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posted Feb 14, 2012, 4:56 PM by Sexual Health and Assault Peer Educators Student Group

by ceri roberts

The other night, I was hanging out with a group of people, discussing other people that we all know, as is so common at college. This one guy came up, in reference to a girl he’d hooked up with the past weekend, and someone said, “I’m pretty sure he’s bi though, right?” To which another friend responded, “Well, but has he even hooked up with a guy ever?”

This caught my attention as being a little off. We’re in the process of training the new SHAPE babies right now, and just a few weeks ago had our sessions on LGBTQIA everything. We talked about sexual orientation, identity and actions, and the difference between all three of these, an idea that comes from the Klein Sexual Orientation Grid (a follow-on from Kinsey’s Scale). For example, someone can identify as “gay” without having ever had a sexual experience with someone of the same sex. We also spent a lot of time discussing the spectrum of sexual orientation, and how we all feel it is a much more fluid thing than one extreme or the other.

I spend so much of my time either in SHAPE or with people of like minds that I sometimes forget not everyone understands these concepts. To me, a guy identifying as “bi” but having never hooked up with another guy is completely normal – why shouldn’t it be? If that’s how he wants to identify, that’s how he should identify, regardless of any action he has or has not taken. But the real world doesn’t work like this. In the real world, two platonic guy friends still have to say “no homo” after they hug to make sure everyone around understands that that action doesn’t imply identity.

In the real world, a shocking number of people still don’t think that “bisexual” can even be a real thing. I was watching an old episode of “Friends” the other day, where Phoebe sang a song with the lyrics, “Sometimes men love women, sometimes men love men, then there are bisexuals, though some just say they’re kidding themselves.” While in an episode from the mid-‘90s, it would be foolish to think that a large portion of people don’t still feel this way.

Look, I didn’t say anything to my friend who made this comment. How would that have gone: “Actually, even if he hasn’t hooked up with a guy before, he can still identify as bisexual and we should all respect that identity.” Statements like that, well, they’re alienating and a tad pretentious. And I wouldn’t want to come off that way for fear that people wouldn’t take what I said seriously. What I do make efforts to do, however, is never to find myself making a similar comment. If someone tells me they’re gay, I don’t say, “Ooh so how many guys have you hooked up with so far?” I say, “That’s really cool, thanks so much for sharing with me.”

People can identify however they want to. Just because I’ve never known you to do anything like an elephant doesn’t mean you can’t come in one day and say, “Hey, I think I’m an elephant!” Okay, that’s a bad example. But you get the point.