On being bi and why it’s none of your business
Lately, I’ve become more attuned to bisexual erasure, more so because I’ve been asked questions to ‘prove’ my sexuality, which shouldn’t be anyone’s business anyway. A lot of people tend to say “you’re not bi because you’ve never been with a woman/man” and this is primarily what this piece is about.
It wasn’t long ago where I was told I’m not bisexual because I’ve never had sex with a woman—“it means I can say I’m an astronaut even though I’ve never been to space. It doesn’t make sense. How do you even know you’re bi if you’ve never had sex with a woman?”
Well, to this point I’ll argue: a lot of heterosexual people know they’re straight even when they’re virgins. Why are their sexualities never questioned? There’s this double standard at play, erasing bisexuality from the community. The B in LGBT+ fucking stands for bisexual!
If straight people are intrinsically aware of their attraction to people of the opposite sex, without having engaged in sexual activities, I don’t see why the same doesn’t apply to bisexual people. I know I am attracted to both men and women, and I shouldn’t have to prove that. My sexuality is valid even without having engaged in sexual acts with a woman and it is still valid despite being in a straight relationship with a cishet man.
Undeniably, being in a heterosexual-appearing relationship, I am not subject to sexualisation and fetishisation by gross people, men in particular, or homophobic abuse. But bisexual erasure is real, and this is significantly detrimental, because bi people are already at higher risk of mental health problems like anxiety, depression etc, in comparison to gay, lesbian and straight people. Bisexual women are twice as likely as their straight counterparts to face domestic abuse from a partner (The Office of National Statistics, 2018). Whilst I am confident my partner is a loving and caring man with no violent thoughts towards me, or anyone else for that matter, I know this is something many women experience and is just one part of the problem [bisexual] women face.
“Identifying as bisexual often feels like you’re stuck in limbo—not “gay” enough for some, and not “straight” enough for others,” Kyli Rodriguez-Cayro wrote in an article for Bustle. In this article for the Huffington Post, Rob, 41, said “Bi erasure may seem like a small problem but it is thought that bi-invisibility is one of the reasons that, according to several reports, bisexuals have higher rates of depression, anxiety, self-harm and suicide than straight, gay and lesbian people.” Bisexual people often face biphobia from a community they should feel safe in, and from heterosexual people, which can increase the chances of depression. A report by Stonewell found bisexual people came out worse off than other sexualities on the topics of mental health, such as anxiety, suicidal thoughts and self harm. Mental health within the LGBT+ community cannot be spoken about without mentioning bisexuality.
There is definitely more inclusion of bi characters in the media, which has been amazing to see. Going through the journeys of these characters, like Casey from Atypical and my old favourite, Callie Torres from Grey’s Anatomy, is amazing, refreshing and relatable. Bisexuality makes up a large number of the LGBT+ community, yet it is the sexuality held back from the conversation and sidelined, always questioned.
Being told by a straight person that I can’t claim to be bisexual because I’ve only ever been with men, or that I was just saying it to jump on the bandwagon and seem edgy, made me reflect on the need for proving your sexuality to other people, despite sexuality, in my opinion, being inherently personal; it shouldn’t have to be proven to others in order to be acknowledged or respected. Because of this, I reached out to other bisexual people in straight-appearing relationships about their experiences.
A little warning: I spoke to a fair number of people, with some pretty amazing responses, so this is going to get pretty long.
Question: When did you realise you were bisexual and what was this realisation like for you?
Tabby: I started to think I might be when I was about thirteen years old, and came out at fifteen, once I’d decided I was sure—it was pretty confusing because until high school I’d never heard the term ‘bisexual’—I thought people were either gay or straight, so having a crush on a girl from school or a female celebrity (while knowing I also had crushes on boys) left me unsure of myself. I’d definitely had childish crushes on other girls when I was at primary school, but was very confused about what that meant and to be honest, I just thought that maybe everyone felt that way about their ‘best friend’ or close friends.
It was actually via social media that I found out that some people are attracted to both men and women, and I made friends with other teenage bisexual people—the MySpace era! You could set your profile to say ‘interested in men and women’ rather than one or the other, and seeing that on the page of a girl I knew (and quite fancied, if I’m honest) enabled me to strike up a conversation, which led to me meeting friends she’d found who were also bisexual or questioning.
