Every month, Anna Rosenwasser writes about life and love in Zurich. In May, the head of the Swiss Lesbian Organisation tells us why she has suddenly started receiving desperate messages from straight people during the coronavirus pandemic.
This springtime quarantine has turned me into Dr Phil. When everyone has to stay at home and some people have very little to occupy them, the mind naturally starts to wander. It wanders onto things that you are usually able to ignore while you are working out in the gym or lazing with friends in the park or making your third coffee of the day in the office. But all of that is gone now – the gym, the friends and the office. Thoughts you would otherwise suppress come swimming to the surface.
When these questions revolve around sexual orientation, they often seem to find their way to me because sexual orientation is part of my job. And if the question is about bisexuality, it is all the more likely to end up with me because I talk about being ‘bi bi bi’ so often on my private social media that you might think that I was an NSync hit from the noughties (or, for readers born after the millennium, a track by Cro or Capital Bra).
Why am I thinking this now?
In these questions about sexual orientation, and specifically in the questions about bisexuality, the same story always emerges, told by very different people. Long, detailed messages in my inbox from people I’ve never met, signed off with a question mark.
This is how it goes: I’m in a stable relationship and I’m straight. I really am happy. But I’ve suddenly started wondering if I am bi. Can that be right? Why am I thinking this now? And most of all: What the hell do I do now? The question comes from Joshua, aged 27, who has been with his girlfriend for five years. It also comes from Adina, in the Cro/Capital Bra age bracket, who could have sworn that her boyfriend was her true love. And it comes from people who are engaged, even married, and are suddenly afraid. Why has this change come about now when I have finally found some stability?
There are three important things about sexual orientation that we are rarely told. Firstly, it can change. You won’t necessarily stay gay or straight for your entire life. Maybe you don’t think your crush from a year ago is hot any more; maybe over time you’ll no longer be attracted to men. We change throughout our lifetime. And that goes for our sexuality too.
Because bisexuality is not an action, it’s a feeling.
Secondly, you don’t just come out to other people and tell them who you are. You also have to come out to yourself and figure out who you are. There are people who have known they were gay since they were a child. There are people who reach retirement age before cottoning on to their homosexuality. Even those somewhere on the spectrum between straight and gay may take years to come out to themselves. And that’s okay
Thirdly, sexual orientation is not what you do. It’s what you feel. ‘Orientation’ describes the direction you are looking in, not the paths you go down. You can be bisexual and in a lifelong, monogamous relationship. That doesn’t make you less bi. Because bisexuality is not an action, it’s a feeling.
So, what do you do when you are in a ‘straight’ relationship and realise that you are attracted to people of your own gender? Be happy that you can feel even more attraction than you would have thought possible. Maybe tell your significant other about it because it’s exciting and interesting and perhaps important. And then take some time to consider who is looking in which direction – and whether you may want to take a particular path at some point in the future. Kind regards, your quarantine Dr Phil.
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