Exploring bisexuality in adulthood: “I enjoyed it like I hadn't done it in years”

Around 14% of people in Spain do not consider themselves heterosexual, according to the latest Ipsos Global Advisor survey (2023), one of the highest figures in the world.

Oliver Thansan
Oliver Thansan
01 April 2024 Monday 10:22
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Exploring bisexuality in adulthood: “I enjoyed it like I hadn't done it in years”

Around 14% of people in Spain do not consider themselves heterosexual, according to the latest Ipsos Global Advisor survey (2023), one of the highest figures in the world. The same survey indicates that 5% of the population considers themselves bisexual, an orientation that is much more common among the young population. Up to three in ten members of Generation Z (between 14 and 24 years old) do not consider themselves straight and those who define themselves as bisexual are six times more than in other generations. Among boomers, less than 3% of people say they are bisexual.

The Center for Sociological Research (CIS) prepares the Survey on post-pandemic social and emotional relations. In the last one, in March 2023, the percentage of respondents who declared themselves bisexual was 3.7%. From 34 onwards, the figure drops to 2.4% and reduces to a minimum of 0.6% as we move into higher age ranges. The numbers are low according to official surveys and the fact is that, due to the time in which they lived their youth, many bisexual seniors may continue to be in the closet. Those who have left or are in the process, how do they experience it?

Laura (fictitious name) lives in Barcelona and is dedicated to the performing arts. She is 56 and at 17 she fell in love for the first time with a woman, with whom he had a brief and intense relationship, which “ended very badly,” she tells us. Later she was with several men and had a long and stable relationship with one of them, the father of her son. In her maturity, again, an intense love arose for another woman, with whom she has been with for six years, and today Laura is clear about her bisexuality.

“When I was young the word “lesbian” was very big for me, today it doesn't matter to me, I have always fled from conventions. I fall in love with people and I don't care about their gender,” explains Laura  to La Vanguardia. She recognizes that in that second relationship with a woman, in adulthood, the experience has been calmer, calmer and safer. “This comes from experience. Age leads you to be freer, to not care what people say, to be more authentic,” she says.

Sexual orientation can change throughout life, it is not static or definitive. “Fluidity in orientation makes it possible that at a certain moment we feel attracted to people of a different gender than usual. Of course, there are people who will not experience this fluidity, but there are others in whom this process will occur. People often identify our gender or sexuality differently depending on the moment in life we ​​are in. It is something natural in human beings, and it must be welcomed and respected without criticism or judgment,” says Paloma Salamanca, psychologist, director of LTGB Psychology in Madrid, and specialist in gender, sexual orientation and transition processes.

Although it is true that the further we advance in life, “the more commotion that deviates from expectations can cause,” and the more difficult it can be to break patterns, in some cases sexual liberation comes in maturity, because this “entails a liberation from the prejudices, as well as the exploration of avenues in sexuality not related to reproductive areas, something more delicate to do, for example in the thirties, than in the 50s,” as Salamanca points out. “Perhaps the maturity and wisdom that comes with age can play in favor of a possible coming out of the closet,” she adds.

María (not her real name) is 57 years old. At 16 she began dating her ex-husband, and at 26 they married and had three children. “She pulled, pulled and pulled. I was doing what was socially marked, but I had always been curious about women, and I think that during my medical career I felt something special for a classmate.” She had one child after another, at quite young ages, “she only worked and raised, and didn't have time to think about anything else,” she explains to us.

Aware of the routine dynamic that his marriage had entered, when a major health problem occurred, he rethought his priorities. She asked her now ex-husband for a reaction, a change of outlook on life that never came. And, things in life, the opportunity arose to let himself be carried away by the enormous curiosity generated by a new person, this time a woman. “Suddenly that person lit me up.”