I’m really lucky that I was able to hang out with other teenagers who were either bisexual or questioning their sexuality as I was growing up—it didn’t completely stop me feeling like an outsider at school, where some girls wouldn’t get changed near me in PE class because they thought I’d be trying to cop an eyeful, but it meant that I was able to build a close group of friends in the same boat who I could spend time with and feel like I was normal.
Kirsty: I think I realised I was bisexual when I was finishing up high school. I had only ever had boyfriends up until that point, so for a long time I wondered if it was just a phase or if my feelings were actually real. Over the last few years, especially since having been at university and meeting more people from different walks of life, I feel as though my feelings have gotten stronger and I feel more assured of my sexuality than ever.
Dylan: When I was at college, I had a bizarre relationship/friendship thing with someone, which was generally quite unhealthy; however they did really help me with realising I was bisexual. This realisation did help me place a part of myself that I had never really put much thought to, as I had pretty solely had sexual experiences or relationships with women up until that point.
To tell you the truth, being bisexual is such a part of who I am. I don’t really remember a time when I wasn’t bisexual, and I think that’s because I don’t associate myself with the version of me that I was before I went to college and had these realisations.
Rachel: So I had this huge crush on a girl at school—and, I would say, a thing about me that doesn’t apply to all bisexuals is I . . . never really questioned if I was a lesbian; like, I felt very aware I was attracted to men, it was just a question of if I was also attracted to women. So I had this huge crush on this girl when I was twelve, and remember being like, to myself “oh my god, am I bisexual?!” but then I just sort of . . . shoved it down and ignored it for a while and then two years later, when I was fourteen, was the point where I just hit that point of feeling unable to reject or ignore it anymore.
Sophie: I think I have always known, I don’t remember a moment of realisation. For the longest time, I thought people just chose, like that everyone was attracted to men and women (I still had a binary understanding of gender, but that was middle school) and then picked who they dated, or had a slight preference towards one or the other. And then at like fourteen, I realised that wasn’t the case, and so I concluded I was bi. So this was not a shocking realisation or anything, it’s more that as I became aware that I had a sexuality, I became aware that I was bi.
Natasha: In retrospect, my attraction to girls started when I was about ten, but I didn’t know what lesbianism or bisexuality was so I thought what I was feeling was “wow that girl’s really pretty, I wish I looked like her”. I also had a lot of obsessions with female singers that again, looking back, were obviously celebrity crushes. I didn’t fully acknowledge I was bisexual until I was about fifteen though.
Alison: I realised I was bi when I kissed a girl I knew (not a friend) at a house party and got turned on by it
Bobbie: I think I’ve been attracted to women for as long as I can remember but was confused because I was also attracted to men. I grew up hearing that bisexuality was something that people were before they fully came out as gay, or people who were bi were greedy. Hetero relationships were so normalised that I just assumed that I was straight.
Question: When did you come out? What was the reaction like from people?
Tabby: I was fifteen, I think, and it was a mixed bag. My close friends obviously already knew, but kids at school were fairly split between thinking it made me some kind of sexual freak who was going to perv on all the girls (mostly other girls, with this attitude) and being quite curious and asking me questions about it (namely a few boys who were in some of my classes). The boys were mostly excited at the idea there was a girl they could discuss their crushes with as if I was ‘one of the lads’, but with the bonus of being able to offer a female perspective on dating.
One of my family members had the interesting reaction of telling me that there wasn’t really any such thing as bisexual people, and made up a statistic that less than 0.0005% of people thought they were bisexual and therefore I was just confused and should stop being so attention-seeking. I never told my grandparents, who may have taken the news differently, but thankfully I never had any of the real horror stories you hear about coming out—confusion and disbelief, sure, a little high school bullying, but on the whole people treated me more as a curiosity than an aberration, which is nice. A couple of family members basically just said ‘okay then!’ and cracked on as if nothing had changed, which it hadn’t really, and I’m thankful for that.
Kirsty: I never really felt the need to ‘come out’; I had always assumed that my comments on loving other women and appreciating feminine beauty meant people already assumed. The day I ‘came out’ to my mum and sister, unfortunately, wasn’t a very positive experience. I wonder perhaps if that experience has inhibited me from ‘coming out’ to other people, I would rather not make a big deal out of things. Things have changed a bit since I have come out and I feel my mum and especially my sister are more open minded but I tend to steer clear of the subject because of the negative experience I had when I have spoken about it before.
