Why Don’t We Take Bisexuality Seriously?

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Actress Evan Rachel Wood was forced to defend her bisexuality this week.

In an interview with The Daily Beast, she said of her decision to come out, “I wanted to wait for the right time and wait to have enough years under my belt where people knew that it wasn’t a phase or anything and I wasn’t doing it for attention; this is a part of who I am, and I’m old enough to really know who I am by now.”

Instantly, chatter began on the Internet questioning whether or not the actress was ever truly bisexual, given the fact that she married a man and is about to have his baby.

Her response was measured and sensible: “It just means I happened to fall in love with a man rather than a woman,” she said.

Bisexuality is a real and valid sexual identity — but our culture doesn’t treat it that way. The fact that Wood still has to defend it, and probably will for the rest of her life, proves that this “third option” is nowhere near as accepted and understood as being gay. (Juxtapose the fan criticism of Wood with praise for NBA player Jason Collins for his coming out letter to Sports Illustrated.)

Were the sirens sounded to ask Collins whether he was “sure” that he liked men?

In other words: when it comes to coming out as bisexual, critics feel like they can pounce.

Somewhat ironically, Wood’s “True Blood” co-star Anna Paquin has also been open about her bisexuality, is also married to a man, and has also had to defend herself.

Openly bisexual adults tell me that famous bisexuals are a double-edged sword for the community at large.

Last year Paquin talked to Zooey magazine to defend her previous comments about her sexuality.

“I’m sure for some people, saying they’re bisexual feels less scary than making a statement that they’re gay,” she told the magazine. “For me, it’s not really an issue because I’m someone who believes being bisexual is actually a thing.

“It’s not made up. It’s not a lack of decision,” she added. “It’s not being greedy or numerous other ignorant things I’ve heard at this point.”

Openly bisexual adults tell me that famous bisexuals are a double-edged sword for the community at large. On one hand, it’s nice to have a high profile person validate a life choice. But because bisexuality is part of such a wide sexual spectrum, it remains confusing for fans to see celebrities go one way, then another.

“It makes it seem like we all flip-flop between being a lesbian and being a breeder,” said Kady, who has been in a five year committed relationship with a woman following a prior ten year relationship with a man.

When I was interviewing bisexual Senate candidate Kyrsten Sinema (D-Arix.) earlier this year, she didn’t want to discuss her sexuality, but not because she isn’t out and proud. In fact, when sexuality was mentioned during her campaign, the four-term state legislator deftly brushed the topic away to focus on the issues.

Her political coming out was just as subtle. It came after a Republican colleague made insulting remarks about gays and lesbians on the floor in 2005. Sinema responded, “We’re simply people, like everyone else, who want and deserve respect.” When reporters later asked what she meant, she matter-of-factly told them, “Duh, I’m bisexual.”

Of the six LGBT candidates I interviewed for that series, Sinema was the only bisexual in the group, and was also the most reserved in talking about her sexuality. Why? Because bisexuality continues to garner so many questions.

Another lesbian friend put it this way:

“I identify as bisexual, but I never bothered to come out as one. It was just easier to tell everyone I was gay and deal with the consequences later.”

No one’s sexual identity should have to include footnotes.

Jo Piazza (@jopiazza) is the author of the upcoming novel, Love Rehab: A Novel in Twelve Steps.