Hey friends, we need to talk.
What, you ask, is so urgent?
BISEXUALITY. That’s what.
Now, don’t get nervous. I know it’s scary, but this needs to happen. Are you ready? Here goes.
First things first: WE EXIST! Widespread denial of bisexuality isn’t just an issue among heterosexuals, but it is an endemic and pernicious problem within the LGBTQ community as well. Bisexual invisibility and erasure stems from a lot of internalized homophobia and misogyny, and that has very real consequences for people’s identities and relationships, including my own.
Among bisexual men and women, there’s a whole range of experiences out there. We come in all different shapes, sizes, hairstyles, AND genders. If this is new information for you, don’t worry, even the New York Times was confused about it. Some bisexuals date women/feminine-of-center people most of the time, others date men/masculine-of-center people most of the time, while still others like a nice mix of everything. There’s no magic bisexuality threshold. If one person’s mix is 50/50 and another’s is 90/10, neither one is more authentically bisexual than the other. Some are monogamous, and some are polyamorous — just like straight and gay people! All of us think it’s none of your damn business.
In my experiences as a femme, monogamous, bisexual cis woman, I feel I operate in two spaces simultaneously. The first presumes heterosexuality, and my heterosexual experiences sometimes allow me to safely navigate within this space towards acceptance with open arms. The second presumes homosexuality, within which I’m constantly trying to prove that I’m queer enough to be part of the club. When I try to be upfront about my bisexuality in either realm, I get tossed between the two.
In the volley back and forth, one message becomes abundantly clear: if you’re a woman, the straight world fetishizes you. The queer world doesn’t trust you. If you’re a man, they think you’re just transitioning towards gay. Both think you’re probably a liar and unsure of what you want.
It was that distrust and erasure of bisexuality that made my coming out process take three times longer than it should have. Between the ages of 14 and 21, every passing crush meant its own miniature identity crisis. Even with all the sexuality trainings I went through with my high school’s gay-straight alliance I couldn’t shake my own deeply internalized ideas about bisexuality; that bisexuality was for people who wanted attention or for those who weren’t ready to come out yet as gay. My parents were supportive when I came out to them at 17, but then I started seriously dating a woman at 21, they freaked out as if I was kidding for the past four years. They’re incredibly supportive now, but it was a process.
As I grew more comfortable and open about my sexuality, I eventually met other super awesome, comfortable, and open bisexual men and women. I also encountered a LOT of really stupid stuff – ranging from the straight boys who’d tell me how hot it was to the lesbians who treated me like the Imaginary Awful Slutty Cheating Bisexual Girl Who Is Probably Straight Anyways. I reached a point where I considered dropping “bisexual” altogether because it had too much baggage. Queer and pansexual didn’t really resonate with me at the time, so I tried to be creative with half-gay and doublesexual, but neither of those really stuck.
Don’t get me wrong. I am realistic about the fact that I get to enjoy straight privilege sometimes. I also realize that bisexual men experience erasure, hatred, and biphobia much more often and in different ways than bi women. However, that doesn’t invalidate or inauthenticate the disorientation, confusion, and fear that I felt while coming out. Neither does it make the harassment I do face less of a problem.
As Mikró Blogol writes, “laws targeting homosexuality don’t make exceptions for the bisexuals who are caught having sex or relationships with members of their own gender.” Neither do individuals. If I walk down the street holding my girlfriend’s hand or give her a kiss in public, my bisexuality doesn’t keep me from getting sexually harassed. It doesn’t make it suck any less, either.
It’s an easy cop-out to say that it’s not as bad for bisexuals because they could just as easily have decided to date someone of the opposite sex. But let’s break that down for a second. “You could just as easily date a (wo)man.” “(S)he’s only bi for attention; (s)he’ll end up with a (wo)man.” Doesn’t that sound strangely like ALL of the heteronormative bullshit that gays and lesbians get?
And speaking of heteronormative bullshit, queer and straight people, I’d like to take this opportunity to answer a few of your more pressing questions:
- No. I’m not going to go back to dating dudes just so you can continue believing in a binary system of sexual orientation.
- No, I don’t date boys and girls at the same time, I’m monogamous. I understand that a lot of your biphobia is actually misplaced polyphobia. That doesn’t make it any better.
- No, I will not have a threesome with you. I have certain criteria for threesomes and hetero-couple-seeks-lesbian-fantasy-experience does NOT fit that list. Neither does I-wanna-watch-my-girlfriend-fuck-another-girl.
- I fall in love and lust with men because I fall in love and lust with men. Not because I’m trying to break a poor lesbian’s heart or submit to the patriarchy.
- I fall in love and lust with women because I fall in love and lust with women. Not because I want the attention.
Just like homophobic comments can push people further into the closet, biphobia encourages people to feel rejected and hide their sexuality. When this rejection comes not just from unenlightened heterosexuals but from the very community we’re supposed to be a part of, it’s especially disorienting. So the next time you catch yourself thinking bisexuals don’t exist, consider this: maybe they do exist and they just don’t want to tell you.