Dylan: Almost all of my friends are in the LGBTQ+ community in some way or another, and a pretty large subsection of them are also bisexual, so coming out didn’t really feel like something I needed to do, given I knew I was accepted anyway. I have also been very lucky in not having to deal with any intolerance directed towards me, so when it came to strangers or less close friends, they were often very accepting as well. So, in truth, I haven’t ever really done any large coming out thing, just because I don’t feel I need to, and it’s not like I hide any part of my sexuality to anybody in the first place.
I haven’t, as of writing this, come out to my parents, however I don’t feel it’s really necessary for them to know about my sexuality. About three years ago I did say that “I think I may be bisexual” and my father’s response was dismissive saying something along the lines of “don’t follow the trend,” but I don’t believe he meant it to seem rude.
Rachel: I was very lucky, as it goes. So when I was sixteen, I met a large amount of new friends and at that age, I almost introduced myself as bisexual—I brought it up as soon as it was conversational legit to do so and basically avoided any presumption I was straight. To an extent, that’s still what I do to this day. Coming out to my school friends was harder—I had literally told them I was straight on so many occasions. I mostly texted them—and they were genuinely wonderful and positive and quite like . . . thrilled about it? It was really nice.
Sophie: I don’t really remember properly coming out. The summer after the first year of uni, a high school friend came out as lesbian to me, and I naturally told her I was bi. That same summer I remember telling my mother and some friends in the middle of conversations, but similarly it wasn’t a big deal. And as soon as I moved to uni, the year before those conversations, I just told people I was bi whenever it came up in the conversation.
In high school I had only told one friend, because I felt like since I wasn’t dating or sleeping with anyone, it wasn’t that relevant of a topic. I don’t remember any strong reactions, except from some high school friends who asked why I’d never told them before, which surely meant I hadn’t always been bi, but I kinda ignored it because it felt quite ignorant as a comment.
Natasha: I came out in dribs and drabs; I told my oldest friend first, then a bunch of us all came out at my friend’s eighteenth, it was kind of a snowball effect. There are still some members of my family who don’t know though.
Alison: I told people slowly at sixth form, not everyone—I’m open about it at uni, but only mention it if asked—people have generally been supportive some people were surprised (I got with a lot of boys).
Bobbie: I haven’t fully come out, I’ve only came out to about ten people who are all bisexual as well apart, from my boyfriend and my best friend who is a lesbian. Because of this the reactions have been positive. Although, with my best friend, I told her about the threesome I’d had with my boyfriend and a woman shortly after it happened, about two years ago, so I just assumed that she’d realise I was bi. Until about a month ago, we were at a gay pub and people were asking us if we were gay or straight, she’d tell them that she was gay and I was straight. I told her “I’ve had sex with a girl, how does that make me straight?” But she kept telling people I was straight.
Question: Have you ever been with someone of the same sex? If not, have you navigated wanting to ‘validate’ or ‘prove’ your queerness by dating/sleeping with someone of the same sex while being in a straight-appearing relationship?
Tabby: I have, although never a serious relationship of the type I’ve had with men. I often joke that statistically, bisexual women are always more likely to end up with men as there are more straight men out there than gay and bisexual women.
I had a high school girlfriend who I couldn’t hold hands with or kiss in public because people would gawp at us and shout things at us, including adult men shouting about threesomes even though we were clearly teenagers, and it left me with a lingering anxiety about same sex relationships. As an adult, I’ve had drunken flings with women, but I seem to have had a knack for appealing to straight women who are looking to ‘try something once’ or ‘check’ their sexuality—which would be funny if it wasn’t so demoralising. There have been some good experiences along the way, which just didn’t work out because of ordinary dating problems – different priorities, different lifestyles and so on.
Generally, when people find out I’m bisexual, pretty much the first thing they ask is ‘so have you slept with a woman’—as if they’re rooting for me to say no, so that they can tell me I’m probably not. A co-worker once told me I was the only ‘real’ bisexual person she’d met, because all the others ‘turned out gay or straight in the end’. When I pushed her on what she meant by that, it transpired that she thought settling into a monogamous relationship meant you were no longer bisexual. My adamance that I was still bisexual despite being in a committed, monogamous relationship with a man, genuinely baffled her
Kirsty: I haven’t ever been with a woman; I have only been with guys. Sometimes I feel as though people don’t believe me when I say I am attracted to both when I say this—how can you be attracted to something you have yet to experience? I have felt the need in the past to lie about it to try and ‘prove’ myself as being attracted to women and I always feel guilty about it because once you lie once about it it becomes very hard to go back from that—I lied about it to my current partner partly because I was anxious about my lack of sexual experience in general, but also because I felt as though I had to somehow validate who I was. I still don’t know how to erase that lie.
