Content Warning: biphobia

I'm bi. To quote myself from 8 years ago, aged 15: "Ok, I'm attracted to girls, in a different way from boys."

That's nothing unusual: I've met and read the blogs of loads of bi people who are attracted to different genders in different ways, in different intensities, at different times, who choose to ignore attraction to one gender altogether … you get the picture. I am a little bit of an oddity, though, in that although I'm romantically attracted to all genders I've ever come across, I'm only sexually attracted to women.

There are a few names floating around the internet for this differentiation of romantc and sexual attraction. Mixed orientation, mismatched orientation, cross-orientation, split orientation, attractions not congruent and varioriented. As you can see, people tend to make up their own terms! I like mixed orientation, personally.

It is getting a lot more common for people to describe their different orientations using the x-romantic x-sexual terminology popularised on asexuality sites such as AVEN. Any sexuality label currently existing can be combined to describe how people feel, even supposedly counter-intuitive ones like heteroromantic homosexual. Personally, I call myself a biromantic homosexual.

A lot of people whom I've explained the whole attractions thing to get very confused, because they see the two as inextricably tied together. For them, they obviously are, and for me they are just as obviously not.

Looking back on it, it should have been obvious that there was something different about my attraction to boys as opposed to girls pretty much as soon as my libido woke up at 15. Though I had had several intense crushes on boys since the age of 9 I had never fantasised sexually about them – to the point where I briefly at 13 identfied as asexual because I knew that I wasn't feeling sexual attraction and that people "should".

My first crush on a girl changed all that! Not only did I display all my familiar crush signs – admiring them, inner squealing if we touched, finding EVERYTHING they said funny, and just generally being a bit daft – but I was also fantasising about them. A lot. As explicitly as a girl who had never watched anything vaguely erotic could do. So I immediately and comfortably identified as bi, and didn't initially worry too hard about the clear differences in attraction. It was there, but it didn't really matter because I never ended up in a relationship with anyone of any gender. Here's some of my 16 year-old thoughts on the matter:

"[W]hat's attraction, anyway? Wanting to kiss someone? Wanting to sleep with them? Just simply wanting something, but you don't know what, and you don't know what the feeling is either?

When I say that I like boys and girls, I mean it in different ways. Sexually, except not sexually ... 'cause that's too old for me xD ... you know, physically, that's the word, it's girls every time. But boys, that I fancy, make me laugh!

If I told someone that having L. (my on-off crush since I was 11) leaning across to help me with my Music composition so far as to be virtually in my lap made me feel weird, it'd be: straight.

If I told someone that H. standing so close to me that her breast and side are pressed against mine also makes me feel weird: gay. If I told someone about both, :bi.

But then, if I told them that I could never imagine going futher than a peck on the cheek with him and yet could think about further with her - well, they'd probably call me confused."

Then I went to university. The LB friends I tried to explain my sexuality to called me things like "basically a lesbian", "close enough". At 20 I was starting to properly fret, starting to worry about my "ethereal and indefineable" attraction to men, and whether it was "continued conforming to societal norms from seven years in the closet". (God, never reread your old LiveJournal, folks.) Was my thing for two men together simply the objectifying result of reading slash fanfic throughout my formative teenage years?

Because a man and me really didn't do it for me.

Bi didn't feel right because to me it implied sexual attraction to men, lesbian wasn't right because I still had some sort of attraction to men ... I dithered over whether or not to identify as "queer" but decided it was useless as a label because no-one knew what it meant.

It wasn't until I happened across AVEN (doing fanfic research, of course...) that I found and really engaged with the x-romantic x-sexual terminology. There were even FAQ to help you identify what was romantic attraction, what was sexual attraction. I could finally describe what I felt. And what's more, I could describe it using existing words, which made it easier for others to understand what I meant. Now don't get me wrong, people still didn't and still don't understand, because as I mentioned above, if you don't experience romantic and sexual attraction separately then they feel linked together and people don't seem able to imagine them apart. But some people understand, thanks to that terminology.

Of course, that terminology also causes problems. Problems with using the homophobically medicalised term homosexual (which I use as a descriptor) and the community term lesbian (which other varioriented people use), and problems because some people believe that having separate attractions doesn't exist and that, wait for it, I'm just "confused'. I can be "one of those straight girls" or a lesbian affected by compulsory heterosexuality, or even an actual bisexual who "chooses not to sleep with men", but in no way are my feelings real. Oh how familiar. How biphobically fantastically familiar.

Part of the reason that I cared so much about other people understanding my label is for the same reason that "bisexual" had felt wrong as a teenager – I'm not sexually attracted to men and I knew that the common perception of bisexual was that I was. It is very important to me that men realise I don't have any sexual attraction towards them. Saves a lot of … problems. As well as that, I only have sexual attraction towards one gender. Bisexual didn't seem to imply that, either.

Of course, since then I've got involved in the bi community on Tumblr and on Facebook, and have recently been to my first BiCon, and I know that I fit comfortably and completely into the bi community.

I am bi. But there's a bit more to it than that.

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24, recently graduated with an MA. Unemployed and sad about it, biromantic and proud of it.