After an experience in college opened up a new world of sexual exploration, Rachel Bussel shares why her sexual orientation is something she refuses to hide.
I’ve experienced many sexual awakenings in my life, but the most profound has been the one I realized at age 19: I’m bisexual. I’d fallen for a woman I’ll call Dina, who was six years older than me and seemed cool and glamorous and knowledgeable. I was smitten with her, and while our relationship was brief, and I actually went back to dating a guy, I was changed. It wasn’t just the physical acts, even by holding hands and being public about our relationship, I was stepping outside of what I’d known. Dating Dina made me question assumptions that I had about what my sexual future would look like.
I believe everyone is allowed to define their sexuality and identity for themselves. For me, bisexuality has introduced a world where attraction and desire are a lot more fluid than any single label can contain. I’ve met women who identify as lesbians, but sometimes hook up with guys, and it’s no big deal. I’ve even met women who date men exclusively, but don’t mind having an occasional threesome with a woman. I know people who’ve been with one partner for decades, but still identify as bi.
I think sometimes we don’t even realize how stereotypes seep into our way of thinking.
There’s no single way to “be” bisexual (or any other kind of sexual), and what’s been most interesting to me is discovering how widespread bisexuality is, if we use a broad definition. I think sometimes we don’t even realize how stereotypes seep into our way of thinking, and one of the prominent ones about bisexuality is that it means being “equally” attracted to men and women. I’ve heard bisexual-identified people disparage other bi folks for leaning more towards one gender or the other. I think that’s ridiculous, and see the “bi” in bisexual as a “both/and” inclusive term, which also encompasses people who don’t identify as male or female.
There have been times when I’ve hidden my bisexuality, and it’s an ongoing process of figuring out when and where to disclose it. When I brought my girlfriend to my mom and stepdad’s wedding, they knew who she was, and so did a select few other family members, but I certainly wasn’t out and proud about it. It was more of an open secret, but I realize now that by not making our relationship more public, I sent the silent message that I somehow felt ashamed of her and of us.
Being open about my bisexuality has, I believe, helped me be open about other aspects of my life that aren’t necessarily mainstream, such as being into spanking and BDSM. These aren’t topics I want to discuss intimately at a cocktail party with strangers (usually), but my process of acknowledging that they’re intrinsic aspects of my identity has made me realize that there’s no reason to hide them.
In my life, bisexuality has been both a constant, and something that’s constantly changing as I grow older
Right now, I’m in a committed relationship with a man I love and plan to spend the rest of my life with, but I am still attracted to both men and women. I am now 36, so my brief college relationship with Dina was almost half my life ago, but I still remember sitting with her at a restaurant on Shattuck Avenue in Berkeley, feeling nervous and excited about not just dating a woman, but an older woman. And even though I’m more sexually experienced, I still experience that same bubbling up of nerves when I meet a woman who takes my breath away.
In my life, bisexuality has been both a constant, and something that’s constantly changing as I grow older. I will likely always identify as bi, no matter what I do in bed or whom I do it with.