Dylan: I have never been with a man, nor have I slept with a man, however I have never really felt a need to validate my feelings toward people of the same gender, mostly thanks to the communication that I have with my partner of 2 and a half(ish) years. I have been dating her since the end of college (where we met) which was right around when I started actually identifying as bisexual.
Sexuality and sex in general is something that we discuss a lot in our relationship, as we are both bisexual. For a time, when I was starting first year of Uni and my partner was starting second, we had an agreement whereby we would both be able to kiss or experiment with people of the same gender so as to explore the parts of our sexuality that we don’t really get to explore normally, as neither of us has been single for long enough to try out anything. However, we didn’t actually do anything with anybody as we came to the realisation that we both felt that we were generally monogamous in our relationship, and that we both enjoyed sharing our intimacy with each other and nobody else. Whether that changes is up to the future, but at the moment I (as I can’t really talk on my partners behalf) am happy with how our relationship is.
However, even though I don’t feel the need to prove any part of my sexuality to anybody else, there is a part of me that sometimes feels like I need to prove it to myself. Whenever I start thinking about this kind of thing, I remind myself that nobody is really a fixed person and that like all things in life, sexuality is fluid and can change any time. This gives me comfort in knowing that sometimes I don’t always have to feel like the most bisexual man in the world to be who I am as a person, and that usually does the trick to prove it to myself.
Rachel: Yes but I still feel that. I think if you are bi in our current society it is hard not to feel the need to validate that in our way or another, because a large part of biphobia is people wanting us to “prove” our bisexuality so…my history will never feel like enough for biphobes, you know?
Sophie: I’ve never dated a woman, as I’ve only had one partner and he is a cis man. There was a brief period when I was already seeing him but it wasn’t “official” where I slept with other people (I think more to prove a point since I was pretty sure of my feelings for him, but I felt insecure settling into a serious relationship so young), and at that point I slept with both women and men. I definitely feel less confident or valid in claiming my sexuality because materially I don’t feel like I suffer any consequences of queerphobia since I am openly dating a cis straight man. It makes me feel like I have less claims to participate in queer spaces (I’ve never felt excluded in queer spaces, it’s more self exclusion and I guess some internalised biphobia).
Natasha: Yes, but I have a lot more sexual/romantic experience with men and I still struggle with the urge to add “and yes I have been with a woman” when I tell people I’m bi. I think there’s definitely an expectation for bisexual people to divulge their sexual or dating history before they can rightly claim that label and it’s such bullshit.
Alison: I have not slept with a woman—I sometimes like question am I actually bi if I haven’t had that experience and I only have sex with my boyfriend. I think if I was single, I’d actually find it harder that I hadn’t slept with a woman because now I have an excuse to make me feel more valid.
Bobbie: I’ve only been with one woman, which was the threesome I had. Up until recently, I’ve always been confused about my sexuality. I felt like I couldn’t call myself bisexual because of the little experience I’ve had with women. It wasn’t until I started using TikTok and hearing other women in the same situation as me talk about being bisexual that I felt validated.
Question: How does your partner feel about you being bi?
Tabby: When we first got together, he was anxious about it—I’m sure he won’t mind me saying that he didn’t really understand what it is to be bisexual, and like many people, wondered if being attracted to both men and women meant you wouldn’t be satisfied unless you were able to be intimate with both. But we had a very open discussion in the early days about everything, and I explained the difference between being bisexual and being polyamorous, and how in the same way that being attracted to women doesn’t mean he needs to date all women, or that one woman is not enough for him, my being attracted to both men and women doesn’t mean that dating one or the other leaves me ‘wanting’, as it were.
Kirsty: My partner is fairly nonchalant about the whole thing. Sometimes he jokes about the fact that we can both talk about girls together. I am quite relieved he is not the type who would make a big deal out of it and use my experiences to pleasure himself. I have come across guys in the past who upon discovering that I like girls would want me to show this to them so as they could watch some sort of lesbian pornographic fantasy. Overall, he is incredibly chilled about the whole thing, which really is good.
