5 min

The new fluidity

How a new generation is embracing bisexuality

"Bisexuals are generally more fluid. Not just sexually, but as people," says Glen Callender (centre). In contrast, gays and straights are both "far more likely to be committed to the idea that sexuality should be a rigid thing." Credit: Shimon Karmel

“I personally identify as greedy,” laughs 27-year-old Scott Hurr, neatly summarizing his place on the continuum of sexual attraction.

Hurr has been known to find men, women, genderqueer and trans people attractive.

“Are you going to let the right person walk out of your life because they don’t have the right inny or outy?” he asks.

Hurr thinks a more fluid approach to sexuality is increasingly common among younger queers, who feel less confined by traditional labels. “I think people are realizing that maybe we can be more than gay,” he says. “Now we can just be ourselves.”

Sylvia Machat, 26, is also part of the new, more fluid generation. “I have sex with men, women and everyone in between,” she smiles.

“I’m a pretty open-minded individual,” she says. “I’m pretty kinky, and then you can throw in that I’m polyamorous and I’m open to a variety of genders and a variety of kinks and fetishes and a variety of partners and relationship styles.”

Machat is currently part of an open relationship involving a transgender love-triangle. Though she’s drawn to masculinity, she finds straight men less appealing because they’re politically disconnected from the queer pulse. “They don’t understand my world,” she says.

Like many of her peers, Machat unapologetically embraces a broader understanding of attraction. “It’s not something I choose,” she notes. “It just is.”

Rosamond Norbury, 60, believes everyone is potentially bisexual.

“My dad said everybody is shades of grey when it comes to sexuality,” she says. “I think most people are fluid. It depends on the person you’re attracted to at the time.”

“I have meaningful sexual relationships with men and with women,” she continues. “One of the most meaningful was with a transgender male-to-female person. I learned a lot from that relationship. It was the most emotional relationship.”

Though she has never felt the need to defend her sexuality, Norbury has certainly heard her share of thinly veiled homophobic comments from straight people, as well as biphobic comments from gay people. “I know that some say you’re a fence-sitter,” she acknowledges. “They are just hard-nosed. They can only see things their way.”

That fence-sitting belief is “very much an old style of thinking, but we are getting better,” says Little Sister’s co-owner Jim Deva.

“It’s a tribal thing. There is an instinct to maintain the tribe,” Deva says, noting some gays and lesbians think bisexuals are “turning their back on their tribe and abandoning their principles if they want to screw someone of the opposite sex.”

“We must get past it,” he says. Bisexuality should be seen as a “blessing and not a curse.”

People who are sexually fluid are generally more well-rounded individuals, he suggests. Bisexuality is “a bifocal way of looking at the world.”

It’s a concept Deva believes is lost on some gays and lesbians, particularly from the older generation, who still think bisexuals are just confused. “Sometimes I try to talk with them about it, and sometimes I just write them off,” he says.

Brian Searle, 79, objects to the suggestion that older gays dismiss bisexuality as a viable option. “I personally have no problem with it at all,” he says.

In fact, he maintains that “the older generation of gay men accept bisexuality more than the younger generation does” since many older gays were married and had children before coming out of the closet.

Searle, who co-owns the Elbow Room on the periphery of the gay village, says bisexuality is likely as hard-wired as being gay. “I don’t think being gay is a choice. How can I think being bisexual is a choice?” he asks.

As a teenager, Peter Breeze believed bisexuality was just a transition between being straight and being gay. “I thought bisexuality was like a gateway sexuality before people made a choice,” he admits.

Now in his mid-20s, Breeze, who identifies as gay, says he hasn’t completely ruled out sex with women.

“I look at sex as a speedometer,” he says.

“At any given moment you can be going fast or going slow,” he explains, suggesting most people are more likely to drive at the speed and in the zones they’re already familiar with. “I think everybody has a sexual speedometer in them. If I’m with a really hot guy I might take things a little faster than if I am with a girl.”

Like Breeze, Glen Callender believes there are different degrees of bisexual attraction. “For some, bisexuality is rigid, and for others it is fluid and changes with experiences in lifetimes. But both deserve respect,” he says.

“Bisexuals are generally more fluid. Not just sexually, but as people,” he contends. In contrast, gays and straights are both “far more likely to be committed to the idea that sexuality should be a rigid thing.”

It’s that strict binary between being gay and straight that forces many bisexuals to choose one side or the other and stay closeted, Callender says.

But the adoption of the umbrella term “queer” has created more space in the community for bisexuality and fluidity in general, says Shayne Forster, 24.

“I don’t hear the word ‘bisexual’ as often as I hear the word ‘queer,’” he points out.

“I think queer is a liberated word. It’s reclaimed. It’s a little less boxy. It feels that there is less pressure behind it because the word identifies more than one type of person,” he says. “I think it’s more accepted to be placed somewhere in the queer spectrum these days.”

Athena Affan identifies as bisexual in the gay community and queer to her straight friends.

Though she has never faced overt bi-resistance from gays or lesbians, she suspects dating women could be a challenge. Lesbians seem less eager to date bisexual women, she says.

“I have always been received very well,” she admits. “But then again I’ve only ever dated one lesbian.”

The moderator of the now-defunct notes there aren’t a lot of resources for bisexuals in Vancouver. It took her several years to feel she’d found a place in the city’s queer community, she says. But that’s starting to change.

Affan credits community events like the annual Bride of Bride party for deliberately reaching out to all “past, present and future” queer women. Exclusive events for bisexuals are not necessary, she says, but broader queer events should make an effort to be more bi-inclusive. “They don’t have to be about bisexuality, but they have to be about a broader scope of queer, and they have to be about really meaning it.”

Callender plans to launch an online resource specifically for bisexuals. He hopes greater visibility in the gay community will encourage bisexuals to embrace their true selves.

“Everything is becoming a lot more accepted now, but we have a long way to go,” says gay party promoter Tommy D. “In our community we should be embracing everybody. If bisexual people can’t be themselves in a queer community then where can they be themselves?”

“It’s my right to fuck whoever I want to fuck,” Callender insists. “That’s what Pride should be about. You have to look at the Pride flag and see all of the colours.”