what being bi

means to me

written by Kayla McClellan (she/her)

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The first time I consciously fell in love with a woman, it initially happened too swiftly to question my sexuality. I was 22 and, to me, it was what it was. A part of me had known for a long time. The surge of energy you get when someone extraordinary walks into the room—I felt that, before we even surpassed our preliminary banter stage. This was not a platonic friendship. I ached for it. 


The romance started with a book, and a note, and quickly tumbled into a fierce avalanche that disrupted everything I thought I knew. I was moving to a new country in a few months—away from all my family and friends, towards a place full of strangers. The timing was uncanny. I loved her, the people who loved me

knew that; the people who didn’t know me in this new country saw it as a major part of my

identity. In my corrections, “no, actually, I’m not a lesbian,” I ran a path of self-discovery

proving to me that I will never stop learning who I am. 


While parts of that relationship and its ending left me shattered for quite some time, it was one

of the most special experiences of my life. She reminded me how I feel when I’m truly in love. And she

did that through our exchanges of writing, our conversations, our uncontrollable laughter, our similar tastes in books and movies, our gifts laced with inside jokes. We didn’t have many opportunities to be physical—remember, I moved 4,386 miles away - but the relationship led me to figure out what bisexuality means to me. My desires erupt from magical experiences beyond a person’s gender. Because of her, I learned how much time I wasted on some men thinking they were my only option. 


When I write that my desires erupt from magical experiences beyond a person’s gender, I do mean, beyond a person’s gender. In the 1990 edition of the magazine Anything that Moves: Beyond the Myths of Bisexuality, their ‘Bisexual Manifesto’ explicitly states, “bisexuality is a whole, fluid identity. Do not assume that bisexuality is binary or duogamous in nature: that we have "two" sides or that we must be involved simultaneously with both genders to be fulfilled human beings. In fact, don’t assume that there are only two genders.” As the manifesto states, I claim my bisexual identity by describing my attraction to people as a fluid experience that is not dictated by their gender or sexuality. 


Despite what bisexuality means to me, history shows that many people in the “comfortably narrow—homo-heterosexual binary” (Erickson-Schroth & Mitchell, 2009, p. 298) would instead have me think that bisexuality isn’t real and that I’m gay with the privileged ability to be perceived as a heterosexual, regardless of who I’m with (Hutchins & Kaahumanu, 1991; Yoshino, 2000). To people who continue to attempt to delegitimize bisexuality on the basis of outward, aesthetic appearance, I urge you to also check yourself on what you think heterosexuals and homosexuals look like. How dare you look at me and assume I’m either. You can’t know and it’s time to shut down your ‘either/or’ mentality.

To my fellow bisexuals who feel unseen or smothered by people telling you who and how to love: only you get to choose your label, if you even desire one. I also hope that you study and pay respect to the Black queer and trans activists who paved the way for you to continue raising your voice against erasure and injustice. The work is not done.