I’ve known since the age of nineteen that I could be in relationships with either men or women. Unlike most people, I couldn’t stand on the horizon of adulthood and squint at a hazy picture of what my personal life would look like when I was thirty. Would I be living as a lesbian? As a straight woman? The one thing I could see clearly was that bisexuality was never an option as a public orientation.
Gays come out. Straights don’t have to. Bisexuals can’t. Like default sexual mirrors, bisexuals, in the public sphere are defined by the gender and orientation of our mates. If we date someone of our own gender we are, for all appearances, gay; if we are with someone of “the opposite sex,” we are straight. Our public sexual orientation is always out of sync with our private one, so being a bisexual in a monogamous relationship means you are in a closet of assumed sexual identity. But the closet bisexuals inhabit is not one of old school shame and hiding. Instead I call it the Couple’s Closet because for bisexuals our partners always define our public orientation.
Outside the Couple’s Closet being bi is usually an unmitigated disaster. When bisexual women grab the attention of the cultural gaze it’s because they’re crazy. Think Tila Tequila faking pregnancies on Twitter. Remember Anne Heche wandering around half-naked looking for a gateway to outer space, possibly to reunite with her other personality, the alien “Celestia,” half-sister to Jesus Christ. And how could we forget Lindsay Lohan, the time bomb that keeps on ticking. In these instances mental illness mixed up with whoring for fame paints a picture of the bisexual woman as unstable and toxic at best. Bisexuality doesn’t sidestep sexual conventions; those conventions ensnare bisexuality—in an asylum.
But for those among us perpetually hungry for drama the opposite of crazy is boring. This is where lesbians come in. Meredith Baxter of 80’s sitcom fame came out a few months ago. Boring. Ellen and Portia, the picture of marital bliss: boring. Even Beyonce and Lady Gaga taking bites of a substitute-phallus-sandwich in the Pussy Wagon before Lorena Bobbit-ing it out the window were boring. Women being together are a lot less exciting than women getting together. The writers of The L-Word understood this well. Otherwise they wouldn’t have been able to create one of the most boring shows ever.
Afraid of being a boring lesbian, or a boring straight woman for that matter, I tried to live out my bisexuality in a classic way: by cheating.