By Ellyn Ruthstrom
I fell in love for the first time during my freshman year of college. His name was Steve and he was a born-again Christian. He smoked pot and he loved nature – both were his avenues to communing with his god – so we would go walking in beautiful places and get high with our friends. We were both virgins. His best friend and fellow born-again, Dave, tried to convince him that I was the devil so that he wouldn’t have sex with me. (Turns out Dave just wanted him for himself; he’s now an out and proud gay man.) So I did my best serpent-in-the-tree impersonation and seduced Steve into my bed.
That was young love and it felt amazing to experience such passion and connection with someone else. I loved the feel of his taut wrestler’s body and the electrified atmosphere around us when our eyes met. I wrote romantic poetry for him. Once, we were sitting in a booth at the local pizza joint and he suddenly stood up, leaned over and kissed me full on the mouth for a long time. Just out of the blue. It was all that first love stuff. And I think about it so tenderly.
After Steve, there was Ross, then Ken, then Allan, and there were others. I think of all these men and the love and lust and time we shared. I recall their touch, their smiles, their quirks, the hotness between us and the shared intimacies and histories we lived out together.
For most of my early years when I had relationships with men, I had no idea I had any interest in other women. So when that realization finally surfaced, the only thing I knew for sure was that I was not a lesbian. How on earth could a lesbian have enjoyed so much sweetness and steaminess with men? It never crossed my mind to identify that way.
Yet now as someone who has primarily been in relationships with women for the last 25 years, I know that others could very well assume that I am a lesbian. After spending so much time in the bisexual community, I know that my experience is not uncommon. Many bi people have long relationships with one partner or with a series of partners, all of whom are the same sex. For me, and for many of us, that has never shaken my understanding of my own bisexuality.
Many of you may be familiar with the Klein Sexual Orientation Grid that Dr. Fritz Klein designed to better explain the complexity and fluidity of sexuality than the linear Kinsey Scale. Klein’s grid assessed past, present, and ideal for a respondent in seven different categories including sexual behavior, sexual attraction, emotional preference, and sexual fantasies (see illustration). The grid’s multi-dimensional representation of sexuality is where non-monosexual people can really see themselves revealed in more detail.
I’ve often contemplated the column for “ideal,” wondering what my own ideal would be in all of the various categories. And I’ve also recognized that even one’s ideal can fluctuate over time. Sometimes I’ve wished I had a loving man in my life again, sometimes I’ve felt that a polyamorous configuration was more of what I wanted, and more often I’ve sought out monogamous relationships with women.
There is something in that term “ideal” that suggests you are able to work towards that goal. However, as I’ve initiated relationships in my life, I’ve never set myself a goal to meet a particular kind of person, whether that be of a particular sex or personality or circumstance.
People came into my life at the right time for both of us to want to share our lives. Maybe they were the “ideal” for that moment, maybe not. (And most of us have been in the situation where one person in a couple believes the other person is “the one” but the other person doesn’t agree. Hellacious on both sides.)
I’m very open to having another loving relationship with a man, but the reality is I live in a very queer world and don’t often meet men who would be interested in dating me. And, as a very public bi woman, I’m also not interested in putting the time into searching for straight men and dealing with all the misconceptions they might have about bi women. (Most of the bi men I meet and am attracted to are already partnered or much younger.)
So, for now, I have my steamy and tender memories of the men in my past. And when I do meet a man that I get a sexual buzz off of (even if it is just for a moment), those feelings echo within me in that space that welcomes and honors my bi capacity for love and lust.
Ellyn Ruthstrom just can’t get enough of bi community.