After discovering that she was experiencing an intense process of falling in love that prevented her from eating and sleeping normally, and that it was turning her life and feelings upside down, María decided to separate from her husband, after more than 30 years together, and embark on a new adventure. "What was happening to me was stupid, I couldn't do anything but leave home, I saw my husband as part of a team, nothing more." Now María has been married for three years to her new partner, her wife.

Although not everything in his experience was wonderful. That supposed bravery "also translated into shame, guilt, rejection from people I had loved very much, which shows that they didn't love me as much as I thought. The stigma was present. It was a very difficult process that made me appreciate the people much more. who stayed by my side (children, family, friends) and at the same time met fantastic people who are with me today," María admits.

Theirs is a story surprisingly similar to that of Tanit, (not her real name), although they live hundreds of kilometers away. Tanit lives in a town in the Balearic Islands, she is a civil servant and is separated - not yet divorced - from the man she married at the age of 25, after several courtships with male partners. She and her husband, with whom she maintains a good bond, have had three children who are now in their teens. They still don't know that Tanit has been in a relationship with a woman for a few months. “This person appeared in my life about eight or nine years ago. I was in crisis with my husband, and this relationship began to make its way, we saw each other more and more. At one point I realized that I was dreaming about her, I woke up thinking about her,” he confesses.

Tanit's environment has always been open, progressive. “I went to a school where in my time they already did sexual education, my mother had lived in a commune and was very hippie, we have always talked without taboos about sexual orientations and emotions with my children. Everything is allowed at home, but I had never considered any of this in my life. My grandmother, before she died at the age of 96, confessed to us that she regretted not having had any relationship with a woman! " But despite growing up in an advanced and liberal environment, Tanit had a sexual orientation crisis when he wondered if he was falling in love with a woman. “I thought she was progressive and now I find myself with this personal crisis, which has to do with the marriage crisis, and the feeling of vital failure. Now, with this relationship, I see that it is difficult for me to think that I can walk down the street openly with my new partner. “It is not as easy as I thought it would be,” he says.

In preparing this report we have tried to contact mature men and women who, currently considering themselves bisexual, have explored that option or orientation for the first time already at a certain age, from 55 years old. Surprisingly, even when contacting LGTBI entities and associations, getting to speak with a man who met these characteristics has been more than difficult. Through the Señores Bi-en Instagram group we located Xevi, who lives in Girona, is 62 years old and has considered himself bisexual since he was 25 years old.

“At that time, flirting with men was very difficult, and even more so in a rural environment,” she confesses. That's why, despite having been with a man at some point, she lived as a heterosexual until recently. He had two young partners as a teenager, he was married for 12 years to a woman whom he divorced and remarried his current wife, with whom he is about to celebrate 30 years of marriage and with whom he has three sons. “The moment you have a family, you disconnect from everything else, although I have always been aware that I am attracted to certain men's bodies,” he says. Upon reaching a certain age, however, Xevi felt more and more the need to live that part of sexuality that he had never explored.

“At 60 – two years ago – I told my wife that I needed to live this facet of my life. At first she was shocked and it seemed that the only way out we had would be separation. But once the initial shock passed, she told me that although she knew it was not going to be easy, she was willing to accompany me in this process,” says Xevi, who assures that he and his partner have talked “more than a thousand hours” about everything. this matter. “We got advice at Casal Lambda about opening the couple on my part, with the respect of my wife. We've both read a lot about bisexuality and consensual non-monogamous relationships. It is being a process with ups and downs, but with a lot of transparency and trust between us. Now I have a friend with whom we have sexual encounters, of which my wife is aware. It's not a polyamory story because I don't feel love for this other man. With my wife we ​​have very well defined rules on both of our parts. Few people would allow me all this, I am aware that my wife loves me very much and she is a very generous person, with a very open mind and we both appreciate that our relationship as a couple is now much better,” he confesses.

Are there fewer bisexual men than women at these ages? Data analysis on this issue is difficult, but in 2020 the macro-survey of the European Agency for Fundamental Rights interviewed around 20,000 people in Spain. Bisexual men - regardless of their age - were, of the entire LGTBI group, those who to a lesser extent said they were completely out of the closet: only 8% compared to 38% of gays, 35% of lesbians, 14 % of bisexual women and 16% of trans people.

