Bisexuality: For Lack Of A Better Word

KinseyScaleJames Patrik’s journey through bisexuality and other labels.



“Sometimes men love women,

Sometimes men love men

And then there are bisexuals, though some just say they’re kidding themselves”.

Any child of the nineties might remember those song lyrics from Phoebe on the TV show Friends.

As an impressionable kid, those lyrics, comedic as they might be, represented the first time television had told me what to think about bisexuals.

Whoever these bisexuals were, I was taught, they were foolish and cowardly. Too scared to just come out and admit their obvious gayness.

Growing up, the television and the community sold me a binary world view: gay or straight. There were only two viable options, and I secretly dreaded the eventuality of having to pick one.

So I didn’t. I proceeded, undefined, not wanting to belong to either one of these groups. Not out of spite or youthful rebellion, but out of truth. I never really believed I was straight, and I never really believed I was gay.

My lack of label invited much comment from others who seemed concerned that I was somehow incomplete. Confused and in dire need of ‘help’. Caving into the pressure, and scared of having to explain myself, I often simplified and told people I was straight. Or I told them I was gay. I was always ashamed of my dishonesty when I did this, but also relieved at having avoided a potentially complicated conversation.

Well into my early twenties, I still felt pestered into choosing. Picking a label. I didn’t understand how people around me simply couldn’t accept that I was undecided. Still attracted to both men and women, I knew that none of their labels were accurate. And so I remained – Classification: Unknown. Could I be bisexual? Would that label satisfy those around me, at least for a little while?

So I carried on, a proud bisexual man. Little did I know that even THAT label carried its own set of questions and reactions.

Some likened my sexuality to a light switch, flicked in either direction on a whim. Some have regarded me as foolish and simply afraid of admitting my attraction to men. Some have just called me greedy.

Every time I tried to explain my sexuality I was met with a wall of resistance, all expectations and labels. Some reactions have been positive, while others not so much.  Women revolted at by what might not be ‘a proper man’, somehow deficient, effeminate and less capable than his heterosexual counterparts. Gay men intrigued at the prospect of an outwardly straight guy sexually available to them.

What is it about bisexuality that so confounds?

What is it about bisexuality that so confounds?

Labels and categories inform so much of how we interact with others. They flavour our expectations of how people will (and should) behave and force us to see otherness where none exists. In a society so bent on ‘outing’ celebrities and public figures, the bisexual man or woman circumvents this game and evades inquiring minds by sitting on the fence and defying categorisation.

But with this unquantifiability comes stigma. The general consensus seems to be that bisexuals are untrustworthy slaves to their hormones and are incapable of maintaining a monogamous sexual relationship. These stigmas are the result of fear, ignorance and the hefty baggage of often empty social tradition.

So where does that leave me?

For a while I was torn—wondering if I was guilty of the self-deception others had accused me of. I badly wanted to be with a man, but was still attracted to women. I always remained open to the traditional idea of a ‘wife and kids’, but still entertained the notion of settling down with a guy. The one thing that remained the same were my emotions – be they lustful or romantic – they were not gendered concepts.  I could be in love with a woman in the exact same way I could be in love with a man.

My boyfriend of two years doesn’t seem to care. He loves me, whether I wear a label or not. I’ve come to believe that love and sex are universal constants that both exist on a near infinite spectrum of diversity. A label cannot describe the depth and colour of my sexuality.  One measly word cannot encapsulate my emotions and desires. Love is love. Sex is sex.

The older I get, the less I care about conformity and the opinions of strangers. A person can only really be judged by their actions, and so I try my best to infuse my conduct (sexual or otherwise) with respect and compassion, leaving all other judgements to God or the universe to dispense.

And so, for lack of a better name, the world calls me bisexual. Those closest to me call me Jim.