Dylan: Given that both of us are bisexual, I would hope she’s okay with it. (On a more serious note, my partner makes me feel so wanted and loved in all ways, so really I couldn’t ask for anything more in that respect).
Rachel: He . . . doesn’t care? Well, no, he is obviously aware that I face prejudice and discrimination for being bi and he cares a lot about that and is passionate about trying to understand my reality, as best as is possible for a straight cis dude, and wanting to be an effective ally . . . but on a personal level, outside of those societal issues, he just doesn’t really care, to be honest.
Sophie: He’s pretty indifferent I believe.
Natasha: He’s completely fine with it!
Alison: My boyfriend doesn’t really care—he didn’t really know like what was acceptable to say about it as in jokes, etc. But when I explained to him what kind of comments made me uncomfortable, he didn’t do it.
Bobbie: When I told my boyfriend about it, he didn’t seem surprised. He was accepting and unbothered. I suggested having the threesome and he initially said no. It wasn’t until he thought about it over time and was then eager.
Question: Have you ever had to deal with comments about threesomes/any sexualised jokes?
Tabby: Oh yes. If I had a pound for every time someone had asked me if I’ve had a threesome, if I’d have a threesome with them, whether I’d prefer one man and one woman or two men or two women if I was to have a threesome, and so on, and so on, I would be a rich woman indeed! The endless ‘bisexual just means you’re greedy’ or ‘so you’re just indecisive’, ‘typical woman, can’t make up her mind, hahaha’ … it’s endless, and it’s very boring.
Kirsty: I would be incredibly surprised if there was any woman who identifies as queer who has not endured an unwanted comment from a creepy guy. I’m lucky because I haven’t experienced as many as others and many of them came from my dark days on Tinder. I also distinctly remember when I told my female best friend about my interest in girls, perhaps not on purpose, she made a comment about not being into me that way.
Dylan: I have never had to deal with them personally, and it’s a part of the “bisexual life experience” (a bizarre phrase) I have heard a lot of second-hand stories about, but am constantly bemused by.
Rachel: Lol yes obviously. Actually, maybe not so much in relation to my partner—where I have personally dealt with this is with man/woman couples who discover I am bi and are like “hey, threesome?!” (Not that I am against threesomes but a bit weird to ask about if I just met you in a bar, you know?). I had also dated a lot of men who have fetishised my sexuality, but my current partner isn’t like that.
Sophie: Not really, but again this is probably linked to the fact that I’m pretty private about my sexuality, because it doesn’t feel relevant.
Natasha: Yes. I recently had someone slide into my DM’s with the opener “you like girls. that’s cool.” I’ve had much worse experiences than that though. If I’ve been on a night out with a woman I’ve had to deal with a lot of “can I join in?” comments from men who are complete strangers and usually inappropriately older too. One time I had a guy wrap his arm around my neck and refuse to leave until me and the person I was with both kissed him.
Alison: Not really because I’m not mega open about it—also I go to a very gay uni (Cambridge has a very large gay student population) and so people tend not to make comments. I guess, like, at the end of the day it’s my sexuality. It doesn’t matter to anyone else. It’s no one else’s business, so like I don’t need other people to validate me. Sometimes it can be a bit weird when people are surprised because I have a boyfriend. But normally people are good about it. But I’m only really open about it at uni—in my home town, only my friends really know and I think I would get a lot more judgement at home.
Bobbie: All of my boyfriend’s friends know about the threesome because I told one of them when I was drunk. They make jokes about it often, but they all still think that I’m straight. One of his friends made a joke a few days ago saying that me and my boyfriend should have a threesome with a man to make it fair. They talk about how lucky my boyfriend is, as if I did it to please him and not to explore my own sexuality. I guess I deal with it by making jokes too.
Question: How do you deal with that, do you have to learn to not let it bother you?
Tabby: Usually if someone makes one of the standard stupid jokes, I start reeling off all the others so that they hear how unoriginal they’re being and they quickly stop. I don’t have a go at people about it because I know that it just comes from a lack of understanding, and is usually not meant in a malicious way—but if someone is really pushing my buttons, they’ll get a less friendly response.
Kirsty: I’ve come to accept that people are always going to make jokes and it comes from a place of ill understanding, not necessarily always ignorance. When the comments are particularly obtuse, I quite like playing the dumb game and asking whoever made the joke to explain it to me, so as they can realise how perverse and rude they sound. Often though the best thing you can do is not rise to comments and just ignore them.
