The Monogamous Bisexual

Over the summer I had the pleasure of visiting with the Secular Student Alliance of St. Cloud State University. Among the very interesting and thoughtful people I met was a bisexual student in his forties named Patrick RichardsFink. Patrick has just launched a new blog called Eponymous Fliponymous.

His first post was an excellent and insightful discussion of labeling of various people of non-heterosexual and non-cisgendered sexual orientations and genders. He quickly followed it up with a post about the invisibility of bisexuals and his own monogamous bisexuality. Many people leap to the unwarranted assumption either that a bisexual really is “gay after all” or “straight after all” simply based on who their most recent romantic partner is or was. Also many people assume that because bisexuals are sexually/romantically interested in members of more than one gender or sex that they must be inclined towards polyamory to meet their needs. The hasty assumption is that one partner, of one gender and sex, simply could not satisfy them. Patrick addresses these presumptions by talking about his own monogamous bisexuality:

Should your sexual orientation be defined by what the gender of that last one is?  If you answered yes, why?  If you answered no, then why should who you partner with at any time be deemed to define who you are?

I’ve been bi for as long as I’ve had a definition of sexual orientation.  I was bi before I ever had a relationship.  In my teens and early 20s, I had relationships with cismen and ciswomen, and the only reason that my relationships were restricted to those particular categories were because those were the only people I knew, the only people I was close enough to to have relationships with – in fact, at that time, the word cisgender didn’t even seem to exist (the earliest reference to the word I can find is 1991).  Even in the absence of the word, though, my desires were never restricted to people who fit neatly into gendered boxes.

In those early heady days of blooming sexuality, I experimented with polyamorous options, but quickly found that was not the path that works for me.  On an emotional and romantic level, monogamy suits me best.  I’m one of those people who wants the intimacy and mutual trust that I can best develop in a dyadic relationship.  Nothing against polyamory – if it works for you, it works for you, and I’m the last person to judge you for it, whether your polyamory expresses itself as multiple dyads, a triad, a group arrangement with or without in-group exclusivity, gay, straight, or bi, it just doesn’t bother me.  The only reason I bring it up is that while I have (ultimately unsuccessful) polyamory in my history, it doesn’t make me poly.  I know gay men who have been married and either considered themselves straight at the time, or were trying to pass (to others or to themselves) as straight but have now identified as gay.  That’s OK too, even though it’s a source of another myth I’ll be writing on.

Being monogamous, and having that monogamous relationship be between two cisgendered people of opposite gender, makes me invisible, though.  I just look straight.  An interesting note is that a lot of the ways I present as queer are ways that have nothing at all to do with sexuality but are transgressions of gender norms: fingernail polish, long dangly earrings, wearing pink clothing.  But when I do these things while I am kissing my wife, the picture presented to the people around me is one of straight, not of bi.  On the other side, when I get excited and proclaim something to be FABulous or spontaneously break into song with a Broadway tune, people assume gay.

Read more.

I have loved reading Patrick’s writing all over Facebook for the last couple of months. It’s stand out stuff and based on his first two blog posts, I am very excited for his blogging efforts. Show some love to a promising new blog about an invisible minority by a talented writer. Consider giving him a serious boost by passing his post around wherever you can.

Your Thoughts?

About Daniel Fincke

Dr. Daniel Fincke  has his PhD in philosophy from Fordham University and spent 11 years teaching in college classrooms. He wrote his dissertation on Ethics and the philosophy of Friedrich Nietzsche. On Camels With Hammers, the careful philosophy blog he writes for a popular audience, Dan argues for atheism and develops a humanistic ethical theory he calls “Empowerment Ethics”. Dan also teaches affordable, non-matriculated, video-conferencing philosophy classes on ethics, Nietzsche, historical philosophy, and philosophy for atheists that anyone around the world can sign up for. (You can learn more about Dan’s online classes here.) Dan is an APPA  (American Philosophical Practitioners Association) certified philosophical counselor who offers philosophical advice services to help people work through the philosophical aspects of their practical problems or to work out their views on philosophical issues. (You can read examples of Dan’s advice here.) Through his blogging, his online teaching, and his philosophical advice services each, Dan specializes in helping people who have recently left a religious tradition work out their constructive answers to questions of ethics, metaphysics, the meaning of life, etc. as part of their process of radical worldview change.

  • PhillyGuy

    As an in the closet polyamorous atheist with a gay cousin (living with a 10 year partner), I’m excited to see someone this smart writing posts this good. It raises awareness and tolerance all around. My lifestyle is not for everyone, neither is his… but acceptance of it needs to be!

  • CBrachyrhynchos

    Nice links. Thank you.

  • Mogg

    Excellent article. Incidentally, I cannot fathom why the majority belief on this topic is what it is, even though I know from the evidence that what Patrick says is true. Being in a monogamous heterosexual or homosexual relationship doesn’t mean you lose sexual interest in all other potential partners, so why should that be the case with bisexuals?

    I also don’t understand why bisexuals are invisible. It seems to me that if human sexuality is a spectrum biased towards the heterosexual end due to greater breeding success, as seems plausible, bisexuality would to some degree be more common than exclusive homosexuality. And yet both the straight and gay cultures reject it as some sort of cheating, or something that one eventually grows out of, or in some cases I’ve heard of is considered insufficient commitment to some “gay cause”. That seems very weird to me. Incidentally, I’m heterosexual, so I’m looking at it from an outsider’s perspective and acknowledge that I may have all kinds of biases of my own here. However, I have a bi sibling and too many friends and acquaintances and who are bisexual, or who identify as straight but have a degree of same-sex attraction, to be in denial about their actual existence.

  • Andrew Mahone

    If I recall correctly, Yoshino’s paper on bisexual erasure as the result of an “epistemic contract” actually does suggest that there may be more bisexuals than exclusive homosexuals. It’s also very much worth reading for some insight into why heterosexual and homosexual individuals might be invested in non-acknowledgement of bisexuals.

    • Mogg

      Interesting. Thanks for the tip, I shall have a look.


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