Monday, September 01, 2014

Bisexual and over 50 3: Brian

This is the third in the series of email interviews with bi people over 50. Thanks again to everyone who has shown interest in this project.

Each of the “interviews” is written by the individual concerned, with the questions in bold written by me.


I am Brian Driscoll, aged 59, married to a woman for 31 years and living in a medium-sized city in British Columbia, Canada. Retired from a career in journalism

What does being bisexual mean to you?
Being bisexual means (to me) being sexually attracted to, and enjoy being with, both men and women. 

How did you come to think of yourself as bisexual?
At age 18, I realized I wanted to experience gay sex, even though I felt strongly attracted to females. I thought that meant I was gay and felt confused and disturbed about the situation. About a year later (this is 40 years ago), I heard the term bisexual and intuitively recognized that it described me.

Has your bisexuality changed over the years, and if so how?
Over the years I have heard that gay people follow a path from bi to gay, and wondered if that would apply to me as well. It hasn't really. I've remained bisexual though I lean more toward homosexual in terms of physical needs and straight in terms of emotional needs. I have never felt the need for an emotional relationship with a man.

What do people in your life know about your bisexuality and how do they react?
My wife has known I am bi for many years but most friends and acquaintances are only now learning about my bisexuality as I have come out recently on social media. The reactions have been muted, at best. Nothing really negative or positive. In fact, I've had no reaction from most people. That does not surprise me, though. If I learned on a friend's Facebook page that he was bisexual or gay, I may not have commented directly, either.

Looking back over your life so far, is there anything you wish you had done differently?
I came out late in life. I deeply wish I had done so twenty or thirty years ago. If I were twenty today, I would probably come out at that age. But then, today's situation is different from the 1970s.

What are your hopes and fears for the future, regarding bisexuality?
That difference between then and now makes me profoundly hopeful for young bisexuals. They can (and probably should) come out shortly after they come to accept their sexuality. Coming out early can make a great difference in their lives. 

Would you like to help combat bi erasure and increase the visibility of bisexual people over 50? There are plenty of us out there, but far too many people don’t know that.

I am looking for other individuals over 50 who would like to contribute their “email interviews”, as Brian has done here. For more about what to do, look at this post


Thursday, August 21, 2014

Bi and nearly 50 1: Laura

Due to popular demand, I have expanded the remit of this blog series to include people who are nearly 50. There are even more of us out there!

As before, the questions in bold come from me. Otherwise, all the words are from the interviewees themselves.


I am Laura, 48, female, chronically sick from Ehlers Danlos, living in the USA since February 2013, in The Netherlands before that.

I am married to a woman, since May 2013. From 1986 till 2005 I was with a man and had two children with him.

How did you come to think of yourself as bisexual?
I have always had crushes on boys AND girls. Sexuality in The Netherlands is not a taboo and certainly not in my family. When I told my mother that I was seeing a girl, my first sort-of-relationship when I was 16, it got accepted without any word of surprise. When I got my first real relationship with a boy at 18, that was no subject of discussion either. I don’t even remember when I started calling it bisexuality, I do know that when I dated that girl it was not a word I used. And it did not change for me during the years.

Has this changed over the years, and if so how?
After my first girlfriend I had a few sexual experiences with girls but after that I met my boyfriend, later husband, and stayed with him for almost 20 years. After that I started dating again, but by then I had a chronic illness and the responses of the men I dated was horrifying. The last date ended with the guy asking: “But what if I want to go out on Friday evening and you are tired?” and that’s when I decided I’d had it with men. So I contemplated: how about dating women. And that was quite a step. Because I knew I was interested sexually and I knew I could fall in love, but having a relationship with a woman? And I didn’t want to date women and then have to tell them, no sorry, I’d like a night with you but a relationship no thanks... But I took the step  and never looked back. I met my present wife, by the way, very unconventionally, via Farm Ville on Facebook.... She was a new neighbor, saw my pic, thought hm ho, asked me if I needed something for FV and after the second talk we were both hooked.

When I was dating, many lesbians had atrocious statements on their profiles, like “if you’re bi, don’t even bother dropping me a note, I won’t even write you back”. The bi-hate is so big in the lesbian world. That was very very hurtful, and still is. They try to make it sound like just one of the many preferences they have, like preferring tall women, but it boils my blood. So lets not go there today.

