“Honestly, When I’m With One Gender, I Just Start to Miss the Anatomy of the Other.”

Photo: Richard Kern

“You’re either gay, straight, or lying” is the response most bisexuals get when trying to make their way out of the bi closet. (“Everybody likes to dump on bisexuals,” Cynthia Nixon complained in her own, awkward bi coming-out.) It was only last August that an academic study finally suggested that men who claimed attraction to both genders might not be hedging their bets or fooling themselves. Bisexuals might even outnumber gays and lesbians combined.

Illustrations by Kareena Zerefos

Janice Duenas
39, in a relationship with a man.

The first time I had sex with a woman, it was horrible. This was five years ago, and we met through work. She was a sweet girl, and it seemed like there was so much chemistry between us. But then we took off our clothes, and it was so awkward. I had been fantasizing about it for years, but with her I wasn’t getting any feedback. She told me she was just normally quiet. I decided I should try again, though, to make sure it wasn’t just her. So I met another woman, and that’s when I discovered it was just her.

Ever since I was a teenager, I’ve been curious about being with women, but I only really started to explore my desire for women in my early thirties. My biggest regret is not responding to a woman who approached me in high school. She transferred from another school and walked into my English class one day, and my jaw dropped to the floor. I couldn’t believe how beautiful she was. Eventually, she invited me over to her house and started talking about another friend she had and how they would kiss. I got very nervous and I left, and she never invited me to her house again.

In my mid-twenties, I started to ask boyfriends to have threesomes with women, but it never happened. Finally, after I ended an engagement, I said that I needed to be with a woman. I needed to see if it was a curiosity thing or a part of my life.

Sometimes, if I’m with a man, I’ll miss the emotional connection and nurturing that I’ve found women are more likely to offer. Or if I’m with a woman, I can miss the way a man can take charge. But honestly, I think I just start to miss the anatomy of the other sex. I like breasts, I love the way a woman’s vagina tastes. I love penis. I don’t know if I could give up either.

Ike Schambelan
72, Married to a woman.

In my life, I have tended to have more deep relationships with women than with men. They’re more open about their feelings and less macho as a rule. At one point, I was very much in love with a man, though. It was while I was at Yale Drama School. I had two roommates and was in love with one of them. And then he had an affair with the other roommate, so I’d have to lie there and listen to them have sex through the wall. He knew I was in love with him, and eventually we tried a little sex. It wasn’t even terrible, but we just totally miscommunicated.

When I was growing up, if I slept with a guy, I would try to sleep with a woman soon after, to clear the taint. At the time, I felt it was better to be with a woman than a man. I certainly knew it would be easier. I think it’s quite possible that if times had been different, I would have become a gay man, but I’m very happy that I’m not. That would have been a limitation for me. I like sex with both men and women, and I feel emotionally connected to both men and women.

In 1965, I began seeing a therapist, and he thought I should choose being straight or gay and that life would be better if I were straight. There was a period where a guy would be into me and I’d tell him, “I’m trying to give that up.” I now regret that enormously.

Oddly, sex has improved as I’ve gotten older. After I started living with the woman who became my wife, sex got better and better because we practiced, and I think that would have been true whether I ended up with a man or a woman.

My wife and I have now been living together 40 years and married for 31. She knows I’m bi and says it makes me more interesting. I met her in 1970 on Fire Island, though not the Pines or Cherry Grove. It was in Ocean Ridge, a community near Davis Park. After Joan and I got together, I didn’t think, Now I’m safe. The guilt I felt only lessened as we went through the seventies and everybody loosened up about what you could do sexually. I’m really very lucky that I don’t have to hide anymore. Though occasionally I meet a guy and say I’m bi and he says, “No, you’re not. You’re gay.”

My wife and I have a more or less monogamous relationship, but I do flirt a lot. I love to flirt with other men, mostly for the validation. Partly it’s because we live in Chelsea. But also I think it’s the allure of the forbidden. Women my age or younger are generally pretty interested. I’m not a gorgeous man, but I go to the gym and look a lot younger than I am because that’s important to me. And I miss dick.

Somebody I was talking to recently asked me, “If your wife died before you, would you end up with a woman or a man?” I said, “A man.” And he said, “Then you’re really gay.” But that’s not it. It’s just that that’s what I haven’t had, so it’s what I want. I love the idea of having a gay wedding at age 80.

Faith Cheltenham
32, Married to a man.

As a black bisexual female, I live the lovely life of the multiple minority. I grew up in the Christian fundamentalist world in a small town in California. I told my dad first. When I said I was dating a woman, he said, “Oh, so you’re a lesbian.” I said no. Then he kind of wiggled his hand and said, “So you’re kind of like this, huh?” He understood.