“Bi women are more visible than men. The taboo that they have to break to have sexual relations with other men is much greater, it is much more socially penalized,” says sexologist Paloma Salamanca. Ignasi Puig Rodas, clinical psychologist, sexologist, couples therapist, activist and popularizer of alternative sexualities, speaks in the same sense. “Bisexuality is much more common in people who identify as women. There is a great taboo with bisexuality in the male population, which makes it very polarized: heterosexuals consider themselves terribly heterosexual and gay men, once they come out of the closet, do not like women at all.

According to Puig Rodas, studies on the subject show, in case dispersion cloud graphs, that “men are concentrated at the extremes of sexual orientation, either very heterosexual and not at all homosexual, or the other way around, very homosexual and nothing heterosexual.” In women the distribution is much more distributed, and the spectrum of bisexuality is much broader. “If you also add the age variable… Which people will be analyzed to see if they identify as bisexual or homosexual? It is much more common to do so in adolescence than in adulthood. Only those who are in a vital moment of change, in an age crisis, when they consider what they do with their life, fulfill pending life experiences, will do the reflection,” adds the sexologist and researcher. “In the case of men, it is very rare for them to do this rethinking; they are more likely to come out of the homosexual closet,” he concludes.

The writer and activist Elisa Coll Blanco, author of books such as Bisexual Resistance, is clear that bisexuality had been erased from the LGTBI movements and from discourses on sexual orientation. “If many of us in our 30s or 40s are coming up with a definition of the word bisexual in which we feel we fit, and it seems to us that we do so late, imagine the older people! Older lesbian women admit to me that, indeed, if they had been familiar with this term, they would have built themselves from there, but they have already lived their entire lives as lesbians.” They are people who have lived as homosexuals because they have not even considered the option of bisexuality.

The testimonies in this report that have effectively explored bisexuality in adulthood, live it fully and optimistically. Laura believes that her relationships with women have been more evolved. “I have looked for a bond without prejudice, without machismo, crossing barriers, unconditional love… I have found that more in a woman, but it is not always like that. "I think it is complicated - not impossible - for total equality to exist in a heterosexual relationship because gender roles are established."

María gives her advice to anyone who finds themselves in the same situation. “They have to allow themselves to live what they feel. Ever since I met my wife, she constantly asked me what I had been missing. With my female partner I resurfaced, I became excited again, I felt my heart beat again, I felt like seeing my partner again even if it were just a few minutes,” she explains. Having sexual relations for the first time with someone of the same sex when you are already of a certain age can feel like something shocking or unusual, strange, atypical. But it can also be perceived as stimulating, exciting and tempting. “Everything went very well, it was fantastic,” she says.

Psychologist Paloma Salamanca recommends that anyone who has the need and desire to explore other sexual orientations allow it. "There is only one life. Exploring in conditions of safety and freedom, with respect for myself and others, can bring wonderful experiences.” This is what María has felt, and she describes the experience as magnificent, disinhibiting, a moment of “letting go.” “It made me feel very good, I enjoyed it like I hadn't in years. What a shame to have missed it for so many years! ”She thought. She assures that she understands perfectly with her wife, as she had never done with her ex-husband. “It is a question of open-mindedness, of sensitivity. I got tired of being with a man, the sex was very basic. Now we explore, we flow in all aspects. And the truth is that I don't know why this happens," reflects María, who dares to venture that the bisexuality or homosexuality of women will increase every day - as the official statistics on sexual orientation point out -.

As Xevi says, letting time pass and dying without thoroughly experiencing one's sexuality is not the same as giving up on a trip or another type of experience. It is something much deeper, an intimate aspect related to one's own identity. “Now, when I talk about it, I feel like a more complete person, putting my bisexuality aside, I felt a lack.”