Photo—Wikimedia Commons

About James Patrik

James Patrik is and Australian writer currently living in Melbourne. He is currently working on a novel. While not writing, he works in the fitness industry as a personal trainer.
He can be contacted at


  1. I tend to think that the whole issue about male bisexuality has nothing to do with sex per se, but with power. That’s the only way I’d understand why female bisexuality is “sexy” but male is considered “puzzling”, “weird”, or plain “non-existent”. Our patriarchal societies assign the power roles to men, and women are subservient, so when a man identifies as bi, he’s basically saying “I’m not powerful”. If you add what James says about understanding sexuality as a binary thing gay OR straight, then you have a puzzle that people don’t understand.
    I think that sexual orientation and sexual identity are two different things, and sexual identity is the sum of many different things: who I feel attraction for?, who I rather to establish a romantic relationship with?, who I prefer to socialize with?, etc. It’s not, by any means, a uni-variable and permanent identity. It also changes, the same way that attraction changes over time. Now, that’s difficult to understand for most people. What makes it hard to swallow is that people instead of understand this dynamism, just plain think it is a lie.

  2. James Patrik says:

    Thanks for commenting Karen. I guess I’ve never thought about this in a spiritual context.
    I’ve mostly focused on the involuntary reactions and feelings I experience. But yeah, love comes in many forms and flavours – we just have words like ‘bromance’ to describe it 🙂

  3. Just a very, very personal opinion here, but I think that gay people might be more spiritually evolved than us straight ones…they love another human being despite their gene code telling them to love whom you should reproduce with. Despite that society told them that a couple should be male+female. And if we consider bisexual people, even more so, because if you think about it, why should we love based on gender and not personality wise? Why should we only fall in love with one gender? Maybe the day that we learn to see the divine in every human being regardless of gender, the world would be a much better place.

    • Jeff Coulter says:

      Karen – It’s a lovely sentiment, and while I can’t speak for all gay people, I think many would agree with me. We aren’t anymore spiritually evolved than anyone else. What we may be is a bit more spiritually battered than others, which sometimes has the patina of spiritual growth. Many of us grew up in churches and faith systems that sent us the measure that who we were was wrong, and we should change it. Many of us tried. Where we had to grow was that we had to stop accepting that judgment, and learn to find a spirituality that worked for us. Some people have. Others still rail against the churches and the institution of religion. For me, spiritual growth has come from a willingness to learn more, accept more and “know” less. I think most of us, gay, straight, bi, trans, etc. are all on that same path together.

  4. James Patrik says:

    KKZ – Yeah I see that double standard too. And I believe it is not only limited to gender roles as well. Strange how a bisexual woman can illicit cat calls and lewd remarks, when a similarly oriented man simply provokes ‘Ewww!’.

    Brian – it’s a great angle that I hadn’t considered before. I can’t say that I disagree with any of the ideas you have expressed. In Australia at the moment, same sex marriage is not legal (and being hotly debated). So I guess I have always thought that when it comes to marriage, I am afforded a ‘half freedom’. I am allowed to marry a state sanctioned women, but not a man.

    As for being outwardly straight – that’s just my nature I guess. There have certainly been times when I have wished that I was less so, just so that I could get a guy’s attention.

    • Brian MacDonald says:

      Bisexuals are sort of a political hot potato in the gay and lesbian community. My personal opinion is that the LGB moniker was s heterosexual construct: a sexual “other.” Bisexuals create the impression that there’s a choice involved: I choose to be with a man now, I’ll choose to be with a woman later. I never made a choice to like men, just as most heterosexuals did not choose to be attracted to opposite sex partners. But for whatever reason, many straight people who lump all LGB people together just assume that we’re all capable of choosing opposite-sex partners, and that, by choosing not to, we are not deserving of “special” rights like marriage and tax equality, equality in immigration status, etc.

  5. James Patrik says:

    Vickyval – I agree. My sexual preference is ‘yes’ 
    Honestly writing this piece was the most thought I had given to the subject in years. My sexual preference is about as interesting to me as my eye colour or shoe size.

    Clarence, I can definitely relate to your experiences with the ‘community’. I too was told that I would be accepted by my ‘people’ only to find that we had very little in common, and they seemed to think that I was an elitist chicken – too good to hang out with gay guys.
    The only place that you need to belong to is yourself.

