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“Sexual fluidity has been defined as a capacity for situation-dependent flexibility in sexual responsiveness, which allows individuals to experience changes in same-sex or other-sex desire across both short-term and long-term time periods,” writes Doctor Lisa Diamond in her paper Sexual Fluidity in Male and Females. “The existence of sexual fluidity does not imply that […] sexual orientation does not exist. Rather, it indicates that sexual orientation does not rigidly predict each and every desire an individual will experience over their lifespan.” 

Despite the paper’s somewhat (!) cis-centric title, it nevertheless takes an interesting look at the love which really doesn’t dare to speak its name – because what’s its name anyway? When your straight female best friend sleeps with your mutual gay male friend, or your mother leaves your father after 40 years of marriage to run away with a woman she met online, is it because they were hiding their true sexualities – or is the truth a bit more complicated?

Plenty of boys

This is a subject close to my heart. When I was 14 I came out as a lesbian. As you can imagine, dear reader, this went down like a pile of elephant shit under Section 28 (or at least Kent County Council’s version of it) in a strict all-girls grammar school. But I digress. Fast forward to university in London and I slowly shed the head-to-toe labryses and “Girls Who Do Girls” t-shirts and started looking at men as well as women. I had met plenty of boys back in Kent (they do actually have them there) but something had just changed. And at the ripe old age of 38, I have recently felt my eyes turn towards women and non-binary people again, probably in preference to men. The thing is, whoever you prefer to look at in the street isn’t the same as the person you love – whatever gender they are.

Jennie, 29, left her husband for another married woman last year. “Our friends were all shocked and immediately took his side. One even said to me that it was ‘so much worse than if it had been another man’. When I asked why she just ignored the question.” Jennie still considers herself straight despite her current relationship, she just feels her partner is “the exception”. And while she’ll happily attend Pride marches holding hands, she explains “I haven’t been through the same things that most LGBT people have and I don’t feel comfortable claiming the same rites of passage.”


Alex’s situation has some parallels to Jennie’s – except he doesn’t fancy anyone at all of the same sex. The 20-year-old describes himself as “a straight man who has sex with men”. He jokes “all the gay porn stars are doing it, so why not me?” Alex finds that gay men are attracted to him as “the ultimate one-night stand”. And why’s that? “Because I’m never going to fall in love with them,” he answers bluntly. 

Rachelle, 39, believes that being demisexual – i.e. attracted to people only after an emotional connection is formed – is part of the reason her sexuality is fluid. “I’ve had friends tell me that if I have to wait and see if I like someone then I don’t like them, I just think that I do,” she says. “However, most of the time I’ve only known that I’ve fancied someone after meeting them about four times. People seem to find the demisexual thing more confusing than my bisexuality.”

Late life lesbian

Outside parties often all too keen to define those who identify as bisexuals by whatever partner they have at the time. “Because I started my only long-term, serious relationship with a woman in my late 40s, I was perceived by many people around me (who had forgotten that I was bi) as a ‘late life lesbian’,” sighs Maria, 59. “Something similar also happened with a friend of mine (who is pansexual). She had been married to a man since she was 20 (she’s in her early 40s now). About five years ago, that marriage ended, and she had a girlfriend for three years. The friends in her circle (aside from me) were doing the ‘late-life lesbian’ thing. Then that relationship ended, and now she has a boyfriend, and is still pan…”

There’s a particular stigma attached to “relationship-hopping” when it involves more than one gender, but as these case studies show, it doesn’t always have to mean you’re more likely to cheat or run off than someone with a rigid attraction to one gender. And even if you are “straight” or “gay”, you never know what might happen next. As The Kinks sang, “It’s a mixed up, muddled up, shook up world…”

Dolphins love having lesbian sex, apparently. Here ya go.

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Charlotte Dingle

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