sexual orientation

Walking the Line

Double standards.As I’ve mentioned before, bisexual erasure is a thing I feel pretty strongly about. It sucks– bisexuals have been around forever, and yet we’re still subjected to eyerolls and disbelief when we come out. Because of this, I think visibility is important and the more bisexuals who stand up to be counted, the better.

Yet I refer to myself as “gay” half the time. Where’s the logic in that?

I’m not one to dwell too much on labels, but after many years of alternating between the two in conversation, I stopped to think about why. The answer is almost unsatisfyingly simple: I identify with both.

I am bisexual in that I am attracted to all sorts of folks, among whom are men, women, and non-binary individuals. My sexual history reflects that diversity, and though I can’t predict the future, I expect the next five years won’t look two different from the past.

Despite that, I am also gay. All but one of my serious relationships have been with men. I’m open to another relationship with a woman or non-binary person, but all the partners I’ve introduced to my family and colleagues have been men. In other words, I navigate the world as a gay man and my romantic experience largely reflects that identity.

Is it disingenuous for me to straddle that line and claim both identities? I don’t really know. I do think my sexuality is more complicated than a single word (something which I think is true for most people) but I’m going to choose the most appropriate word to convey the point I’m trying to make.

These distinctions are all arbitrary anyway.

Relationship Structure or Identity?

The summer before I turned 18, I broke up with my high school boyfriend after a long, drawn out series of arguments about my desire to sleep with other people. I wanted to open our relationship– I’d been saying it for the past year. I loved him (in the way a kid loves his first crush), but I wanted to get my jollies off elsewhere. He insisted that it was impossible. True love meant that he’d be “enough,” and that even thinking about opening the relationship meant that I didn’t love him. I thought that was horseshit.

It’s been seven years since breakup, and I haven’t gone back to monogamy. I thought about it once, out of sheer desperation at the end of my relationship with The Traveler, but we called things off instead. At that point, we’d been together for nearly six years, and I’d been with my other partner for four. I made the right choice. Desperation makes you think crazy things.

The point is that monogamy isn’t for me, and I’ve known that for a long time. At this point, I wouldn’t go back. Not when I “settle down,” or when I “meet the right person.” I know that I’m capable of falling in love with two people at once and maintaining multiple relationships, and I just don’t see “exclusivity” and “commitment” as synonymous.

And yet, I don’t identify as polyamorous or non-monogamous.

Many people liken it to sexual orientation, but I’m not sure that’s an apt comparison. When discussing sexual orientation, we’re talking about gender. While the line between genders may be  blurry at times, there are few people who would claim that it’s non-existent, and there are well-established physiological and neurological differences between men and women. Consequently, there’s a large number of people whom a monosexual person wouldn’t be attracted to, purely based on gender and associated traits.

The same can’t be said when comparing monogamous folks to those who prefer open relationships. I don’t think anyone has conducted the studies, but I’d eat my hat if science found significant differences across the monogamy divide. I’m not only attracted to other non-monogamous people, despite how convenient that would be, and I can’t tell whether a new acquaintance is monogamous.

Instead, it’s the #1 item on the list of requirements for a relationship with me. Monogamy is a deal-breaker, alongside having children, joint bank accounts, and disliking my dog. I might be interested in you initially, but if you need monogamy, we’re not going to make it very far.

I’m interested in hearing others’ perspectives, though. Is (non-)monogamy something you do, or part of who you are? Why? Are you open to either structure, or is one or the other a deal-breaker?