“It’s just a phase.” “It doesn’t exist.” “They’re confused.”
These are common phrases that often come up in conversations many have heard — or discussed — at one point or another about bisexuality.
For Shawn Black, 42, the owner of Mirar Salon in the Old Fourth Ward, identifying as “mildly bisexual” as he puts it is something he’s become more comfortable with as he’s gotten older.
“I think I’ve only realized just now that it was finally OK to say that bisexuality is real and not just a way people use to help themselves feel better,” he says.
Black dated women until he was in his 20s, but said things were different with men.
“I never quite ever got the thrill like falling in love with men, so I just sort of tapered off with the women,” he says. “I felt they deserved to be with someone who feels passionate about them.”
While he never completely lost interest in women, he was hesitant to let it be known. “I felt with the gay liberation of the past several decades, that it was unhelpful not to claim to be gay,” he says.
He admits he’s had trouble relating to his “100 percent gay” friends as he calls them, especially when they joke or act disgusted by a woman’s body.
“We came from our moms, we have sisters or female cousins whom we want someone to love, so I thought they were being a little insulting to women,” he says.
‘At 26, I don’t think it’s a phase’
Davia Cranshaw, 26, identifies as bisexual and says that while she’s had sex and been in relationships with many women, she prefers the company of men. However, she gets a unique glimpse into the dating traits of both genders.
“I have had longer relationships with men than I have had with women,” she says. “But I’ve had more relationships with women, probably because women are more comfortable committing.”
Females are the ones who most often criticize Cranshaw for identifying as bisexual, she says.
“They’re thinking that it’s more of a phase, but at 26 I don’t think it’s a phase,” she says. “That’s probably why I date more men than I do women, because I get so much criticism when I talk to women.”
Cranshaw found comfort from an interesting source when she was coming to terms with her sexuality.
“If you’ve ever seen [the movie] ‘Chasing Amy,’ the way that she perceives love and how you shouldn’t fixate yourself on a specific gender pushed me to be more comfortable with being bisexual,” she says.
On her online dating profile, Cranshaw is “out” as bisexual. But doesn’t typically bring up the matter to dates she’s met through other avenues and she’s careful about making comments about how attractive she thinks other people are depending on who she is with.
“It’s funny because when I’m with men, I point out women I find attractive, but when I’m with women I don’t point out men I find attractive,” she says. “But men do find it kind of weird though.”
‘More attracted to humans regardless of gender’
Scott Ritchie, 43, only uses the term bisexual if he needs to, “if that’s what people understand easier,” he says. But he prefers the terms queer or pansexual. The difference between bisexual and pansexual is that bisexual typically means being attracted to both sexes, while pansexual is a more broad term that could also include attraction to intersex people, transgender men, transgender women and others.
“I’m more attracted to humans regardless of their gender identity or body parts or sexual identity,” he says.
And he has heard his fair share of the usual criticism from people about it. “That I haven’t made up my mind, I need to get off the fence, that it’s almost like it’s this closet identity that you still haven’t come fully out yet,” he says. “That bisexuality or pansexuality is a resting place in-between until you’ve made your full decision one way or the other.”
Ritchie’s sexuality hasn’t made his love life any easier either. But he says online dating has made people more up front about things like this, so it’s gotten better.
And while he’s dated both men and women lately, his longterm relationships have been more with women.
“For me, I’m trying to figure out if it’s socialization or if I tend to prefer women and fem guys,” he says. “I think it’s a little combination of both.”