Best Of Both Worlds?
What it’s like being bi and polyamorous…
Bisexuals are constantly accused of being incapable of monogamy, by definition reliant on having at least two partners or playmates of different genders at their disposal. This is patently not true, as evidenced by the large numbers of bi folk who enjoy monogamous relationships. However, some of us – just like many gay or straight people – aren’t monogamous and instead pursue polyamorous or open relationships. So how does it feel to “fit the stereotype” and be a non-monogamous bi woman?
After almost 20 years of being fiercely monogamous (bar one short, abortive attempt at an open relationship), I recently entered a triad. One of my partners is a cisgender female and the other a male-to- female transwoman.
As such, I’m often perceived by trans-exclusionary people to be in a “unicorn” set-up – that is, dating a male-female couple. And for many people who aren’t trans-exclusionary, I’m still perceived as being more open to dating someone trans because I’m bisexual. Personally, I don’t feel that my willingness to enter into a poly relationship is connected to my bisexuality any more than my love of the color purple is. Perhaps being bi has made it easier to be less conservative about relationship structures and traditional “assigned at birth” gender norms. But I honestly think that a straight or gay me would be just as open to poly and trans dating as a bisexual me.
Hannah, 26, has a male partner and a non-binary partner. “While my bisexuality expands my pool of potential partners,” she tells Curve, “it isn't the reason I might be looking for more than one partner in the first place.” Hannah, like me, can easily envisage embracing poly even if she were straight or gay. “I think (but obviously can't know for sure) that I'd still tend towards polyamory even if I were monosexual.
However, Hannah does concede that her bisexuality may have pushed her towards a more open-minded approach to relationships. “I think the main way my bisexuality has influenced my decision to have poly relationships is by pushing me into circles where I was more likely to encounter people practicing relationship formats other than heterosexual monogamy,” she muses.
Nicole is 31 and in an open triad relationship with a woman and a man. “I am poly because it is in my nature,” she tells Curve. Nicole doesn’t necessarily believe that her polyamorous nature is connected to her bisexuality, but accepts that it’s possible. “For people that are wired for monogamy, they just fall in love with one partner regardless of whether they are male or female. For me, as a person wired for poly, I can love more than one person. I honestly can't say if bi folk are more likely to be poly, although I do feel like my bisexuality definitely did help me realize I was poly.” Her advice to poly bi women is as follows: “Be honest with yourself. If you put yourself in a tiny box that you are cramped in, you will never be truly happy. Fearing change is normal, but you can't let it control your life. Life is far too short to live it unhappily. Pursue love. Pursue happiness. Pursue a better life for you.”
Sarah is 35 and lives with her wife, boyfriend and child. “I suppose being non-hetero has made me have to think about what I want from relationships rather than just accepting a binary default,” she explains. “And once you see people in happy polyrelationships, it's much easier to take the leap yourself.” Sarah was nervous about coming out as poly, but in the event she found it far less intimidating that she’d expected. “So far, no one has really cared. I think people are always going to be less interested in your relationships than you think. Of course YOU care... But people who aren't involved at all really don't. And the people who know you best, know already. My parents were relieved it was all ethical and consensual (rather than an affair/cheating).”
Lou, 46, has a male-to- female trans partner and a non-binary partner. “I seem to know more straight polys than bi ones these days,” she says. “But ironically, my initial interest in polyamory was in fact because I'm bi and didn't want to give up half my sexuality for the rest of my life just because I'd fallen in love with a partner of the other gender. Some bis can and do, and I think that perhaps if I'd had the opportunity to have relationships with both genders before committing to that partner, monogamy would have been easier. But since I've been poly, I've discovered advantages beyond just ‘not having to forsake the other gender forever’. So yeah, I guess I would respond by saying that not all bis are poly, and lots of polys are not bi.” What advice would she give to bi women scared to come out as poly? “People already think you're having sex with anyone and everyone so what do you have to lose?” she laughs. “Sorry, flippant answer! But not too far off: I think it's people who are bi and not poly who have to fight the stereotype.”
There’s no way of knowing how a different sexuality would influence your relationship set-up. I asked my gay poly friend Jenny if she would ever let a man come along and disturb her V (one partner dating two different partners who aren’t dating each other). “No!” she exclaimed. “I’m not poly because I’m secretly bisexual and waiting for an excuse to get ‘the best of both worlds’. People ask me about it all the time, but I’m 100% lesbian and more than happy with my two beautiful girlfriends.” Just like I am. And bisexual or lesbian, I like to think I’d be with them anyway.