Wading through Research on Bisexuality

SHIRT & TIE [small] (final)

Having trouble wading through the scientific research on bisexuality? Join the club. This may help. Paula C. Rodriguez Rust in her book, Bisexuality in the United States (2000), traces the research from an historical perspective.  She notes research on homosexuality (or any sexuality for that matter) was not showing up in the scientific field of studies until the 1950’s. Homosexuality was still considered a perversion and a mental illness and received very little scientific attention. During the 60’s the sexual revolution started and after the riots in New York, homosexuality started to receive attention as a legitimate orientation. In the 70’s, bisexuality was noted but was considered just a transitory stage to homosexuality. In the 80’s researchers finally began to address the issues because they felt that bisexuals might be the gateway for spreading AIDS from the homosexual to the heterosexual community. She sites works by two pioneers in the 80’s, Jay P. Paul, Reassessing our Paradigms of Sexuality, and A.P. MacDonald Jr.,  A Little Bit of Lavender Goes a Long Way, that brought the study of bisexuality away from the binary view of heterosexuality and homosexuality.  During the early 90’s we had a shift to a concept of sexual orientation which allowed for a broader view which could explain bisexuality and other variations that did not fit into the binary model. This opened the gates to the hodge-podge of theories and conclusions that we now see in the scientific journals. To the part-time bisexual academic like me, all this is interesting, but  there appears to be no clear cut answer to anything that might help me understand myself better and lead a more wholesome life.

After wading through the review of the literature, one is left with a headache and more confusion than when one started. We eventually are tempted to chuck all the theories in the wastebasket and start over with a new paradigm. I believe we are all individuals who pursue our passions in different ways according to a sprinkling of genetic factors that create a predisposition, and environmental experiences during early childhood, or even back into the womb, that shape these predispositions into a potential orientation. Further experiences during adolescence reinforce the predisposition leading us to fulfill our needs for passion and sexual gratification in different ways. This creates a biological/psychological impulse from the old brain that we can refer to as a sexual orientation that directs us to seeking copulation with same sex, or opposite sex partners, and in the case of bisexuals, with either/or.

People who have been gay or lesbian or straight since the get-go, may have strong psychological/emotional impulses that result in powerful feelings of repulsion when different sexual  opportunities arise. When the impulse goes to the administration center, it gets an automatic yes or no depending on the feelings attached to our orientation. But as bisexuals, these aversion or circuit blocks do not exist. We always have the ability to choose.

Nor is our bisexual orientation stationary. Neurological studies based on real and solid evidence show that we are constantly changing, pruning away our dendrites and creating new ones, changing our neural pathways based on new experiences. When we change our neural pathways we change who we are. When we have traumatic events like rape or divorce, we may make major changes in our sexual orientation in order to survive. But once the hurting stops, we may choose to revert to old patterns or start new ones. Beyond that we adjust these patterns not only to survive but to thrive. Who I am today is not who I was yesterday, and who I am today is certainly not who I was ten years ago.

There is even a case to be made that we are all potentially bisexual and therefore open to all forms of sexuality. To say that we have to be locked into being gay or lesbian or bisexual of pan sexual or kinky or straight is simply not true. I KNOW THIS SOUND LIKE HERESY; once gay always gay is essential to the group political beliefs and the feeling of identity and security of the individual, but it is simply not the case. Brainwashing does work. If you experience enough pain you change the neural pathways, even the old-brain ones, creating blocks to old patterns and opening channels to new ones. Pain can make any change possible. Does that mean change will be easy? NO, of course not, and for some it will seem to be almost impossible, but in reality, anything is possible. But if you enjoy being gay, lesbian, bisexual, or straight, then by all mean continue and enjoy.

Essentially then, do we bisexuals have a binary sexual orientation? Yes, but so what? Except for academia in the fields of Psychology and Sociology, who really cares? The key is to find happiness and experience joy through our sexual experiences and to remember that this is only one aspect (how-be-it and very powerful one) to our complex love and pleasure systems. Thinking about it complicates it. By defining it, we claim it, and our sexual identity can become our personal identity. The key is to be able to bring things to the conscious level and to choose a path that will lead to contentment and wholeness. By continuing to function with this process, we can change who we are into whomever we want to be. So welcome change.

There is not a single sexual act or sexual orientation that you can look at as a source of any of your problems.   The problem is the way you think about it. There is no purpose in categorizing ourselves or others because that very act limits our freedoms and choices. If your orientation is no longer resulting in feelings of joy and contentment, then by all means change it or even suppress it entirely and become asexual.  What it all boils down to then is to know who you are, not just your sexual identity, but who you really are inside. Be true to the inner you and use your sexuality to enjoy your life in any way you feel will enhance being you.  So get your thinking straightened out and go out and enjoy life.

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