The Spectrum: Coming out as bisexual is not as sexy as you may think

Allyna Mota Melville, Guest Columnist

I’m a two on the Kinsey scale.

Developed in the late 1940s to categorize sexual orientation, the Kinsey scale is based on a sex-positive, action-based approach. Zero is 100 percent heterosexual, and a six is 100 percent homosexual. The scale was created in an attempt to break the binary of categorizing people as heterosexual or homosexual.

By identifying as a two on the scale, I am predominantly heterosexual with more than incidental homosexual leanings. I’m attracted to guys more than girls, but my attraction to women is more than just a random occurrence.

I never had the language to describe my sexuality until Lane Fenrich’s Sexual Subjects class during Fall Quarter of my freshman year. He introduced Kinsey, and, although a very simplified scale, it was what I needed to be able to fully understand my identity. Previously, I couldn’t fully consider myself bisexual. I found myself much more frequently attracted to men, but I also knew the crushes I had on girls in high school and middle school were not random. There was something more there, but the dominant bisexual narrative of an equal attraction to men and women didn’t apply to me.

How could I consider myself a part of a community when I hadn’t experienced the hardships that came from it?

A few months later, I went on my first date with a girl. She was someone who strongly identified as a member of the LGBTQ community, and her comfort in her identity intimidated me. As a normally assertive person, I found myself backtracking and wanting to explain myself. I never talked about my “ex-boyfriend,” instead referring to him as “the person I dated.” I tiptoed around the fact that I had dated men, trying to prove my legitimacy in this community. Nothing came from the date, but it affirmed my identity to myself and to the world — and yet I shouldn’t have to prove my bisexuality by the action of going on a date with a woman.

My fear of discussing my sexuality has led to relationships falling apart. It’s also led to the start of others. It’s why my anxiety worsened in the aftermath of the Pulse nightclub shooting and why my therapist never got the full story. My identity is not something that is written on my face for everyone to see, and I feel like I can’t identify with this group because I don’t fit into a neat definition of bisexuality.

Bi-erasure, the idea that bisexuality doesn’t exist, comes up in every corner of my life. I will either marry a man and be considered straight or marry a woman and be considered a lesbian. Bisexuality is often viewed as being the first step on a stepping stone toward being gay rather than a realistic identity. One of my favorite bisexual characters on television, Callie Torres from “Grey’s Anatomy, wrestles with being married to a woman who belittles her for being “one of those fake lesbians, just having a vacation in lesbian land.” In “Orange is the New Black,” one of the most popular shows discussing homosexuality and transgender rights, the word bisexuality is nearly nonexistent –– the protagonist, Piper, is referred to as an “ex-lesbian” despite dating both men and women on the show. Wrestling with bisexuality in this show means that you’re transitioning from straight to a lesbian. It implies that my identity is a phase.

When bisexuality is legitimized, it is in black-and-white terms of 50/50 attraction to men and women, an archaic definition that leaves out a lot of people. Activist Robyn Ochs said, “I call myself bisexual because I acknowledge that I have in myself the potential to be attracted — romantically and/or sexually — to people of more than one sex and/or gender, not necessarily at the same time, not necessarily in the same way, and not necessarily to the same degree.”

I’ve been having an internal debate about the prospect of coming out. I don’t think it’s necessarily important for me as an individual because I could go my whole life without visibly outing myself. Up to this point I have only had relationships with men and am currently dating a man; I’ll probably end up married to a man.

However, I don’t mean to belittle the importance of coming out. As a straight-passing, white-passing individual from an accepting home, I need to take that first step. For some, visibility is what is needed.

When I don’t come out, my younger cousins don’t see firsthand that not being straight is okay and that a large amount of people in this country have had some experience with same-gender attraction. When I don’t come out, the narrative of the closet gets reaffirmed over and over again. Coming out has social power  –– when someone knows a person that is gay, it makes them more willing to pass legislation protecting them and more willing to fight for their rights.

In this time and place, with a vice president-elect that considers conversion therapy a realistic choice to “fix” non-heterosexual individuals, I need to exercise my privilege and stand with my community. This public coming out is a first step in a much longer journey to fight for equal rights. It will entail using my voice and my political pull in the communities I am a part of to affect change, starting in the Greek and Wildcat Welcome communities, and stepping off into the world.

This fight is not a new one. I am just a newcomer to the battle.

Allyna Mota Melville is a Medill sophomore. She can be contacted at [email protected]. If you would like to respond publicly to this column, send a Letter to the Editor to [email protected]. Views expressed in this piece do not necessarily reflect the views of all staff members of the Daily Northwestern.