What do other people in your life know about your bisexuality, and how do they react?
Here in the US I don’t know a lot of people, and since being gay is hard enough, I refrain from taking it one step further. When I started dating women after my divorce though, there were people who were sort of offended that they didn’t know that about me. Well, when I am with a man, you can’t TELL that I am bisexual. And if the subject doesn’t come up...

Looking back over your life so far, is there anything you wish you’d done differently?
Not in regards to my bisexuality, no.

What about your hopes or fears for the future (regarding bisexuality)?
I hope that the biphobia and bi-erasure will stop, certainly from within the LGBT-community.

Any words of wisdom for younger bi people – or older ones?
Don’t let others tell you what your bisexuality means for you. People like to think that they know better, but there’s only one person who knows you best: you!

Would you like to help combat bi erasure and increase visibility of bisexuals over 50 (or thereabouts)? There are plenty of us out there but far too many people don't know that.

I am looking for other individuals who would like to contribute their "email interviews" to this blog, as Laura has done here. For more information about what to do, take a look at this post.


Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Bisexual and over 50 2: Jan

Here's the second in the series of "email interviews" with bi people over 50. There has been a lot of good reaction to this on social media, so many thanks! We are out there.

Each of these "interviews" is written by the individual concerned; the questions in bold come from me.

I'm Jan Steckel, 51, white, female, writer and former paediatrician. I live in a house in Oakland, California, USA, with my husband who is also bisexual.

How did you come to think of yourself as bisexual?
I’d had boyfriends since the eighth grade [aged 13] and assumed I was straight. Then, the summer before I turned 18, I sang in a band. I was falling in love with the lead guitarist, a man, when the drummer, a woman, asked me out. I made out with her that night and realized that I was bisexual, even though I ended up with the young man.

What does being bisexual mean to you?
It means I am sexually attracted to some people who are the same sex as I am and to some who are of a different sex from me.

Has this changed over the years, and if so, how?
Not much since I realized I was bi. It’s my gender identity that has changed instead. When I was a kid I thought I was a boy and that some mistake had been made. In college I wished I was a man. I was pretty dysphoric about my body’s curves, such as they were. I wanted the hard planes of a man’s body, and I wanted to love a man as another man. Almost all the fiction I wrote then was first person male, and my closest friends were male, too.

Now I’m comfortable with being female. As an adult, I was always more sexually attracted to women but had a tendency to fall in love with men. Since my recent menopause, I think I’ve become more attracted to women as well as to trans and nonbinary people and less attracted to men, though my attraction to my husband has remained constant.

What do other people in your life know about your bisexuality and how do they react?
Most people who know me know that I’m bi. I’m pretty out and loud about it, and have been for decades. Since my poetry book The Horizontal Poet won the 2012 Lambda Literary Award for Bisexual Nonfiction,  I pretty much lead my literary bio with that. One of my older female relatives told me angrily that by putting the fact that I was bisexual on the back of my book, I had disrespected my marriage to my husband, but most of my family has been pretty cool.

When I first came out to my mother, she was worried that if I ended up with a woman I wouldn’t have children, or my children would be screwed up. She got over that well before I was out of my childbearing years, I think, though in the end I didn’t have kids. My Dad was probably more uncomfortable at first than my Mom, but he’s pretty cool about it now. My brother’s always been fine about it.

It was definitely not cool, though, with many of my fellow physicians. That’s part of the reason I’m not in medicine anymore. Poets and writers are a lot more accepting.

My husband is bisexual, too, and it’s a pretty big part of our lives. We march every year in the bi contingent of the San Francisco Pride parade, and he hosts a social group called Berkeley BiFriendly where we met. We’ve both been published in bisexual anthologies and periodicals. I just had a short story come out in Best Bi Short Stories, and he has a painting being reproduced in a forthcoming anthology of work by bi men. Many of our friends are queer, so we get a lot of support from our community around it.

Looking back over your life so far, is there anything you wish you’d done differently?
I wish I had dated more women early on and had longer-lasting relationships with them. I was a little passive at first, waiting for people to pursue me instead of taking the initiative.

