Sam Harrington says bisexuality isn’t a phase, and it isn’t a synonym for promiscuous
Tammye Nash | Managing Editor
Samantha “Sam” Harrington has been in a committed relationship with a man — Tony — for more than four years now. But she still proudly claims her place in the LGBT community, although, she says, the community is often reluctant to claim her and other bisexual men and women.
Harrington said she didn’t begin to realize she was attracted to women as well as men until theater class her freshman year in college. “Before that,” she said, “I feared I was homophobic because of the ‘butterfly’ feelings I got when I was around other girls.”
But one day in theater class, she and the other students were participating in a movement exercise, and “I basically ended up straddling another girl in class who was a lesbian,” Harrington recalled. “I realized then that [the ‘butterflies’ were] attraction and that I had been trying to suppress it for years.”
Already a member of the gay-straight alliance on her campus — “I joined under the guise of being a straight ally” — Harrington said the GSA gave her the chance to come out as a bisexual.
Harrington, 26, lives in east Fort Worth, working as “a bookseller by day and a private tutor by night,” although she considers tutoring to be her primary job.
“I tutor students of all ages in numerous areas — elementary math, algebra and Euclidean geometry, in reading comprehension, literary analysis, grammar and writing, and in test prep” for the SAT, ACT and other such exams, she said.
In her spare time, Harrington makes wire jewelry by hand and sells it on Etsy and at craft shows. She is also part of a creative writing club and has recently been named as the book critic for a “soon-to-be-released” women’s magazine. “So I have been reading a lot of new books recently,” she added.
Instead, Harrington said, she considers herself “an intersectional feminist. So you could say that my belief in the intersections of race, class, gender, sexuality, etc., and my vocalness about those issues makes me somewhat of a private advocate.”
In other words, while she may not be out marching in the streets very often, Harrington considers the way she lives her life to be a kind of activism, in and of itself. And the activism started with coming out as a bisexual.
“In some ways,” Harrington said, “I think coming out as bisexual is harder [than coming out as gay or lesbian] because of the prevalence of biphobia in both the straight and gay communities. Many monosexual people assume being bisexual is ‘easier,’ since bisexuals can ‘choose’ to appear straight, based on their choice of partners, thus avoiding the stigma” gays and lesbians face.
But, she added, “It’s not quite that simple.”
Harrington explained, “From what I know of the process of coming out for gay and lesbian people, the anxiety over acceptance from the people you are coming out to is the same [for bisexuals]. Other than that, I find that generally, gay and lesbian people only have to come out once. After they are out, their partner choices visually represent their ‘outness.’
“But as a bisexual person, I find I am constantly coming out and having to convince people I really am bisexual,” she said.
Harrington said there are some definite similarities in the experiences of bisexuals and lesbians and gays. But there are some definite differences, too.
“Obviously,” she said, “we are all treated as ‘other’ by mainstream society. We share a common interest in marriage equality, and we would like to see an end to discrimination at the blood banks. But I think the similarities end there.”
Gays and lesbians, Harrington suggested, just face hatred and discrimination from straight society. But bisexuals are stuck in the middle, taking on fire from both sides.
“Bisexuals receive hate simultaneously fro the straight and the gay words,” she declared. “So we have a harder battle to fight to be understood and respected. We are belittled by people who say that bisexuality is a phase in the direction of homosexuality, or that it is a myth altogether. Our fight is about equal parts acknowledgment and acceptance.
Homosexual people only need to fight for the latter.”
But Harrington doesn’t believe that the battle for bisexual acceptance in the lesbian and gay community is just about shattering the myth that bisexuality is just a phase. It’s about overcoming actual hatred from people who should be allies.
“I have had too many homosexual people tell me to my face that I am a faker or a fence-sitter and that I need to pick a side,” Harrington said. She explained that she used to host a karaoke night at a local gay club and was often approached by women who wanted to know if she were gay or straight. “I would tell them I am bi, and they would react with disgust or frustration. I’d usually just shrug my shoulders and walk away.”
Harrington understands it’s not the whole lesbian and gay community is not biphobic. “My friends who are homosexual are beyond accepting, so I know not everyone thinks that way,” she said.
But the community as a whole has a long way to go. People need to understand, she said, that “Bisexuality is not a synonym for promiscuity, especially in my case of preferred monogamy. I love both chocolate and strawberry ice cream. But if I am actively involved in eating on, I will not be actively interested in the other at the same time.”
This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition June 19, 2015.