Bisexuality

By Leland, John | Newsweek, July 17, 1995 | Go to article overview

Bisexuality


Leland, John, Newsweek


STEVEN AND LORI ARE WHAT YOU might call the marrying type. They met on the first day of freshman orientation at the University of Chicago in 1988. By Thanksgiving, she was taking him home to meet her family; the following year they got engaged. This May they celebrated their first wedding anniversary.

In their one-bedroom apartment in Hyde Park, a collegiate affair down to the cinderblock bookshelves, Steven and Lori, now both 24, have developed an almost telepathic relationship. If anyone tells one of them anything, they joke, the other knows about it immediately. But during their freshman year, Steven says, he used to go off on his own every so often. "I think I told you I was going to a Democratic Socialist meeting," he recalls to Lori. He was really going to a campus gay and lesbian support group. Steven had come to college with a "practically nonexistent" romantic life, but a clear attraction to both men and women. After one of the group meetings, he decided to come clean to Lori.

STEVEN: [I said] Lori, I have something to tell you.

LORI: At which point, I thought he had cancer.

STEVEN: And I told her, and her response was "Oh, is that all?"

LORI: Yeah, it's not like cancer, after all. After that big buildup, it's like, gee, that's not a big deal.

When the couple got married at city hall last year, perhaps the most relieved person in the Midwest was Lori's mother. "Now she thinks I'm going to behave," says Lori. She says this with a playful smirk. In the years before their marriage--during their engagement--Lori had a serious relationship with another woman, and Steven had one with another man. Their marriage now is a home invention that they describe as "body-fluid monogamous." In conversation, they discuss condoms as matter-of-factly as the weather. Lori has an ongoing sexual relationship with another man and is looking for another woman; Steven has a friendship with a man that is sometimes sexual. Lori says, "At the time that I was coming out I was more interested in men, and now I'm more interested in women." Steven is "much more interested" in men right now. He still has sex with his wife, but he now identifies himself as gay, though he also calls himself a "once and future bisexual."

Bisexuality is the hidden wild card of our erotic culture. It is what disappears when we divide desire into gay and straight, just as millions of Americans of various ethnic origin disappear when we discuss race in terms of black and white. Now, in scattered pockets, bisexuality is starting to become more visible. Bisexual characters have popped up in TV series like "Roseanne" and "Melrose Place" and in films like "Three of Hearts" and "Threesome." Two decades after Mick Jagger and David Bowie flaunted their androgynous personas, pop stars like Michael Stipe, Courtney Love and Sophie B. Hawkins and model Rachel Williams have discovered anew that there's more to life than when a man loves a woman. As Stipe told NEWSWEEK, promoting R.E.M.'s latest album, "I've always been sexually ambiguous in terms of my proclivities; I think labels are for food." MTV and fashion advertising, pumping out fetishized images of men and women, have created a climate that Harvard professor Marjorie Garber, author of the provocative new book "Vice Versa: Bisexuality and the Eroticism of Everyday Life," calls "virtual bisexuality": the only way to watch these naked torsos, male and female alike, is erotically. Many college students, particularly women, talk about a new sexual "fluidity" on campus. And most significantly, the Internet has emerged as a safe harbor where users can play fluidly with gender, both their own and that of their virtual partners. As Garber puts it, "We are in a bisexual moment."

In the splintered multiculturalism of the 1990s, an independent bisexual movement is starting to claim its own identity. The Bisexual Resource Guide lists 1,400 groups spread throughout the United States and abroad, including Bi Women of Color, Bi Adult Children of Alcoholics, Bi Star Trekkies. …

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