Being Bisexual in College

Originally posted on For original, please refer to: Being Bisexual in College – NextGen Journal.

Does bisexuality exist?

It’s a question I hear more often than I’m comfortable with. Even more uncomfortable is the number of times people answer ‘no.’ As someone who identified as bisexual after first coming out of the closet, I’ve personally seen the skepticism in friends’ eyes as I came out to them. Constant confusion about my self-identification and whether others believed in my attraction to women led me to dropping calling myself bi entirely and identifying purely as gay during my sophomore year.

That decision is one I deeply regret, but given the chance, I would probably make once again. When pressed to explain, I have a little prepared speech about being a ‘functional bisexual,’ but that I’m not very emotionally attracted to women. Of course, that only causes the inquirer’s eyes to glaze over. So calling myself gay is simply easier. The problem is that sexual identity isn’t supposed to be about convenience, for others or myself.

Bisexuality is perhaps the most misunderstood mainstream sexual orientation – almost everyone knows the term and uses it, but almost no one fully grasps exactly how bisexuality works. Is it a 50-50 split? Is it all about sexual attraction? What part does emotion play? Or dating habits?

What is it about bisexuality that perplexes society so? My theory is that it’s about our binary culture. In a world where you’re expected to be red or blue, left or right, yes or no, etc., it can be hard to swallow an ‘option C.’ Even the gay community as a whole often doesn’t have the highest view of bisexuality – the common complaints are of using ‘bi’ as a transitional term on their way to a more absolute sexuality, or that they’re really just experimenting. They’d rather see an absolute answer versus somewhere in the middle.

As a society, I’d say that America is afraid of the middle. Look at this current presidential election: Republican candidate Mitt Romney is being harangued by the far right flank of his party to appeal to the conservative base despite his more centrist, moderate roots. By that same token, someone who doesn’t want to be pinned down into one of two sexual norms is confusing and challenging. So instead of trying to understand bisexuality, society simply shuns it.

I like to think about bisexuality in terms of Kinsey. Alfred Kinsey, that is. Don’t know him? You should; he invented the Kinsey scale in 1948. The seven-point scale is used to measure how homosexual or heterosexual a person is. The lower the number, the ‘straighter’ someone is, and vice versa. Zero is completely straight, and six is completely gay. Most humans fall from one to five. Three is completely 50-50 bisexual.

Personally, I’d put myself at five. I know fellow gay men who would rank at four or five. I also know self-identified straight men that would rank at one or two.  But I’m not sure I know anyone at either extreme. I don’t even know a pure bisexual three. So almost everyone I know is somewhere in the middle. It’s no wonder Kinsey isn’t that well-known nationwide – his system would force almost all people into an area they just aren’t comfortable with.

My grand idealistic hope is that one day, sexuality won’t have to be labeled – people will just be with who they want, without regard for arcane social norms. But I’m not very idealistic; I don’t think that future is coming any time soon. So here’s my hope in the meantime: if it tickles your fancy, allow yourself to let go in college.

Truly, there’s not a time in life that’s better suited for experimenting – college is meant for discovering things about you. Plus, there are already many cases of girls making out with other girls – it’s glorified by straight men in society. So let’s just apply that same precedent to everyone. Don’t be shy about your urges – no time like the present to seize the day and learn something about yourself. It’s not all about experimenting sexually, either – you can go out on a date and appreciate new, wonderful emotional connections.

For those of you who aren’t as inclined to experiment, don’t worry, we won’t judge you; that is, of course, assuming you won’t judge us. It’s a two-way street. Not everyone is bisexual, and not everyone should be expected to be. But as long as society still judges it, we’ll still have a major problem.

So until a bigger ideological shift comes along, let’s try this plan on for size.  After all, as Woody Allen once said, “Bisexuality does double your chances for a date on Saturday night.” I, for one, could use more Saturday nights out on a date. Couldn’t you?

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