‘Love is love: I’m bisexual and proud’ by Melanie Murphy
We spoke to bisexual author, Melanie Murphy, to find out about her experiences of being part of the LGBTQ+ community. Here, she writes about how many people have found her sexuality controversial, especially when she decided to marry her male partner, Thomas. "Love is love," she says. "My sexuality is valid."
Let me explain
Bisexuality really confuses some people. Honestly, you’d swear they were trying to understand income tax the way they talk about it! So, to make it simple, I’ll often start with an analogy: my bisexuality is like my creativity. Let me explain.
See, I’ve always been creative. I love to write, I enjoy editing videos, I’ll direct short films and design journals and try all of the creative things because I find it all interesting and fulfilling and natural. Creative projects bring me pleasure. I’m drawn to them. Creative isn’t something I decided to be, it’s just part of who I am. Similarly, ever since I was a little girl I’ve been interested in people, romantically and sexually.
Never just boys, or just girls.
I had no idea that my attraction to women was completely normal.
Before I grew up in a ‘straight-is-normal’ (or ‘heteronormative’) society, when I was still just a kid, my Barbies kissed one another sometimes. Other times, they’d kiss Action Man. Or Ken. I didn’t think there was anything weird about that. Then, as a teen, I hung posters of Britney Spears and Buffy next to cute boy band members on my bedroom walls. I had crushes on all of them, and it didn’t matter to me what gender they were, but I downplayed my crushes on girls by pretending it was non-sexual admiration and nothing more.
For quite some time, these feelings were a big secret.
I figured that there had to be something wildly wrong with me.
At school, we never learned anything about relationships other than: ‘man meets woman and they get married, the end,’ so I had no idea that my attraction to women was completely normal. It was a time before the internet, and the term ‘bisexual’ wasn’t commonly used. In my small town, you were straight or you were a lesbian, that was it. Those were your options. But I always knew that I didn’t fit into the straight box, or the gay box, so I figured that there had to be something wildly wrong with me.
After all, my first crush ever was on a female teacher, while my first kiss was with a boy. I had the hots for the heroes and heroines I saw on T.V., and when girls at house parties would kiss each other for the attention of the boys they liked, I’d wonder why they didn’t do it for their own enjoyment. It completely confused me because I was bi… I just didn’t have the words to communicate it.
Besides, I was afraid to.
I’d felt the capacity to like women in the same way I liked men for as long as I could remember and yet nobody was voicing these feelings. Books, movies, neighbours – straight or gay. Straight or gay.
The turning point
Everything changed one night at a party when I was in my late teens. Myself and another girl ended up kissing and cuddling and talking. My heart hammered the whole time. She later asked me if I was ‘bi.’
“A boy?” I asked her, assuming I’d misheard.
“No, dummy. Bi! Bisexual. Into girls and boys.”
Granted, it was a narrower definition of bisexuality than the one we use today (which is much more gender inclusive: 'being sexually attracted not exclusively to people of one particular gender'). Still, it sent my soul soaring and had my brain exploding in technicolour joy.
I finally had the vocabulary to describe my sexual orientation! Unfortunately, doing that turned out to be the easy part.
My sexual orientation is not my relationship status.
Next year, I’ll marry a heterosexual man. I’ll commit myself to him, I’ll be loyal, I’ll love him with everything I have and no number of ‘you’re either gay, straight or lying’ slurs that strangers message me will change the fact that I haven’t ‘chosen a side.’
There are so many contradictory myths about people who identify as bisexual, because bisexuality hasn’t been accepted or understood for as long as being gay has (even though the bisexuality of various public figures has been documented throughout history, so we know for sure that it’s far older an orientation than it may seem).
I’m often told that I’m ‘going through a phase’; that I’m ‘just greedy’; that I’m ‘attention-seeking’; that I’ll cheat on my partner; that I’m ‘simply confused’ or that I ‘haven’t met the right person’ yet. But the truth is that I’ll be bisexual forever because you see, my sexual orientation is not my relationship status, and it’s not something I can change. Being engaged to a man doesn’t make me straight, just as having a female ex doesn’t make me a lesbian. The assumptions are constant.
“You don’t fancy women, you just want to be them.”
“It’s all for the attention of men.”
“No need for you to march at Pride, you have all your rights.”
But I carry on living authentically in the knowledge that representation matters. By making myself visible, I’m making a difference.
Love is love
When I started dating my partner, Thomas, people decided that I’d ‘become straight’ overnight. I received comments on my online videos about how all of the content I’d made about bisexuality was ‘for attention’; about how these people ‘knew all along’ that I couldn’t possibly be bisexual because I ‘look straight,’ whatever that means. I received questions from acquaintances along the lines of ‘why do you make such a big deal about Pride, Mel? You’re with a guy, you’re fine,’ and on the flip side, I had random men tweet me about how ‘lucky’ my boyfriend was to be dating a girl who’s up for threesomes!
Naturally, it all gets to me.
I wonder how long it’ll take for our screams of love is love to sink in. I wonder when it’ll be common knowledge that the bisexual population is the single largest group within the LGBTQ+ community. I wonder when the day will come that bi people will be able to bring dates along to parties without the anxiety brought on by the anticipated whispers about how ‘it was a man the last time, though.’
My sexuality is valid, I know that, and while I’ll continue to live my truth and to represent bisexuality through my writing and my online videos, I’ll do my best to simply live, love who I love, feel what I feel and celebrate being me – bisexual and proud!
Where to find support
You should not feel pressurised to label yourself, your gender identity or sexual orientation. If you do feel you’d like to come out as lesbian, gay, bi and/ or trans and are safely able to, you can find support on how to start conversations, and further advice, at Stonewall.
It is always good to speak to someone you trust about the issues you might be facing, no matter how big or small. It can be hard talking about gender, sexuality and relationships, so if you are experiencing difficulties, don’t feel ashamed or different, and don’t feel you have to hide away from it. You can also find help on a range of issues at Young Minds.