  6. Oh my! I’m 80 and bi-sexual, but with a twist. Growing up in the 50s and 60s, homosexuality was considered a sickness and I spent hours with psychiatrists sure I’d change. It didn’t happen. One of these psychiatrists intrudced me to another of his patients, a woman, and we’ve been married for thirty-five years.
    I’m still drawn to young men, but it’s all inside my head. With my body I snuggle with my wife.

  7. Brian MacDonald says:

    The problem with the B part of LGB, for me, is that bisexuals, as a group, have vastly different political agendas from gay men and lesbians. So what, exactly, is the point of “LGB?” Why is there no corresponding SB (straight bisexual) “community?” Bisexuals have not historically been prevented from marrying. They can fall in love with a person of the opposite sex and get married. The have the “outwardly straight” appearance not to be discriminated against. I do not disagree with anything Mr. Patrik has written about his individual experience or that of others, but for people to be unclear why bisexuals, as a group, have little in common with the gay and lesbian community suggests they have not really spent too much time thinking about why that might be.

    • Bisexual men have sex with men, just like gay men.

    • By this logic, Interracial marriage never should have had any supporters at all, because whites and black could just have married someone of their own race. Therefore, there’s no political incentive for either–as a group–to support interracial marriage.

      Overall–it seems as if you are unclear of the concept of bisexual. While it’s true that a bisexual person has always had the same ability as heterosexuals to marry someone of the opposite sex, their ability to marry someone of the same sex–perhaps the person they were in love with–was hindered.

      This gives them the same reasons for promoting same-sex marriage gays and lesbians would have. Hell–I’m straight–and I still consider myself to have reasons for promoting same-sex marriage because I believe that people should have the right to marry the person they love–whoever that is. That’s true equality..

  8. Great perspective. It is an odd middle ground to inhabit. I can’t remember any specific examples of being attracted to girls when I was little, but started identifying as bi at about 14-15 years old when I first became sexually active.

    Interestingly, in my experience, bi women get the opposite reaction that bi men do, in how people assume we “really” are – “Oh, you’re probably straight, you’re just experimenting.” Society is definitely more accepting of women experimenting or being bi than it is with men doing the same. Women do have more freedom to float in and out of gender expectations than men do. The only thing that makes my lip curl a bit is the somewhat objectifying reactions I’ve gotten, almost exclusively from men, where suddenly they’re all “I’d like to watch that.” Ugh, no thanks, I said I’m bi, not a porn star. I don’t particularly want or need an audience. I admit to having the same fleeting thought when a man I find attractive is bi (hello John Barrowman), but for God’s sake I don’t TELL them.

  9. I’m shocked, SHOCKED, to learn that a kid who grew up in the 90’s is a little bit skeptical of labels… 😉

  10. Clarence Worley says:

    Thank you for sharing this, Jim. I have struggled with the idea or label of bisexuality for a long time, and it’s good to hear from someone who has experienced similar things.

    In my teens, I admitted to myself I had sexual attraction to men as well as women. It was confusing. It was lonely. I imagined some sort of sliding scale rather than a light switch, but wasn’t able to admit who I was to even my closest friends. Some still don’t know.

    At university, quite belatedly, I spent some time with the LGB society — only to find that in the “community” there was very little welcome or time for a bisexual man. Some people told me I was straight and trying to be fashionable, others told me I was gay and I just hadn’t met the right man yet. I couldn’t imagine getting away alive if I’d said that to a homosexual girl.

    I’ve been in a steady relationship with the same woman now for five years. She’s also bisexual and understands that it isn’t either/or, but I still don’t feel like I belong.

  11. Vickyval says:

    I think we should dispense with all that hetero/homo/bi business and just say “I’m sexual.”

  12. Jeff Coulter says:

    Thank you Jim, well put! What confounds me is that people are at all confounded by this. Unless it directly effects you, it probably isn’t your business anyway. We do know that some men love women, some men love men, and some men are able to form emotional and sexual relationships with both genders. About all I can come up with is good for them! It’s not like bisexuals are out there parading around claming moral superiority for choices. They are just saying this is the way I choose to love, deal with it. And that’s what we should be doing; granting consenting adults the right to make their own relationship decisions.

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