(404) 874-8536 johnballew@gmail.com

Bisexuality and Heteroflexibility

The landscape of sexual orientation keeps changing.  In times past the lines were clearly drawn: men were straight or they were gay. Straight guys didn’t “act like” gay men. They would typically be highly offended if someone took them for gay; it might turn into a fight. And gay men staked out their own turf, often rebelling and acting in a way that clearly said “gay and proud.”

In recent years we’re seeing the lines blur.  LGBT folks have come out in greater and greater numbers over recent decades.  Fifty years ago people might speak of “the love that dare not speak it’s name,” but recent polling shows almost 90% of Americans now know someone who is gay.  Then came “metrosexuals” – straight men who look, dress and act an awful lot like gay men, but still want women for physical and romantic relationships.

As more and more gay people have come out, homophobia in most of society is declining.  If being thought gay is no longer alien and stigmatized, it is easier for many men to admit that they have at least a little attraction to other men.  They are heteroflexible.  They may or may not actually want to have sex with another man, but they can admit to finding male sexuality…sexy.  They may occasionally look at gay porn.  They may find a friend or a guy at the gym attractive.  And they may or may not choose to explore those fantasies, at least once.

Especially among younger men and women, though, the trend sometimes goes beyond that. Sexual orientation itself, including dating, affection and sexual expression, seems much less set in concrete. Some colleges have seen a phenomenon dubbed “gay until graduation” – a freedom to experiment with bisexuality and avoiding labels of all sorts.

Sexual orientation is both more and less complex than people imagine. Remember the old Kinsey Scale, a zero-to-six range with heterosexuality at one end and homosexuality at the other? Most people fall somewhere other than the extreme ends. While there is no evidence that people at one end of the scale can actually hop to the other end, there is actually a good bit of elasticity for folks in the mid-range.

Overall, this is a good thing. It helps us to explore the full range of our humanity. And the saying that labels are for jars, not people, has never been more true. At the same time, this can be confusing.  The open-minded guy who is heteroflexible may wonder if he is actually gay.

Many people are skeptical of the idea of bisexuality.  In the past, many gay people have used bisexuality as a temporary label to cope with homophobia. As a result, some regard bisexuals as “fence sitters” who can’t make up their minds.  At worst, they think of bisexuals as liars, hiding the truth from them or from themselves.

It’s true that experimenting with bisexuality can be a transitional thing on the way to becoming an All- American homosexual. But it’s also true that many (maybe most) human beings have some degree of attraction to both men and women. They may not feel equal attraction to men and women, but they may feel some.  And as society’s attitudes change, it’s more and more acceptable to let those feelings out.

Recognize and challenge bi-phobia in yourself and in others. Bisexuality and heteroflexibility are real.  Reducing the choices to “gay” and “straight” not only oversimplify human sexuality, they can do great damage.

Don’t be too quick to label yourself or someone else.  Sometimes labels help us understand, but sometimes they oversimplify.  That’s especially true with relationships and sexuality.  If you’re anxious or depressed or confused, talk things through with a competent counselor.

If your straight partner acknowledges some same-sex attraction, that doesn’t mean they are going to be unfaithful.  And if your same-sex partner acknowledges some attraction to the other gender, it doesn’t mean you’re about to be abandoned.  It does mean you may want to talk about commitment to the relationship and what healthy sexuality look like.  But that’s a good conversation for everyone in a relationship, isn’t it?

The idea that there is an element of fluidity to sexual orientation shouldn’t be misunderstood as saying so-called raparative therapy is anything other than a fraud.  Therapy may help clarify sexual orientation, but it does not change it.  Fortunately, interest in this fraud is declining and it is increasingly outlawed as snake-oil.

We may not be too far off from the day when most people will not feel a need for labels like gay, straight or bisexual. We will see sexual orientation as just one more aspect of our humanity. Right now, though, we get to live through the exciting and messy process of social change and human progress.

About John

I have been  licensed by the State of Georgia as a professional counselor for more than 25 years.  My areas of specialty are relationships, intimacy, sexuality, anxiety and depression.  My passion is helping people build happier lives and stronger relationships. 

I know it isn’t always easy to talk about problems.  My approach to counseling is nonjudgmental and compassionate.  If you have questions, I welcome the opportunity to talk with you about working together.

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Whether you've worked with a therapist before or are exploring counseling for the first time, you probably have questions.  It is important to have the information you need to make a good decision when selecting a therapist.  I welcome your questions -- about your specific situation, about me or about my approach to therapy. Making things better can start with an email, or you can call me at (404) 874-8536.