What about your hopes or fears for the future (regarding bisexuality)?
I belong to an online writing critique group where some jackass keeps attacking me every time I mention writing for bi periodicals or any honor I’ve got for bi writing. He accuses me of playing identity politics. My answer to that is that I’d be delighted not to need identity politics anymore. When discrimination against bisexual people goes away, then if people don’t want to label themselves according to their sexuality, fine. Until then I’m sticking to my label and making sure young people see plenty of bisexual characters in literature. I want young bisexually inclined people to see themselves reflected in what they read. I want them to have a peer group of other bisexual people, unlike me when I was coming up.

Any words of wisdom for younger bi people – or older ones?
Find a peer group of other bi people, even if it’s only online. Get support from them. Try to find a safe way to come out, even if it means moving to a city with a visible bi population. 

Would you like to help combat bi erasure and increase visibility of bisexuals over 50? There are plenty of us out there but far too many people don't know that. 

I am looking for other individuals who would like to contribute their "email interviews" to this blog, as Jan has done here. For more information about what to do, take a look at this post


Tuesday, August 05, 2014

Bisexual and over 50 1: Harrie

This is the first in a series of "email interviews" from bi people over 50. Yes, we are out there!

Each of these "interviews" is written by the individual concerned; the questions in bold come from me.

Happy reading!

I’m Harrie Farrow, a 54-year-old, androgynous woman. I am a novelist (“Love, Sex, and Understanding the Universe”), a bisexual blogger, a bisexual activist, and am a Life Coach for Bisexuals at Navigating the Biways. I live in the US, in a small LGBT-friendly town, and have a grown son and a grandson. I’m currently single.

How did you come to think of yourself as bisexual (or whatever label/non-label you use)?
I read an article at age 14 in a “girly” magazine, that someone had left laying around, written by someone who was of the opinion that everyone is bisexual, and I just thought, yes, of course, and therefore knew that I was bisexual.

What does being bisexual (or as above) mean to you?
Being bisexual to me means being attracted to same and different gender(s).

Has this changed over the years, and if so how?
No, my identification, and understanding of bisexuality has not changed.

What do other people in your life know about your bisexuality and how do they react?
Being a bisexual blogger, activist and an author of a bisexual themed novel means that I’m about as out as a person can be. Reactions are of course varied. Often, I am not directly present when a person becomes aware of my bisexuality and so I do not see their reactions. I find that being very confident and comfortable in my sexual identity, and presenting my sexuality in a way that conveys that the only possible response from others is respect and acceptance, results in usually not having negative things said to me. Occasionally, people will make misinformed comments based on their lack of information.

When fighting biphobia, for example as @BisexualBatman on Twitter, I actually seek out biphobia, and the person receiving my response usually knows nothing about me except for my tweet. In this role, I have had many hateful and harassing responses. Happily, I do also get people apologizing for their biphobia, or asking for more information to educate themselves. 

Looking back over your life so far, is there anything you wish you’d done differently?
From a young age, I’ve always quite consciously tried to live in a way that would result me being able to say I have no regrets. I can say that, though things did not always turn out as I would have liked, I did make the best decisions based on the realities of my life at the time.

What about your hopes or fears for the future (regarding bisexuality)?
I would like to see bisexuality become recognized and accepted as just another sexual orientation, and that we reach a time when all bisexuals are comfortable and confident with their sexual identity.

Any words of wisdom for younger bi people – or older ones?

Recognize that your sexuality is integral to who you are, and that accepting, embracing and being true to yourself is a necessary component of mental health and happiness. Do what you can to remove yourself from situations and people who cannot honor this, and find, and reach out to, the community that does. 

Would you like to help combat bi erasure and increase visibility of bisexuals over 50? There are plenty of us out there but far too many people don't know that. 

I am looking for more people to contribute their "email interviews" to this blog, as Harrie has done here. For more information about what to do, take a look at this post


Thursday, July 31, 2014

Looking for bisexuals over 50

Yes yes I know – I keep saying I am relaunching this blog and nothing happens. Blogging is difficult, people! Not blogging in the short term, but retaining motivation over years and years…. That’s tough!

So what I want to do is to ask you for your help. I really do think there is a gap when it comes to bisexuality and people over 50. Bisexuality is still connected in so many people’s minds to youth, deciding who you want to “settle down” with, experimentation. But it is so much more than that.