I came out to my mom because another family member knew and thought I should tell her so she could get her prayer on. Her response was that I couldn’t be a lesbian because there had been all these boys I liked. I was like, “I know, I’m bisexual.” She just said, “At least that means there’s a chance.” That’s a huge stressor for bisexuals when it comes to relationships—that there’d be a negative association with some of the people you could fall in love with.

I’ve always been a quintessential bisexual. I was butch and I was femme, I went to prom and I played sports. I used to screw up so badly—I’d go to a party at Cal Tech in black jeans and Docs and be like, “Damn it, I wore the lesbian outfit!” And then I’d go to a lesbian club in a hippie skirt and sandals and I’d be like, “Damn it, I wore the straight outfit!”

My friends and I use the phrase “That’s so bi” all the time. If someone says they really want to go rock climbing but they also want to go see an exhibit at the museum, we’ll be like, “That’s so bi.” Or if somebody likes going to the ballet but also wants to be at the Super Bowl, that’s pretty bi.

In college, I fell in love with a great woman, an awesome chick, and at first I thought I was a lesbian. Everyone was like, “Welcome to the lesbian club!” And I was like, “Oh my God, I love you all!” But then I realized I still had an attraction to guys, and while I wasn’t trying to cheat on my girlfriend, I was trying to acknowledge that. It was difficult. When I talked about being attracted to men, people would say things like, “That’s just because you’re butch and you appreciate physical strength.”

My girlfriend eventually said she wasn’t interested in being with someone who might “go straight” eventually. Luckily that wasn’t the only problem—she didn’t like The Matrix, for example, and I’m a sci-fi person, so I was already thinking it was not going to work between us. She’s actually gone on to marry a bisexual woman and apologized to me.

I didn’t really date straight people until I met the man I married. Up until then, it was like that Forrest Gump saying: Life was a whole bunch of vaginas and penises, and I never knew what I was going to get. I dated trans boys, trans girls, gay guys, lesbians. Now my husband and I just had a baby. Life takes turns. I still have Christian-fundamentalist family members who say, “We always knew you’d end up with a guy.”

One question I get asked all the time is if I miss women, and if so, what do I miss. Many bi people just respond by being like, “Why are you asking about my sex life?” I like to tell people: “Thank you for thinking about my pussy.”

Antonio Blanco
22, Dating a man.

A penis and a vagina are so different. The energy is different. If you’re a guy fucking another guy, you have two dicks and you can be done in twenty minutes. But when you have sex with a woman, you have to work your way up a little more.

I lost my virginity to a girl when I was 13. But by then I knew I was definitely interested in men. Eventually, I told people I was gay, definitely. And if I was gay, I thought it would be wrong to sleep with both men and women. Then I realized that if a girl gives me a boner, I didn’t want to just put that aside.

At my high school, everyone knew I was bi, but no one wanted to use that word, and I didn’t either. I just said, “I really like holes.”

I used the word gay when “I went to Columbia for college. But I found the gay-male world at Columbia is sort of anti-women. So I re–came out and started using the word bisexual. I quickly realized I couldn’t do that without someone rolling their eyes. When you’re a girl and bi, people assume it’s a phase. When you’re a guy, people just assume you’re gay. For a while, I used the word pansexual, but then I felt like a jackass.

For the past nine to ten months, I’ve been dating a guy who is a little intimidated by my sexuality. We have an open relationship, and he’s sensitive about me hooking up with women. I think he feels that I’ll leave him and start a straight-boy lifestyle. And the fact that he’s afraid of me hooking up with women makes me seek them out more. I’m an asshole like that. I don’t think I could be monogamous—I’m really horny.

At this moment in my life, when I’m having sex, I prefer men who are more submissive. That really gets me. With women, I tend to like when they take control in bed and are more dominant. It’s kind of reversed.

Eventually, I realized I could have sex with a guy the way I have sex with women—slower and more intense—and then I could have sex with women in ways I’ve had sex with men, fast and hard. Contrary to popular belief, not all women want to be held tenderly and all guys don’t want to just bang-bang get it out.

The biggest difference is with oral sex. I like having oral sex with women, but I don’t really like giving blow jobs. I just don’t like things in my mouth for extended periods of time. I’ve heard a lot of gay boys say, “I know how to suck a dick because I have a dick.” There’s some truth to that. But a lot of women have given me amazing blow jobs.

“Honestly, When I’m With One Gender, I Just Start […]