It all started with a tweet asking people to not call me a lesbian…
Recently, more than ever, sexuality has been a common conversation topic – in the media, in politics, in every day life. There are people who are very vocal about not supporting queer* folk: politicians attempting to pass bills about “gay rights” (because to many, queer people should have less rights than hetero-folk), small business owners refusing service to same-sex couples, and the endless trolling on social media. Because of this some people don’t come out, others live a low-key, ambiguous life hoping they won’t be targeted; others are loud about who they are. I am the latter. I’m the latter, but in a harmful way to myself and in the sense that I myself, a bisexual woman, perpetuate biphobia and bi-erasure.
Bi-phobia: Dislike of or prejudice against bisexual people. An aversion toward bisexuality and toward bisexual people as a social group or as individuals. It can take the form of denial that bisexuality is a genuine sexual orientation, or of negative stereotypes about people who are bisexual (such as the beliefs that they are promiscuous or dishonest). People of any sexual orientation can experience or perpetuate biphobia.
Bi-erasure: Bisexual erasure or bisexual invisibility is the tendency to ignore, remove, falsify, or reexplain evidence of bisexuality in history, academia, the news media, and other primary sources. In its most extreme form, bisexual erasure can include the denial that bisexuality exists.
When I first came out in 2016 I was late to the game. Most of my friends who are queer had come out in high school or at the very latest, early college years. In pure transparency I didn’t even question my sexuality until a month before coming out. I had recently started talking with a girl, which came to be by total mistake (tinder, wrong settings, right timing) and ended up developing an attraction to her both physically and romantically. I was not straight – and those are the exact words I used when I came out the first time.
I personally don’t like labels, society on the other hand does, so when my first girlfriend asked me “what I was” I said bisexual without even thinking about it. I had dated guys, and now I was dating a girl so what else could I be? (yes, I am now aware that sexuality is a spectrum which I will get to later on.) She was appalled to say the least and ended up breaking up with me shortly afterwards because of her distaste towards bisexuals.
Over the next few months, as I toggled through both sides of the dating pool, I learned exactly what biphobia and bi-erasure were. Words, that until then, I had no idea existed. I obviously knew about homophobia, dislike of or prejudice against homosexual people, but never heard of a hatred towards bisexuals. What was even worse, is that most biphobia in my experience come from the queer community.
My next girlfriend also was extremely bi-phobic. She believed that bisexual females were straight girls who just wanted to be different or interesting but would end up with a man as their life partner someday. She thought bisexuals were greedy, selfish, and more likely to cheat on their significant other. All of these things hold no more truth than saying that all straight people are greedy, selfish or more likely to cheat. I hadn’t told her that I was bisexual, and after knowing her opinion, I wasn’t going to.
From there on out anytime I would mention my sexuality I would use the word queer. Queer then switch to gay because to me it sounded more pleasing and I felt it encompassed who I was, how I identified, better than queer; everyone has a label they like more than another and gay was, and continues to be, mine. Because I was now using the word gay and multiple people in my life had told me things like “you’re just confused”, “it’s a phase, everyone goes through it in college”, and “you don’t know what you are or what you want” I started solely dating women. This is where I started becoming biphobic and playing into the bi-erasure we see happen more often than not.
I let other people determine my sexuality. While I never used lesbian to describe who I am, I allowed others to even if it made me slightly cringe. I would share memes about lesbian culture, and sometimes make a casual lesbian joke – especially when in a f/f relationship. Soon enough, I erased the fact I am bisexual. I put myself back into the closet because it was easier to conform to society than it was to correct people. It didn’t help that I had to go out of my way to make my sexuality known for I don’t “look” queer (whatever that means).
It wasn’t until a few months ago that I started being comfortable letting those close to me that I still was attracted to and interested in men. Some people were shocked, the same shock that was expressed when I first came out two years previously as not straight. After the initial “oh my gosh, you’re what???” no one really cared and because I wasn’t dating anyone or interested in anyone at the time, I didn’t feel the need to continue to let others know. I didn’t feel like coming out of the closest again. It was bad enough people thought I didn’t know what I wanted or who I was, but now I had to go explain to people that in a way, they were right. I let biphobia, my own biphobia, push myself from one closet to another.
Now, I strongly believe that no one should ever have to explain their sexuality, and that no one should care about another persons’ sexuality unless they’re trying to pursue a romantic and/or intimate relationship with someone, but for the sake of this piece and once again, transparency, I will explain my sexuality in hopes that it may educate some.
By definition, I am bisexual. I use the term gay because I have a preference towards women. This does not mean, however, that I no longer have an attraction to men. I do. I still find men attractive physically and have not written off the idea of dating a man in the future. For me, it’s been easier to form a romantic bond with women than it has been with men. That does not mean it won’t happen, or can’t happen. I’ve had romantic attraction towards men in the past, and potentially will in my future. Love is love is love – there’s nothing more, nothing less to that than what it is on the most basic sense for me.
Bisexuality, like sexuality as a whole, is a spectrum. It doesn’t mean half-straight-half-gay. It doesn’t mean confused. It doesn’t mean anything other than being sexually attracted to more than one gender. When it comes to bisexuality it isn’t being attracted to the “same and opposite” genders. I say this because it’s crucial we do not erase non-binary individuals from this conversation. For some, their sexuality is very immutable. For others, it’s fluid. It’s why people like myself use umbrella terms like queer or gay instead of having to tirelessly explain to people “what they are”. Whether a person has been involved with multiple genders or not, that doesn’t diminish their bisexuality. If someone has only dated the same gender, or only other genders, they are still valid in being bisexual. Bisexuality isn’t something “new” or a trend millennials started. Many celebrities and historic figures through out the ages have been bisexual – even if the term didn’t exist. Julius Caesar, the Roman political figure and general, was openly known to enjoy the company of both men and women. I don’t think Caesar was a millennial…
While I am not an expert on bisexuality or anything related to the queer community, I am a member of it. A proud member at that. I lucked out that I live in a society that is more accepting of queer folk than previous generations were. That doesn’t erase the fact that I still felt the pressure to conform to society’s views on what a gay woman, a bisexual woman, should be. That doesn’t erase the fact that I allowed myself to repress a part of who I am because I was too afraid to correct people in fear of judgement, in fear of losing another partner. I owe myself and my community an apology because while I would preach not to erase that bisexuality is a valid sexuality I was erasing my own bisexuality at the same time. For that, I am sorry and while I will still continue to use gay as a term to describe myself, I will make sure that I don’t feed into bi-erasure by allowing others to label me. I will continue to try to educate where I can. I will continue to be a bisexual woman, no matter who I date or what label I choose to use.