The Journal of Bisexuality – an academic journal, written mainly by and for people in universities – is currently seeking contributions to a volume on bisexuality and ageing. This is great as far as it goes.  But I know full well that this will not be accessible, especially in terms of language and cost, to people at large.

What I am going to do on this blog is to focus on the things that are important to bi people over 50 (or thereabouts). One of the ways I want to do this is to ask older bisexual individuals to be featured on this site via email interviews. We are so often invisible, both as bi people and those who are older, and any way that this can be counteracted  must be beneficial. So for this, there needs to be a format, and I have posted that below.

Would you, bi (or however you define yourself) person over 50, like to be on this blog? I can offer as much or as little anonymity as you like. If you could send a photo too, that would be great. You don’t have to be recognisable at all. No nudity though and no intricate sexual details in the text please.

Don’t post this in the comments, but put the information in an email to me at sues_new_email at yahoo dot com. I will get back to you as soon as I can.

Apologies to those people who agreed to do this last year. I hope I remember who you are, and I will contact you if I can find your details….


Format for interviews (please write between 600-800 words)
  • Basic demographics: (name or pseudonym), age, race, gender, occupation/prior occupation, country, living situation
  • How did you come to think of yourself as bisexual (or whatever label/non-label you use)?
  • What does being bisexual (or as above) mean to you?
  • Has this changed over the years, and if so how?
  • What do other people in your life know about your bisexuality and how do they react?
  • Looking back over your life so far, is there anything you wish you’d done differently?
  • What about your hopes or fears for the future (regarding bisexuality)?
  • Any words of wisdom for younger bi people – or older ones?

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Eight reasons why more women in the UK are having same-sex than they were 20 years ago

Women in the 1990s: less likely to have sex with other women
Over the past few days, there has been much discussion in the media about the British National Survey of Sexual Attitudes and Lifestyles.

Fifteen thousand people around the UK aged 16-74 were interviewed about various aspects of their sexual behaviour in 2010-2012.

This survey – the third, following previous surveys held 20 and 10 years ago – has had its headline results published in the Lancet

Out of all the interesting research published in the survey, the aspect that has been both under-discussed and is relevant for this blog is this: women are now four times more likely to say they had had same-sex activity than they were 20 years ago. (4% in 1990 to 16% in 2010)

Director of the research, Professor Kaye Welland, was reported in Pink News as saying that this was too big a change to be simply a difference in what women said. In other words, it was not just that they had changed their way of gathering data, or that the women were being more honest. Women actually ARE having more same-sex behaviour than they were 20 years ago. Much, much more.

It is not that women are necessarily having what they coyly describe as “genital contact” – that is only 8% or half of the women reporting same-sex contact - so what does “sex” mean here? And what’s behind the increase

Here are eight (connected) reasons why I think more women are having sex with each other. They are only theories, but they sound right to me. If you have any thoughts, I’d love to hear them. (I have comment moderation on, so please be patient if you post!)

Increased acceptability/less prejudice against women-women relationships
As well as the rates of same-sex going up, according to this survey, the percentages of people thinking same-sex relationships were always or sometimes wrong have gone down a great deal too. Women are more likely than men to think such relationships are acceptable – this has gone up from 28% in 1990 to 66% now. Relationships between women are more accepted than are those between men, especially by men, with 52% of men thinking that same-sex relationships between men are always wrong, and 48% that those between women are always wrong. In 1990, those figures were 78% and 76%.

More same-sex couples and individuals in the media
Oh yes. I mean, there’s even a UK bank ad featuring female identical twins one of whom has a female partner, the other a male. This is presented as no more of an issue than whether she does or doesn’t like swimming.

Lesbian power couple: Alice Arnold (left) and Clare Balding
There are more lesbian celebrities (Clare Balding, Sandi Toksvig etc) who are just there being presenters, comedians, newsreaders, and so forth. There are also bi celebrities (Jessie J et al) speaking about their interest in women.

More sex in general
Women are having more sexual partners in general than they were 20 years ago. The average for women aged 16-44 in 1990 was 3.7 and now is 7.7. So if there is more sex, there is also likely to be more same-sex too. There’s no research (that I know of, although you might) showing that women are more open and assertive in their sexual desires than 20 years ago, but I wouldn’t be surprised.

