BCN 79 cover

This originally appeared in BCN issue 79, June 2006

Take two maligned, misunderstood, yet somehow mutually-exclusive seeming social categories, mould them together and you have the bisexual virgin. In many circles, being bi and sexually inexperienced – if it’s even acknowledged as possible – is considered a no-brainer: the equivalent, if you like, of those lottery winners who declare they’re going to give it all to Battersea Dogs Home and stay living in their council bungalow. I’m probably not alone in finding these kind of analogies annoying as they imply that being attracted to both genders is a choice based around promiscuity, rather than a state of being you’re lumbered with even if your accomplishments in love resemble George Bush’s in literacy. I was, until recently, one of that special bi-virgin demographic. Technically, I still am. Well, as the teen-mag cliché runs, it depends on what you mean by sex. As a Sociology student due to graduate this summer, I could write you a lovely essay on the subject of the bad, bad, bad phallocentric culture that places the penis – and penis substitutes – at the centre of the sexual experience, and sprinkle it with words that would make your genitalia shrivel, but I’m not going to do that. For one thing, equating sexual experience with being lucky in love places you on dodgy ground – or at least, suggests you haven’t paid a visit to a pub on a Saturday night recently.

The reasons for my circumstances are somewhat simple. In her autobiography, 60s rock siren Grace Slick (former lead singer of Jefferson Airplane) writes, of her alleged pickiness around relationships: “It’s never been a moral decision, it’s just that I’m an eighteen-wheeler and it takes more mechanisms to get me in gear.” I’d say the same is true of myself, except in my case I’m not entirely sure how to quantify what those “mechanisms” might be. Seemingly, I become somebody’s good friend, and, having established that they’re wildly unattainable, I develop a fixation that gradually crosses the line from friendship to love. (There may or may not be an interlude during which I spend months or years at a cost to my mental health trying to convince myself that I’m not actually in love with them, even though it’s blindingly obvious to anyone with functioning eyes and ears and in view of the facts).

The nearest I can get to a formula runs like this: If you’re a man, you’ve got to like good music and be dark and scruffily handsome. If you’re a woman, you’ve got to like good wine, be blonde and resemble Mariella Frostrup. Either way, there’s got to be a plethora of reasons why you and I couldn’t possibly happen on any level. There’s nothing particularly exceptional wrong with me, I have no major bodily hang-ups, I’m just hopeless at crushes that are, you know, sensible. Let us qualify: in my case, sensible equals: single, childless, the right age, sexual orientation and geographical location… forget all the nitty-gritty extras like a mutual love for the Stone Roses. I had one or two vaguely sensible crushes at university, alas both rapidly destroyed any notion that this was the way forward One, in my fresher year involved a gorgeous but conversationally-sparse third year Engineering student who I spent a year eyeing up across crowded rooms before I allowed myself to understand his aloofness as disinterest. The second was my editor on the student newspaper who spent the drunken evening of our first ever meeting showing me frivolous websites, and, despite my being on the editorial team for most of this year, has barely spoken to me again except to “talk shop”. Yes, it seems aloofness just does it for me every time.

Of course, that’s not quite the whole story. Like many people who don’t fit neatly into society’s homo/het binary, I spent a long time coming to terms with who I am: on one memorable occasion, as a 17 year-old Saturday jobber phoning for a lift home, I ran out of mobile phone credit and walked for half an hour to a payphone because I was too scared to use the one in the gay pub next to the office. The fact that I didn’t need to make self-acceptance into this arduous process is beside the point – I did, and I have to live with the consequences, most notably the fact that it was a major barrier in my way of forming relationships for many years. Weathering the storm has recently led me to the door of my university’s LGBTa, where I have found the screamingly camp gay men are generally more approachable than the women, whom they outnumber by about 10:1. So, while this foray into the scene has done good things for my general welfare, a tonic for my love life it isn’t. Amid this, I have endured a three-week fling with a man who, when he wasn’t fumbling around and taking an unreasonable amount of the credit for “making stuff happen” down there, was asking me annoying questions (The next gawky student in glasses and a Red Hot Chilli Peppers T-shirt who asks “Would you fancy me if I was a girl?” will receive the swift reply: “No – how’s that going to make a difference to your blandness?”)

That rather dignity-starved attempt at a make-do relationship taught me that my life henceforth will take one of three paths: that a close friendship of mine will eventually actually manage to develop into an equally close relationship, that I will eventually manage to drag one of my hopeless crush-figures down to my own insensible level…or that I will spend most weeks til my menopause writing columns like this. One way or the other all these scenarios are likely to bring me a certain amount of hardship, but, on a positive note, only the third will ever contribute anything to my gas bill. Surely that’s got to be worth a shot…