Fluidity and phases: How to navigate the identity binary

Alyssa Jingling

I’m lucky enough to have never needed braces. I’ve got great teeth — naturally pretty white, and all except one are uncrooked. I was probably about 16 years old when I started comparing my teeth to me — white and straight, except for that one tooth that had a crush on Scarlett Johansson.

Well, the joke’s on me. My teeth have remained unchanged, but I’m now a proud (and single! Hey, ladies!) lesbian. I went through the most logically sequenced phases to get to this point. Straight to a little bisexual to maybe 50/50 to pretty-gay-but-boys-are-still-in-there to lesbian. I am always hesitant to tell people this because I am afraid it reinforces the idea that being bisexual is “just a phase.” But it was a phase, at least for me. Why is this such a bad thing?

Here in the United States, we’re very polarized in our thinking. You’re either conservative or liberal. Straight or gay. Cisgender boy or cisgender girl. God forbid you come out as moderate, bisexual or genderqueer. An especially heinous crime is being fluid in any way.

We prefer when bisexuals pick a side. It makes us uncomfortable to see someone with a guy and then a girl. Sometimes I’ll see an old friend or peer I haven’t caught up with in a while, and I’ll catch myself thinking, are they still bisexual? Mind you, I don’t think this about people I know are straight or gay, just the bisexuals. It’s the same with gender nonbinary people, too. Even though I don’t believe it anymore, I still have internalized the idea that somehow not fitting into a social binary is an immature call for attention. 

Phases and transitions are completely valid, and spending your whole life in a dynamic state of transition is valid. They’re definitely connected, too. Once you accept that phases are normal for change — and that change is a good thing — it’s far easier to accept that some people, unchangingly change. 

My straightness and bisexuality in high school were completely valid. I liked all of my ex-boyfriends. They weren’t “beards.” 

When I was a teen, I also thought that Breton stripes were the peak of fashion and John Green was the peak of literature. Again, I’ve since changed, but those opinions were still valid. I embrace who I was because it made me who I am now. I had my bisexual phase, and it was terrifying and heartbreaking and wonderful. 

As a member of the LGBTQ community, I have a duty to recognize and call out biphobia when I see it. It’s a particularly insidious phobia because of how deeply we have internalized polarizations in our society. 

Embrace liking a politician’s stance on immigration but not their fiscal policies. Allow multiracial people to take pride in all of their ethnicities. Educate yourself on different gender identities and expressions. Be metacognitive — recognize when and where you assume that someone is straight or gay, and allow space in your thoughts for bisexuality. Gently, kindly call people out when they do the same! 

Use gender-neutral terms when asking your friends about their crushes. Support TV shows and other media that accurately portray bisexual characters. Of course, use your voice when someone mocks or degrades bisexual people.

Not to keep revisiting the fact that I was once 16, but I remember a Tumblr post that said “the moon has phases but it’s still literally always the moon.” Just because the moon is a waxing gibbous right now doesn’t mean it wasn’t once a new moon, and it doesn’t mean that it won’t soon be a full moon. All of these phases are beautiful and important, and we look forward to stepping out at night and seeing where it is. 

Be like the moon. Let others be like the moon. What I’m trying to say is that it’s perfectly fine if you once identified as bi and now you don’t, but it’s also valid if you identify as bi forever, embracing the in-between. 50/50 forever, 70/30 sometimes, whatever — acknowledging sexual fluidity is a sign of self-assuredness and maturity, not a cry for attention. 

Love your life’s phases, for they shaped you into who you are now, and they’ll propel your changes for the future.

Jingling is an english senior.