Q. My wife insists on telling men she is bisexual: I am a woman in a relationship with another woman. We have been together for four years, married for one. Recently, I have noticed that oftentimes when people (and especially men) refer to her as a lesbian or us as a lesbian couple, she insists on correcting them: “Actually, I’m bisexual.” We end up having conversations with friends like, “Jenny, as a lesbian, what do you think of Hillary Clinton?” “Actually, I’m bisexual.” She says that she doesn’t want her bisexual identity erased and that there is nothing wrong with her wanting people to have a correct understanding of her sexuality. I think it’s weird that she mostly does this with men. It seems to me like she is putting it out there so she can in some sense remain an object of desire to these men. Plus, she married a woman—she should get used to people assuming she is in a lesbian relationship. Which of us is right in this situation?
She’s bisexual, and that’s important to her. Nothing you’ve told me suggests she neglects you or flirts with men in order to stoke your jealousy. I think you need to figure out why you feel so threatened by the fact that you married a bisexual woman. Were you hoping she’d change her mind or get over it? Why is it so important to you that she let other people assume she’s a lesbian? She’s with you. She married you. She’s out. She’s your wife. Nothing about your identity or your relationship is threatened by her sexuality in any way; it’s time for you to let go of this.
I think the advice given by the “new” Prudence (the column changed writers some months ago) is generally sound, but I have a bit of a personal reaction to the question.
I used to do LGBT speaker’s bureau volunteering on my campus. A question that almost never failed to come up was, “Why do you call yourself bisexual if you’re monogamous?” The question highlights that bi isn’t considered a real sexual identity on the same level as gay or lesbian. And it’s not just about the sex. It’s about how Bi Any Other Name was a pivotal book, I put in hours doing LGBT speaker’s bureau volunteering, and I Marched on Washington which was a key formative point of my life. It’s as much a part of my culture as people of my generation still talk about the time they first encountered Kurt Cobain.
“Bi,” for better or for worse, describes a set of relationships, with lovers, exes who were weird about it, family who grew less weird over time, religion, and the current politics of the day. It’s not just a matter of pedantic nitpicking to say that we’re bisexual. It’s a key description of who we are.