Charlotte Moore (she/her)
Existential Bi-sis is a monthly column about bisexuality, by a bisexual. Join Charlotte as she tackles taboos and myths, recounts personal experiences and looks to the future.
Perched outside a pub on a drizzly Thursday evening, a colleague turned to me. We’d been talking about his ex-partner and the topic of mine came up. After a brief discussion about Tinder, he asked the question that most bisexual people dread.
“So, the bisexual thing – what percentage are you?”
Uncomfortable, I shifted on the damp bench. It’s not that this question is in any way unfamiliar. It has been posed to me so often over the past ten years that you would think I’d have a far better answer. Something witty and clever. Something better than mumbling, “it doesn’t really work like that.”
And yet, here we are.
“The idea that you might not be ‘gay enough’ is one that plagues the bisexual community. That unless you implore that you’re 70% gay and only 30% into men, you’re not nearly queer enough”
I don’t know if it’s a need for accuracy or clarity, but bisexuality, on the whole, has always stumped a portion of both the straight and gay community. And the idea of the 50/50 bisexual is one that still prevails even to this day.
For the uninitiated, the 50/50 bisexual is usually defined by someone who equally splits their attraction between men and women. It’s how, if asked, a lot of people would attempt to define bisexuality.
So, what’s the problem with the 50/50 bisexual? In theory, this sounds spot on, but there are a few important elements that are ignored. Firstly, the 50/50 bisexual essentially erases the existence of non-binary folks. Bisexuals, by the correct definition, like more than one gender. For most of us, but not all of us, that means that if you present as neither male nor female, it’s not a problem. By nature, the 50/50 bisexual perpetuates the narrative that being bisexual is inherently transphobic.
The second issue is our ‘gayness’. The idea that you might not be ‘gay enough’ is one that plagues the bisexual community. That unless you implore that you’re 70% gay and only 30% into men, you’re not nearly queer enough to sit in the spaces that bisexual people need to thrive, such as Queer events. And, that same number will be justified to placate straight partners that fear you’re somehow more likely to cheat on them. That somehow your attraction to women as well as men is a red flag, rather than just who you are. It’s no wonder that 79% of bisexual women admit that they’re not out to the important people in their life.
“When it comes down to it, love and identity can’t be measured in percentages. It’s impossible to explain why you get *that* feeling when someone holds your hand, why chipped nail varnish on bitten fingers can cause your heart to swell.”
When we start asking about percentages, we’re essentially trying to measure how bisexual someone is. And for those that might not have had a long-term relationship with a same-sex partner, what we’re essentially saying is ‘you’re not bisexual enough to be bisexual.’ Unless you split your attraction completely equally, then you aren’t one of us.
And, the thing is, that bisexual people are as diverse as the rest of the world and it’s rare that the attraction you feel for another human can be measured in that way. I think Robyn Ochs, the editor of Bi Women Quarterly, said it best when she defined bisexuality as “the potential to be attracted — romantically and/or sexually — to people of more than one gender, not necessarily at the same time, not necessarily in the same way, and not necessarily to the same degree.”
The other problem is, we don’t ask anyone else these questions. We don’t implore our straight friends to break down the type of people they’re interested in or request that they specify these types into percentages. And, yet we expect bisexual people to measure some that is honestly unquantifiable. Because when it comes down to it, love and identity can’t be measured in percentages. It’s impossible to explain why you get *that* feeling when someone holds your hand, why chipped nail varnish on bitten fingers can cause your heart to swell.
And, while I wish I’d said all of this on a rainy Thursday night. I feel more confident than ever to say that as far as my percentages go, I’m 0% straight. 0% gay.
I’m still 100% bisexual.
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