Internet dating
You are 25, you live in a tiny village where everyone knows everyone and no one available is of interest to you. But pop online, and dozens of potential partners of whatever gender you desire are just waiting. And you know they are interested in people like you – in terms of gender, looks, interest, what-have-you – because they say so. There may be problems of course, but “do they want to have sex with someone of my gender” isn’t one of them. There is a whole pool of sexual partners who simply would not have been available before. For older people, I think this is much more difficult but for reasons of age, not gender.

The lesbian community
Not so long ago, women usually had to be part of a lesbian community if they wanted women to be their sexual partners. Of course, some women didn’t do this: they happened upon each other by accident, or maybe were part of other radical political movements, or met through friends. But most did. While of course many women were happy in their lesbian community, it had its political, social and sexual norms which you had to adhere to. It didn’t always (and still doesn’t) welcome women who didn’t agree with those norms. Bi women in particular.

But to be fair, I think it is also true that some parts of the lesbian community, anyway, are more tolerant towards women who aren't 150% lesbian, though understandably perhaps not towards women who are "experimenting".

There are also now many more same-sex friendly communities – queer, poly, bi, kink, swinger, pagan, goth, BDSM, etc etc – where women can meet each other. Many of them were around 20 years ago too, but they are much easier to find now. And if there are more women having same-sex, the chances of you just coming across them in everyday life are that much greater.

I have no idea what proportion of women look at any kind of porn, but some of them will see other women having sex with each other on screen and start to fantasise about it themselves. I know this to be the case, because some have told me so. Of course, maybe their boyfriends have fantasies about this, or maybe they both do. Or maybe they think their boyfriends want them to (whether they actually do or not).  But maybe they have turned on their computers, gone actively searching for porn or found it by accident, and seen a woman who made them think…

For all of these reasons, women may feel it is less of a big deal to think about having sex with another woman and possibly to act on it.

Katy Perry

 “I kissed a girl and I liked it”
According to today’s colloquium on the survey, which I followed on Twitter through the hashtag #NATSAL, the increase in same-sex between women is because more of them are experimenting, rather than changing their identity [Though I don’t see why it is either experimenting OR changing your identity, or indeed what identity per se necessarily has to do with it at all]. Maybe they listened to the Katy Perry song.

In principle, I am in favour of young people experimenting, with the normal provisos of openness, honesty, safer sex, respecting your partner, and so on. But I still think the concept needs much more unpacking if nothing else than because “experimenting” implies something very trivial and meaningless. While sex can be both trivial and meaningless (as well the reverse), experimenting can be pretty damn serious.

Some women who start off with experimenting will go on to have more, deeper, relationships with other women. They may not call themselves lesbian, or bi, or indeed have the remotest interest in sexual identity or community, but “experimenting” doesn’t always start and finish with a bit of pawing in a club (pleasant though that might be).

Experimenting is just that – trying something out. You don’t necessarily know what the result will be. Your desires and fantasies are not always enough. You need to see whether what you have thought about really works for you – at this place, with this person, at this time in your life.

Performing bisexuality
I think some observers might count this as experimenting too. Yes, some heterosexual women are definitely kissing and groping each other in public, probably for attention, mainly from men. This was first spotted as a phenomenon around 15 years ago, and now seems pretty ubiquitous. The expectation is that this is all a bit of a joke, and that no “real sex” will occur.

But women who are doing this are not necessarily experimenting or even not properly into women. I was shocked (yes reader, I can still be shocked) by women I know to have had genuine relationships with women setting out to torment/arouse men by kissing other women in front of them.

So while I don’t dispute that more women may be sexually experimenting… can this really account for such a vast increase? It doesn’t seem likely. I think it is all of the reasons listed above.

Just for the young?
Given that I have, as I said in my last post, changed the focus of this blog to be on ageing, I do want to touch on what this might mean for us older women.

To start with, are these just young women having all this same-sex? Mostly, yes.