Dylan: In truth, and in the most ego-maniacal way possible, I think that if I did get those sorts of comments, I would most likely be flattered but confused, given it’s no secret that I have a partner whom I am very, very committed to.
Rachel: Well . . . it does bother me. It’s not ideal.
Natasha: I’ve learned to put people in their place if I get any inappropriate comments!
Bobbie: Before I was with my boyfriend, I desperately wanted an experience with a woman just so that I could be sure that I was bisexual and so that I could feel comfortable to come out. I always felt like if I came out without having any experience people wouldn’t believe me. I found it really hard, I’d go on Tinder and barely match with any women and would rarely get messages. Whereas, with men pretty much most of the ones I’d swipe right on would be a match and I’d be inundated with messages. At the same time, I’d also try to set my preferences to avoid women I know who I’d know would be on there as I didn’t feel comfortable with people talking about my sexuality behind my back, when I wasn’t even 100% sure what I was.
Question: Do you have any additional comments?
Tabby: For years, I didn’t attend Pride events because I didn’t feel like they were for me. What right did I have to march in a pride parade, when I had a boyfriend and could walk down the street holding his hand and looking perfectly hetero to anyone passing by? What right did I have to comment on LGBT issues as someone in a hetero relationship? This, despite having experienced a lifetime of derogatory remarks, the memories burned into my brain of bravely trying to walk down the street with my girlfriend as a teenager and how people treated us, and the fact that it is the very nature of being a bisexual person in a straight-seeming relationship that my identity feels questioned and erased at every opportunity by people who don’t understand it. I didn’t feel that I would be welcome at Pride, just as I often felt that I had no right to comment on life as an LGBT person despite quite literally being one myself.
After coming out at fifteen, I put myself back in the closet at eighteen, because my boyfriend at the time (who was abusive in many ways) thought that calling myself bisexual made me a slut. He was convinced I would cheat on him with any woman who came near, and cut me off from all my queer female friends as a result. Bridges were burned, and I made new friends after I escaped that relationship who didn’t find out I was bisexual until I’d known them for almost a year, because I was nervous of how they might react and wanted to check that they were ‘okay’ with me being who I was before I brought it up—particularly female friends who I might share a bed with at platonic ‘girls night in’ type hangouts, who I feared would reject me and be disgusted to have shared their space with me.
I thank whoever invented the bisexual pride flag, because starting to embrace the rainbow flag as I re-embraced my sexuality often led people to assuming I was a lesbian, but not wearing my identity on my sleeve left me feeling like I was still hiding it even after I started to become comfortable with myself again in my early twenties. I wear the bisexual pride pin on my jacket now and have had excited reactions from strangers in the street who have clocked it, complimented it and given me that big cheesy grin of a person who has seen someone else like them, hiding in plain sight.
Now that I am married to a man, I know that I will have ‘straight-passing privilege’ for the rest of my life, but I am also very keen not to hide that part of my identity again. I was wearing the bi pride pin at my register office wedding, and have added a ‘still bisexual’ pin to my collection as a wedding gift to myself!
Kirsty: Over the last year, I have really begun to accept that it is absolutely fine for me to be bisexual whilst being committed in a monogamous heterosexual relationship. I used to torment myself with the belief that I was faking it, but over time and with a lot of self exploration and better understanding of myself and my sexuality, I recognise my experiences are shared by many others. My relationship with my boyfriend does not diminish my attraction to girls, nor does it mean that I am any less valid as a bisexual woman.
Dylan: I have only had one person say anything nearly negative about my sexuality, and it was someone asking what I would say to someone if they said that “my sexuality wasn’t real.” My response was that I couldn’t really care what people thought of my sexuality, and that was that, however it did make me think about the idea that some people may not consider me valid in the community, or valid in general as a bisexual while being in a heterosexual appearing relationship. It made me come to the conclusion that really it would be ridiculous to ever feel like I had to prove myself to anybody.
Rachel: I think just the reality of queerness whilst in a “not queer” relationship, I am so aware literally all the time that I am bi and that I exist as a queer person in society. When you are a cis woman, with a cis man, you face a lot of erasure of that experience . . . society presumes you are part of the standard and, like, I am here like “I have been struggling with being queer since I was 12 . . . .” And I do think being queer can be such a powerful thing, even in a “straight” relationship—I am not built to adhere to societies rule book, so I rewrite it with every step; in my current relationship and in general. That can be hard, of course, but there is also so much power to that which I think is amazing.
