By Black Cat:
“So you are in a bisexual, polyamorous relationship?!”
I am sitting, pleasantly whiskey mellow at a friends’ fantastic Halloween party. It is 2018 and I have moved back to India after six years spent pursuing various law degrees and no jobs out in the UK. It’s towards the end of the night, where conversations get intimate and confessional. I have been talking to an adorable English guy who’s moved to Delhi a few months ago. His accent makes me homesick, but his grasp on my situation makes me grab him and shriek hysterically. We yell about being rainbow babies in Delhi. There is an immediate solidarity I have found in the LGBT+ spaces in India—a moment of “I see you. You see me. We are real, we are here, we are queer.” I tell him he knows the right words. I weave through the party, looking for my boyfriend. I want him to know that I found someone at this party who knows the right words.
I am far away from Edinburgh where I realised I was bi and met my girlfriend. Almost five years, through Edinburgh, London, LA, New York, and Delhi, we are still together. My first vague memory of her is of a blonde, green-eyed girl I turned to in a dorm meeting and asked if she wanted to get kebabs. She did. She also wanted to go on long, pointless walks, have me translate Bollywood songs and learn to say my name right. We have been dormmates, flatmates, best friends, fellow adventurers and escapists for six years.
I am also far away from London, where I first met my boyfriend in a lecture two years ago, informed him I was not just talking to him because he was Indian and then crushed hard on him for a year or so (my girlfriend realised before I did). I spent too many evenings on my couch or his, making him watch way too much Halsey, drank too much whiskey, were each others +1’s and safety blankets to all social events, resisted loving him because he was ‘too right’ and then jumped right off that cliff.
About 8 months ago, my girlfriend and I decided that we would stop talking about trying an open relationship and try to see if it was something that would work for us. The plan was to casually date around, test the waters, see how it made us feel and then veto anything that didn’t feel okay. I came home to India for a holiday, went on Tinder, checked the “interested in men” and “women” boxes and got to swiping. Though there will always be a never-ending debate between ‘bisexual vs pansexual’, I consider myself attracted to more than one sex—binaries have never been my thing. However, the privilege of being a cisgender, straight-passing woman meant that I have had the choice to come out when and if I wanted to. I hadn’t been on any dating apps seriously before, so it felt like a whole new world.
A whole new world filled with questions about my ‘real’ orientation, what an open relationship was, did I want to get together with couples? (Bi, consensually seeing other people, and No). As a queer woman on a spectrum for polyamory, the online dating experience was still restrictive at the time. There didn’t seem to be the right words. Luckily, positive changes are finally upon us. Back then, though, I had to go over my situation, again and again, keep educating people and explaining myself—all of which I was happy to do, but it got very exhausting, very quickly. It made me realise my privilege more sharply than ever. Even being bi, I didn’t have to explain myself over and over again nor justify my existence—not for the most part. But deviating from the mainstream—even in the queer experience, meant a whole lot of work and effort to just be seen.
Being bi has not been simple, but has been recognisable. There is some hostility in traditional queer spaces and a lot of erasure, but people are learning the right words for sexual orientation. However, the information (academic or otherwise) that we have on how binary thinking harms us all, not just those of us on the queer spectrum, is still very much restricted to queer spaces and/or academia. I didn’t realise how much I bought into some form of binary thinking until I realised polyamory and monogamy were just as much a spectrum as gender and sexual orientation. Until I had to start explaining the concept of this spectrum to everyone around me—friends, family, strangers on the internet. So the fact that Tinder is recognising that there are more than just two ways to exist, to be, to feel, is exciting to me. Queer culture in India is relatively reliant on dating apps for finding like-minded people. Widening the scope of how people can present and introduce themselves helps us all find, recognize and understand the right words – for ourselves and the world around us.
On the day Section 377 was read down, I woke to the news through my father—he sent me an article and told me he loved me. I am exceedingly lucky to have parents who will not always understand me but will always support me. After the reading down, moving back to India and leaving behind a life patchworked over six years has felt much easier. I have always been open with my friends and parents about being bi—with my extended family, less so. Section 377 changed that—it made me feel less anxious, less afraid, and finally gave me the right words to start a conversation. Again, this is an immense privilege that is easy to take for granted. But it felt like a start to something more significant, to normalising what had always felt normal to me. A more flexible approach to the self, others, and binaries is perhaps the way to creating an inclusive world, where everyone will just know the right words.
Although my boyfriend and I moved back to India at the same time, my girlfriend works in New York. I always joke that there was no way I could deal with two long-distance relationships. Funnily, the thing about love is that there is no black and white, no binaries and no absolutes you can put on it. However, finding the right words helps me, the people around me and the world, in general, to come to terms with myself. Almost 8 months into this polyamory business and I now know that I will deal with the emotional work of two long-distance relationships, all the feelings, all the hysterical 2 am fights (mostly from me, surprise surprise) and all the sheer effort. Because no matter how many people refuse to believe that I can love two people and that there is no ‘choice’ to be made, I would burn the world to the ground, do anything for these two. Anything that is, except give up coffee.