According to the statistics, when asked whether they’ve had any sexual experience or contact with another female, only 3% of women aged 65–74 said yes. It’s 7% for those aged 55–64, 9% aged 45–54, 12% 35–44, 18% women 25–34, and 19% 16–24. If the prevalence of same sex was constant, it would increase with age, based on the accumulation of experience. But the opposite is true. So among younger women, it’s either more common, or more honestly reported, or (as I would guess) both.

But I wonder whether older, previously heterosexual, women will start experimenting too (if not to such a great extent) as we grow and change and explore different opportunities in life. I have certainly read about women having their first female partners when they are 50+ and I am going to write about this phenomenon at some point.

In this survey, women did report “less sexual anxiety” as they got older, which can only be a good thing!

Another thing coming out of this survey is that men are now far less likely to report having same-sex behaviour than are women (7% - the same rate as in 1990 – compared to 16% for women). This seems very low.

So what does this figure mean? As the (male) commenters on the Pink News site above mention, that depends on so many things. One is certainly: “what counts as sex?”

To quote one commenter:

“In my experience more men than ever are having sex with other men. These men do not regard themselves as gay at all - they just think they are sexually adventurous. As for the anal aspect [there were very low rates of penetrative sex between men] that’s just a distraction thrown into the argument by heterosexuals. Most men who have sex with men have non-penetrative [sex].”

Many other men have said this to me over the years, and I’ll be writing about all of that in some future post.

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Bisexuality and ageing

Hello to everyone reading this blog

It has been a long time since I last posted here, longer still since I updated it regularly. There's a whole range of reasons for that - pressures of work and time, new forms of social media that make blogger look positively 20th century - but I've decided to give it another go.

There are many billions of words now online, even more are being written while you are reading this. There is too much out there to keep up with anything that doesn't really hit the mark for an individual reader. Or for an individual writer, particularly when she makes a living contributing to those too-many words, which is why I am changing the focus of this blog.

Who are you?

Looking at the stats for this site, most people come here for information about coming out. Next on the list is celebrities who may or may not be bisexual, or who may have said something about it.

I have nothing at all new to say about coming out, because I did that so long ago. (Even the repeated coming out that all out bi people deal with is simply part of my life.) In any case, the world people come out into now is too different for my initial experiences to be relevant.

So for information about coming out and celebrities, I recomment Twitter. Twitter works very well for responding to (for example) biphobia, homophobia, the various doings of various celebrities, etc. I can't keep up with celebrity doings, and really don't care what they do. But I can see that they are important for many, particularly young, people. If idiots post stupid things about bisexuality, then various bi people will point out the error of their ways far more quickly and forcefully than I would be able to do. And Twitter is also a great place for finding out about things too. 

But I am interested now in bisexuality and older people. For the sake of drawing the line somewhere, I'm calling "older people" anyone over 50. 

I am now in my 50s  myself, and what I have to offer the world of bisexuality (and what could possibly be called bisexual theory) is not necessarily what people coming to this blog are after. Nevertheless, blogs are for the writer as much as for the reader - unless you are specifically blogging for money - a way of clearing our thoughts, perhaps, and getting unmonetisable ideas out there.

My thoughts on bisexuality and middle-age/ageing/getting older are what I'll be writing about on this blog from now on. As you will see from the previous post, I did a talk at the University of Nottingham about my experiences of being an “older” bisexual. The site for that event, including the text of my talk, is here. My talk is 4,700 words long, so I'm not posting it in full as a blog post. It's a general talk (not giving away anything hugely personal!) and was designed to be heard in conjunction with Rebecca Jones' presentation on research into bisexuality and ageing. In brief: there isn't much of it.

I have recorded it on Soundcloud, in case you want to listen to my dulcet tones. It's about 25 minutes long and you can find it here.

I did interview - both on email and on Skype - some other bi identifying people over 50 and - surprise - they covered a range of different behaviours, feelings, and so on. But they pretty much all felt invisible, and that's not surprising because they are. 

There are actually many things that haven't really been discussed about sexuality of any sort and ageing, and I think about them more and more these days. I'll write about some of them here. I'll also write in more depth about the issues I addressed in my talk (so you don't need to read it/listen to it) if you don't want to!

But if you are a person of 50+ to whom the concept of bisexuality is personally important - however you identify sexually, as well as if you don't - then I'd love to hear from you. I know there are a lot more of us than we think!