Okay, let me admit that I’ve written and rewritten this post countless times in the last few weeks. As you (hopefully) know, I came out as bisexual on here exactly a year ago, and it felt like the right move to write a follow-up–partly to confirm that yes, I still identify as bi (suck it, bisexuality deniers), but mostly to check in with you about what life has been like post exiting the closet.
I wanted to tell you that first, I’m happy. I’m happy that I finally hit upon a word that fits me like no other: bisexual. Maybe it’s because it’s an identity I found for myself, maybe it’s because I’m overly sentimental, but it has given me so much reassurance and straight-up joy to be able to say to myself (and to other people!) “I’m bisexual” over the past year. Not only did discovering the possibility of bisexuality reassure me after months of intense questioning, it’s brought me a relief in my daily life that I didn’t know I needed. After claiming my bisexuality, some sort of low-level insecurity to an end, and I felt/feel–cliché as it is–comfortable in my own skin. I tell myself I’m bisexual because it makes me happy to remember it, not because I’m trying to convince myself of anything (unlike the years I spent telling myself I was straight). And figuring out my sexuality has opened me up to joining more queer spaces, reading more about LGBTIQ+ identities and rights (and the many that intersect it), and talking to more people, queer and straight, about issues than I ever would when I was still working hard to find myself. Claiming a specific identity and finding a home inside a word isn’t the way everyone relates to their sexuality, but it has been really, really good for me.
I also wanted to tell you that at first, I thought coming out would be the end of it for me–“it” being “struggle.” Figuring out your sexuality should be the hard part, right? But then I started doing some reading,1 and learned that being bisexual isn’t all a bed of roses. When bi people don’t face erasure (e.g., “everyone is a little bi,” “bisexuality is just a phase,”), they face outright biphobia (e.g., “bisexual people are greedy,” “bi people are more likely to cheat”). And the worse thing that we face, monosexism, is something that almost nobody has heard about, let alone talks about or seeks to take down with the same fervor as they do with homophobia or hetersexism. When I say “we” here, I mean not only bisexual people, but everyone. Monosexism–the idea that sexualities directed toward one group, like homosexuality or heterosexuality, are superior to sexualities directed toward more than one group, like bisexuality and pansexuality–limits our understanding of others and ultimately harms everyone. And since it is so pervasive and forms the basis of assumptions we take for granted, it’s really hard to draw attention to it and deal with it.
From here I wanted to launch into more definitions and examples. I was going to use footnotes and lists to explain why the “bi” in “bisexual” does not mean we like only “men and women,” and discuss all the ways bisexuality can break harmful gender and sexuality binaries. I was going to use examples that I read about to tell you how bi people are excluded from both straight and queer communities, and regurgitate the stats about how we’re more likely than many people to experience mental illness, discrimination, and violence against us.
But that would just be a shorter and less elegant facsimile of the intelligent, enlightening things I have watched and read that gave me all of that information. And why repeat all of that when it’s already been said, and said better, and when you can read it and learn for yourself?
No, what I should do instead is tell you a little bit about how these abstract concepts have affected me. It’s mostly in little ways: a slight disappointment that Netflix’s queer movies are categorized as “Gay and Lesbian” as if those were the only two options, some discomfort when friends assume me straight and start asking about boys and I realized I need to decide between awkwardly coming out again in the middle of dinner or just keeping my mouth shut. It’s been feeling like mentioning that I’m bi is both doing too much and doing not enough, because it marks me as either too queer or not queer enough, depending on the space I am in. It’s been geeking out when I realize a celebrity is bi like me, or feeling surprised–but really not surprised at all–when a TV show’s token bi character turns out to be a cheater or exclusively into threesomes. It’s reading articles for work that celebrate bisexual people’s ability to choose to enter queer relationships and then feeling like liking someone of a different sex/gender means I’m regressing.
Obviously, none of those things are harmful in an extreme way, and almost all of them are only passing discomforts. It’s nothing like the discrimination faced by bi people in other countries, especially those that still outlaw same-sex relationships, or that faced by transgender people of color and other marginalized groups in this one. I almost didn’t want to write this post because I wasn’t sure of my right to complain.
But then I did want to write it, for a couple reasons. One, I think it’s important to draw attention to what it’s like to be bisexual–the good and the bad. When I was questioning, I found nearly all of my information about the bi experience from out bi people online, and would love to add to the material available for people looking for stories from people like them. I also think it’s important for people that aren’t bisexual to be aware of the potential struggles we face, in order to learn how they may be contributing to them and how to work together with us to end them. It can be as simple as refraining from saying, “Oh, so you’re gay now?” when a bisexual person tells you they’ve hooked up with someone of the same sex/gender or as big (and, you know, ideal) as adding bisexual rights to your activism. In a society that so strongly yet subtly excludes bisexual people, it is hopefully useful to write specifically about it.
I also wanted to write this so I could do some relating/commiserating with other people myself. I know I am not the only bisexual person in the world, but for all the reasons I briefly mentioned and others, it’s sometimes difficult to find other people to talk to about it. I would love for this to become an opportunity to speak with other bi people (and queer people in general) about their experiences–and anything else, really. Has your experience been similar to mine? Have you found particular spaces or resources that make you feel accepted? How do you feel about using labels for your sexuality, and letting other people know what those labels are?
So that’s my post. I’m here, I’m queer, and it turns out I’m not going to shut up about it.
1 Mostly of Shiri Eisner’s Bi: Notes for the Bisexual Revolution which has become a sort of Bible/guidebook for me over the past year.