How Do I Feel Like a ‘Real’ Bisexual?

Dear GoodTherapy.org,

I’m bisexual. I had a bunch of boyfriends in middle school. My parents joked I was “boy crazy.” But in high school, I started crushing on a girl in my history class. My sister told me I was confused and that there was nothing sexual about admiring another girl’s looks.

Then college came. Since my family wasn’t around to judge me, I let myself flirt with a pretty girl in my dorm. One thing led to another, and I went from “boy crazy” to “girl crazy.” I was still attracted to the occasional guy, but I strongly preferred girls.

I came out as bisexual to my parents in my junior year. I was nervous because they are pretty traditional, but they didn’t get angry. Instead they laughed, which somehow felt worse. They told me all my girl-kissing was a phase and that once I got out of college I’d get married to a man.

For a while I dated only girls, just out of spite. But two years ago, I met an amazing man who is now my fiancé. As I’ve fallen in love with him, I’ve shifted back to preferring guys to girls.

Part of me is glad I prefer guys again, since I am getting married to one soon. The fact I’m still attracted to women at all makes me feel like kind of a cheater.

But another part of me feels … I don’t know, ashamed? I feel like I’ve “given in” to my family’s expectations. I feel like I’m turning my back on a huge part of my identity. My fiancé doesn’t even know I used to have girlfriends.

Is there a way for me to get married without feeling like a huge fraud? I don’t want to hurt anyone, but I also want to stay true to myself. I’d appreciate any advice you have for me. —Bisexual Bride-to-Be

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Hi Bride,

First and foremost, congratulations on your upcoming wedding. What an exciting time!

Secondly, it is possible for you to marry your fiancé without being a “fraud.” There is nothing fraudulent about loving someone and wanting to spend the rest of your life with them, regardless of sexuality or orientation.

I understand the dilemma you’re experiencing and I think a lot of that self-doubt stems from your family’s responses to your coming out to them. You trusted them with your truth and they laughed at you. Hearing your sexuality or identity described as a phase never feels good. It is invalidating and dismissive, so no wonder you go back to that in your mind when you think of your future with your husband.

It sounds like your parents don’t “believe in” or understand bisexuality. To them, it was likely easier to tell you it was a phase rather than learning more about how you experience your life as a bisexual woman. I’m sorry your family was less than ideally supportive. Coming out is such a changing point for a young person, and a lack of familial support can be so detrimental. This should be one of the happiest times of your life, yet you’re experiencing a lot of emotional turmoil.

Hearing your sexuality or identity described as a phase never feels good. It is invalidating and dismissive, so no wonder you go back to that in your mind when you think of your future with your husband.

Regarding your sister’s response to your crush on a classmate: there does not have to be something sexual about admiration of another girl’s appearance, but there sure can be! You describe your feelings as a crush and there’s nothing wrong with that. Based on what you’ve written, you don’t sound confused to me.

I think the most important thing for you to keep in mind is there is nothing fraudulent about you or your love for your fiancé and wanting to marry him. Being attracted to girls despite this commitment to your fiancé is not cheating, it’s simply an attraction to another human being. You may find yourself attracted to women or even other men throughout your marriage to your husband, and that’s okay! It doesn’t make you a fraud or a cheater. It makes you human. Attraction is only a feeling.

Also, you have not given in to anyone’s expectations by choosing to marry a man; you have followed your heart. If you love your fiancé and believe he is the partner that you want to share your life with, that is what matters.

As hard as it is to dismiss your family’s opinions, I implore you to try. Of course their opinions will hold some sway in your life. Our families tend to have that power whether we want them to or not, but being able to see their responses for what they are is important. Your family does not seem to understand (or want to understand) your experience as a bisexual woman. As disappointing as that is, it’s up to you to recognize that limitation in your family and move forward with your life.

As for your fiancé’s lack of knowledge about your bisexuality, that is your business to share or not share. Some people may disagree, but I do not feel you have to disclose to him that you are bisexual unless you want to. Your past relationships are your business, and his past relationships are his.

Do you believe sharing your sexuality with him might change his opinion of you and your relationship? If it feels like you are hiding something and it’s weighing on your conscience, perhaps those feelings are worth exploring with a therapist. You said a part of you feels “ashamed” and that you’re pushing down a part of your identity. You even question how you can feel like a “real” bisexual. I think therapeutic support could be helpful as you unpack these conflicted feelings. Be assured anything you tell a therapist will be met with compassionate curiosity, not judgment.

If your fiancé wants to marry you, chances are he loves you for all you are and your past will be of no consequence. I think it is important to honor the bisexual person you are, and to show yourself the same love, respect, and care you would show your best friend. You are your most important ally in your life, after all.

Best of luck! I hope you cherish every moment of your wedding and that you live your best and fullest life, as true to yourself as you can be.

Kind regards,

Heather Zawislak, MA, LCSW

Heather Zawislak
Heather Zawislak, MA, LCSW is a clinical social worker who specializes in working with LGBTQ+ individuals and their families. She holds two master’s degrees from Adelphi University, one in psychology and one in social work. She also has extensive training in trauma treatment, with a focus on infant and school-age children, and works closely with families to support them through the healing process after trauma or disclosure.
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  • Hanna

    Hanna

    June 25th, 2018 at 3:36 PM

    There is no such thing as a “real” bisexual. If you are attracted to both men and women, bam — you’re bisexual. The only label that matters is the one you attach to yourself. <3

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