jokes. Our relationship was not perfect, but it made me pretty darn happy. I continue to identify as bisexual, although I have been know nto refer to myself as a lesbian. I also refer to myself as a dyke, a programmer, a kitty-lover, a witch, a human being, a liberal, a radical, an activist, a white woman, an Irish woman, a poet, and a member of Digital Eve Boston. None of these labels are true and all of these labels are true.
During my five-year stint in that monogamous relationship, I had no plans to leave. Had things worked out differently, it's entirely likely that I would never have slept with another man again. But I continued to identify myself as part of the bi community. Why? Just to piss you off, of course.
As far as I'm concerned, sexuality is only partially related to behavior. When women sleep with men, does that mean they're straight? That's the assumption. But what if they're just too chicken to step over the line and get down with that cute chick down the hall? When women sleep with women, does that mean they're lesbians? Most people seem to think so. But what if they're just afraid of what their tofu-eating, potluck-going buddies will say if they decide to go out on a date with that cute guy down the hall? More importantly, one's sexual orientation -- and even sexual preference, if I may use that sullied phrase -- can change over time. Trust me; I know.
Oy. It gives me a headache thinking about it.
Bi community? What's that?
When I moved back to Connecticut after college, I found a thriving gay and lesbian community. But I got this vibe off the lesbians I met that bisexuality was not an option. This kind of attitude is not uncommon. And considering the struggle for a lesbian identity that went on in the 1970s, I can understand it. I never mentioned my relationships with men for fear of being cast out of a community it had taken me so long to find.
Ironically enough, my first serious girlfriend after college routinely joked that I was going to leave her for a man. When I failed to actually do so, she took matters into her own hands and found a man of her own.
Then I discovered a group of people who didn't have any trouble at all calling themselves bisexual. I went to a conference they hosted in August, and for the first time in my life, I didn't have to play the pronoun game. In fact, very little I said shocked them. I was an active member of Conn Bi Nation for about a year and a half, and then I got a new job that required me to commute three hours a day. Then I moved to New Haven, and then I decided to move in with my sweetheart in Boston. Now I live with roommates, and sleep with whomever I damn well please.
The time to spent as an active member of the bi community was an important and affirming part of my own acceptance of my sexual identity. If you find yourself attracted to both men and women and feel somehow out of place in both the straight and "gay" communities, I suggest you make an attempt to contact your local bisexual organization. Check out the Bi-Net USA and Bisexual Options sites. Both list bi groups from all over the U.S.A.