Being bisexual is a little like being colorblind: no one would notice just by looking at you. If you don’t tell people, they won’t know. Unlike color blindness, however, bisexuality is weighed down by stereotypes, misconceptions and denial.
According to Jen Winston, author of “Greedy: Notes from a Bisexual Who Wants Too Much,” to be bisexual is to be told that you’re asking for too much and that you don’t exist, which is a difficult place to navigate.
This is, in fact, why Winston titled her book “Greedy.” There’s an idea that being bisexual means you want it all; that by not limiting yourself to either men or women, you’re some kind of sexual glutton.
“I don’t think that that’s a myth,” Winston tells Pride Source from her home office in Brooklyn. “I think that’s true for some bisexuals, which is fine.”
It’s a radical idea inspired by Shiri Eisner’s writing about bi stereotypes, which Winston quotes in her book: “If we’re saying, ‘No, we’re not confused; no, we’re not promiscuous; no, we’re not greedy,’ then we accept that it’s wrong to be confused, it’s wrong to be greedy, it’s wrong to be promiscuous. And I want to ask, why do we have to work by their rules?”
Spoiler alert: we don’t.
Winston’s book is more than just an account of her personal journey toward identifying as bisexual and grappling with all of the stereotypes and misconceptions that come with it. Winston presents bisexuality as “a lens through which to reimagine our world.”
Unfortunately, bisexuality is “a hyper-sexualized identity because of the stigma around it,” Winston says. “Because of the way conversations about bisexuality have become entwined with conversations about monogamy.”
As Winston points out in her book, if you’re worried that a bisexual won’t be faithful to you, your issue is with monogamy, not bisexuality. The two are not mutually exclusive.
Bisexuality also suffers from what Winston calls “the illusion of acceptance,” which creates the idea that being bi isn’t a big deal.
This is perhaps why some view bisexuality as “a gateway” identity — a place for gays and lesbians to hang out until they’re comfortable acknowledging who they really are. Coming out as bisexual may seem easier because it reassures people that “at least you’re not fully gay,” Winston says, but there’s “tons of homophobia” behind this assumption. Anti-bisexualism also comes from the lesbians and gays who think bisexuals need to just pick a side.
On the other hand, this illusion of acceptance can also make it seem like being bisexual isn’t worthy of acknowledging at all, especially if said bi person is in a committed relationship.
Winston stresses that bisexual relationships are queer relationships, which is not something she’s always been aware of. She uses her relationship with a person named Ben as an example. “We were both bi,” she says. “This [relationship] had two queer people in it, and because of our gender presentation, it didn’t even occur to me.”
This scenario is not uncommon. “I recently posted about bisexual people in straight passing relationships,” Winston says. “So many people reported saying they didn’t feel like they needed to come out.”
This could stem from a desire to take the path of least resistance — after all, it’s a lot easier to have people project a heteronormative view of you and your relationship — or impostor syndrome, which is something Winston has struggled with herself.
“The majority of my interesting sexual stories involve men,” she says. “And I was like, can I even write this book? But then I was like, that’s the whole point, Jen.”
Winston writes about her dating and sexual history and the period of her life when she didn’t feel like she could call herself bisexual because she hadn’t had any sexual experiences with women. But she’s finally come to the realization that bisexuality isn’t just something you do; it’s something you are.
She believes that coming out as bisexual is important. “My whole life is about coming out as bisexual,” she says. “For us, it is a big deal, and it was really hard.”
That said, Winston does not presume to speak for all bisexuals. “My experiences speak more to bi people, specifically fem-presenting people, who have had the majority of their relationships with cis men.”
Winston, who lives with her partner who exclusively uses they/them pronouns, maintains her identity as a bisexual rather than queer or pansexual because she does not believe bisexual identity is trans-exclusionary. “Part of coming into my bisexuality for me was realizing that it wasn’t binary, and it actually meant questioning everything and being comfortable exiting in a state of flux,” she says. “The word allowed me to escape straight culture.”
She hopes that people reading her book will realize that “coming out as bi is freeing whether or not you have a desire to act on it. It’s still freeing and valid to feel like you are truly yourself.”
Above all else, she says, “If you’re bi, that’s awesome, and I’m proud of you.”