Thursday, August 24, 2006

Choices, choices

In the Guardian today, a woman asks for advice about her desire for a baby (while in a long-term heterosexual relationship) and her simultaneous / conflicting desire to have a relationship with a woman. It's here.

Now, far be it from me to offer advice to anyone. What do I know? What, indeed, do any agony aunts / pundits / readers offering advice on the basis of not-very-much-at-all know? All we have to go on about this woman's dilemma is what can be fitted into the allocated few hundred words.
That being as it may, it seems to me that she is operating purely in a fantasy world: she wonders what it would be like to have a relationship with a woman. She doesn't seem to have anyone actually in mind; she's not mentioning how much she's lusting after someone, or even anyone. Mightn't it be true that, once she actually got together with a woman she'd discover - hey, this is pretty much the same as having a relationship with a man? Or not.
Specifics aside, though, what she is getting at is much the same as many bisexual people who only realise their same-sex attractions after being married or in established het relationships. What should they do - if anything? Who can they talk to? Is there anyone else out there like them, and how have they coped? And, very very important, if they tell their partner how I feel, will she/he tell me to sling my hook? Bugger off. And not in a good way.
Talking to people on the bi helpline (when it was going, in pre-internet days) told me that a very large proportion of people who called were bi men who didn't know what to tell their wives. They felt they would almost certainly be rejected. Indeed, if you read any agony aunt advice to partners of men who are "suspected" of bi behaviour or feelings, you'd say that was almost certainly the case. Indeed, should be the case. The interviews I did for my not-yet-will-it-ever-be published book showed bi men - apart from those in the bi community - having a really tough time of it, with women not
But research done by people like Australians Maria Pallotta-Chiarolli and Sara Lubowitz (well, as far as I know, just them, as most research seems to be dedicated to showing either that bi men don't exist or that they are/aren't HIV risks) showed that the female partners of bisexual men had a tremendous range of responses - from lust to disgust and everything in between. You can get it from here.
The expectation seems to be that bi men are going to be rejected by their partners, but bi women aren't. That's not necessarily true either. What does sometimes happen is that husbands/boyfriends start by thinking it's a great idea, but when it becomes apparent that it's about more than a succession of "hot bi babes" flocking to bed with them, then insecurity starts to niggle away.
So going back to the woman in the paper, shouldn't she be talking about her desires to her partner? OK, it does sound as if she is thinking about having a relationship with someone else instead of him, rather than the more radical possibility of as well as him. No doubt he will be hurt whatever she does. But she is giving a fantasy relationship - one with a phantom woman she has never met - a lot more power than a real one by keeping her feelings to herself.

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