I recently had a conversation with my therapist about my anxiety towards my relationship with my current partner, a nonbinary person who presents as female. They are, for all intents and purposes, my first queer relationship as a bisexual person. My anxiety revolved around the fact that we have not had sex yet, and I am finding myself impatient to do so, but also nervous about it.
My therapist asked me what was making me nervous and I told her I’m afraid I might not enjoy the sex, and if I don’t, does that somehow make me not really bisexual? It feels like there is a certain pressure for us to have sex, to be more intimate, because if we don’t then it feels like we’re just platonic friends.
Why does it feel like my partner and I have to have sex for our relationship to be legitimate?
This is despite the fact that we have clearly expressed our attraction and feelings for each other. We’ve sexted and spoken about our desire to have sex. Our physical relationship has been hindered first by our work relationship, then by covid. Even though we’re both vaccinated, we still haven’t had sex, because we haven’t really had that much time to spend with each other since they have two jobs and I have had a lot of freelance projects to work on. There are clear reasons why we haven’t had sex, but I’m still frustrated about it and it still makes me question the validity of our relationship.
The thing is, if my partner were a man, I don’t know that I would have these kinds of doubts about our relationship. The fact that we talk so much and have told each other our feelings maybe would have been enough. Why does it feel like my partner and I have to have sex for our relationship to be legitimate? Aren’t our feelings enough?
My therapist pointed out that queer people tend to be sexualized by society. Our sexual orientation has often been reduced to our sexual activities. Queerness, in general, continues to be seen as a sexual topic, which contributes to the problem of why queer people are not often represented in children’s media. With straight couples, sex can be separated from romantic feelings, kissing or holding hands does not automatically provoke associations with sex. With queer folk, however, two women lightly kissing is enough to spark moral outrage and be deemed inappropriate.
As a result, I have internalized these messages. From the time I was 13, I thought I might be attracted to women, but throughout my teens and early twenties, I waffled over whether or not I was actually bisexual because I had never kissed or had sex with a woman at that point. The bar kept raising too. Even after I did make out with a couple of women, I still felt guilty about identifying myself as bisexual. I would answer the question of if I am bi with “I’m bicurious.” I hadn’t had sex with a woman yet, hadn’t dated one yet, and so I hadn’t “proved” I was in fact, queer.
When I did have sex with a woman for the first time, I didn’t enjoy it. This made me question my attraction to women even more. Never mind that there are plenty of men I haven’t enjoyed sex with either. I felt like if I didn’t like having sex with the one woman that I did, then I must not genuinely want to have sex with women, and therefore I am not actually attracted to women.
Many of us don’t feel queer enough to really belong to the LGBTQIA+ community
These ideas are further complicated by issues of biphobia. I, like many other bi folks, struggle with a sort of imposter syndrome in relation to being queer. We are perceived as being able to opt-out of the struggles of the LGBTQIA+ community, like being judged for who we are with, by choosing to date someone who presents as the opposite gender.
The result of this is that many of us don’t feel queer enough to really belong to the LGBTQIA+ community. This is especially true if you are a bisexual person who has only ever dated or been intimate with the opposite gender. It can feel like you are only espousing your status as a bisexual to make you more interesting, or sexy. At least, that’s what society tells us we’re doing.
It feels like the only way to disprove the idea that I am faking being bisexual is to date someone who presents as a woman. More than that though, I have found myself feeling like we have to be intimate to validate our relationship status. I feel pressure to have sex with my partner and to thoroughly enjoy having sex with them to prove my attraction to people beyond men.
It doesn’t work like that though. The sexual activity or general intimacy of a couple is not the business of anyone outside of our relationship. My sexual orientation is not the business of anyone beyond me. My status as a bisexual is not dependent on me dating or kissing or having sex with women as well as men. Queer people should never have to prove that they are queer, we should never feel pressured to date or have sex with someone just to check off a box.
If and when my partner and I do decide to have sex, it’ll be because we want to be intimate with each other, because we want to take that next step together. But until then, our relationship and our feelings, are not any less valid.
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