Sophie: I think that for me, I know I’m bi like I know that the sky is blue, but while in a monogamous relationship with a man, it doesn’t feel that important to me? I want to support other bi and queer people, but I always feel like I’m doing it as an ally rather than a member of the community. It’s really dumb because sexual identity isn’t linked to the person you’re dating but I think that it is the result of embedded binary thinking and a lot of loaded discourse around bisexuality on social media and in some of my friends circles.
Being a Black woman, my race and my gender are aspects of my identity that I fully claim and embrace, I believe because I have lived through oppressions linked to them. However, being in a “straight” relationship for years and it being the only relationship I’ve ever been in makes me feel quite sheltered from queerphobia and therefore as if I shouldn’t take up too much space in queer spaces.
“Being queer can be such a powerful thing, even in a “straight” relationship—I am not built to adhere to societies rule book, so I rewrite it with every step.”
–Rachel Megan Barker
Natasha: I’m secure in my sexuality and my relationship, but I’m not so sure I feel secure in my place in the LGBT+ community. I’ve seen a lot of biphobia and erasure online recently reinforcing the prejudices that bi people aren’t “queer enough”, or they’re pretending or confused. I know I’m queer and that I’m not faking it for male attention or whatever, but it’s hurtful knowing there’s people in the community who’d still assume that.
Bobbie: At first I wasn’t that bothered by the jokes my boyfriend’s mates made, as I expected it, to be honest. But the more it’s joked about, the more embarrassed I feel. I also find it confusing as why they would assume that I’m straight and I don’t understand why none of them have asked. It makes me think that men really do believe that sex is centred on male pleasure. I don’t really feel confident enough to come out as bisexual to people who I feel wouldn’t really understand. And I think I definitely would like to explore my sexuality more in the future! I’m just not really sure how yet, as it was a lot of effort and very hard to find someone to have a threesome with.
Having straight-passing privilege makes it a little harder to feel confident in my sexuality, because I, like Sophie said above, sometimes feel as if it’s not super important or a huge part of my identity because it’s never really come up before. A lot of people know I’m bi, and everyone’s been super cool about it, though I have had to deal with a lot of comments and pleading about threesomes from guys who just wanted to see that sexual fantasy of two girls come to life, which wasn’t fun.
I feel like this became one of the reasons why I was never so vocal about it, but thinking on it all now, it is a major part of my identity and I shouldn’t have to have it sexualised, like in the past, or invalidated. I shouldn’t have to prove it to anyone either, no matter who the fuck they are.
It’s hard enough being a woman, or a Bangladeshi woman, and then add on another layer of being bisexual, and it’s like . . . there’s a lot of discrimination surrounding that. Bi erasure is toxic and it needs to fucking end, and people need to stop acting as if they know everything, or know who’s attracted to who. Straight people are never questioned. So why, then, are bisexual people? Why am I?
This article may come across as a passive-aggressive indirect, but it’s more that I’m just angry at the way things are and how incredibly frustrating it is to have to deal with this. And I’m sure others have dealt with a lot worse. I mean, yes I’ve explained my sexuality and how I know I am bisexual despite not having been sexually intimate with a woman and the person who commented on my bisexuality understood which is great—but it’s just the fact it shouldn’t have to be explained and it shouldn’t be my job to educate anyone on this either.
Bottom line is this: my sexuality is none of your business. Educate yourself if there’s something you don’t get—the internet and books are completely at your disposal, and do not fucking invalidate someone’s sexuality just because it doesn’t make sense to you. Also, it’s none of your business. Include bisexual people in the conversation. There definitely need to be more campaigns surrounding bisexual people, more media including bisexuality, to give us that visibility.
There has to be a bigger platform and inclusion. And it really isn’t a difficult concept to understand: bisexual people are attracted to both men and women; being in a relationship with someone of the same sex doesn’t make them gay and being in a relationship with someone of a different sex doesn’t make them straight. And if they’ve never been in a relationship, or had a sexual experience, with someone of the same sex, that doesn’t mean shit either. They’re bisexual.
Say it with me:
B I S E X U A L.
Disclaimer: Some names have been changed