What It Means To Be Bisexual In A Heteronormative World

I am bisexual. Among my peer group, I am not the only one; women who identify as straight are few and far between. I'm a sex blogger living in a Western city, privileged enough that hiding my orientation isn't a pressing safety concern. I also pass as straight, and as a result, dodge most of the abuse that queer women usually face. I only experience it when I am on dates with women, when I kiss or hold hands with my female friends in public, when I announce that I am bisexual on the internet or to new male partners, and as a child trying to express myself, when I was taught what dyke and whore meant by kids who did not even know themselves.

A girl once took my hand on the high street of my tiny, coastal hometown in Wales, and a man walked straight between us, snarling as he tore our hands apart. She tried to comfort me in a quiet, leafy spot behind a church, ironically the only place we could kiss without being seen. She was 19, a lesbian, and already used to it. We got happy-drunk on Jack Daniels and told my father we were "friends from blogging" on the way to my bedroom. Standing in my front porch while she smoked, people walking past openly stared, and I tried to put a name to the discomfort and the unease that I couldn't shake, that had nothing to do with my feelings toward her. After a while I realized it was because we were two women in public, and should anything happen, I knew I could not protect her, and she could not protect me.

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Out of all the pan and bisexual gal pals that I have, none of them are currently in a relationship with a woman. Not one, out of maybe 20 girls. Many of them are in long-term or short-term relationships with men, and many are single. This is not just an anecdotal finding, so please don't think I'm indirecting if this applies to you, as it does to me. Roughly 85-90% of bisexuals in relationships are committed to a member of the opposite sex, depending on what statistics you find. Bisexual women are also hugely more likely to marry a man than to marry or enter a civil partnership with a woman, and far less likely to ever come out at all, when compared to lesbians.
   
Let me be clear: I am not in any way insinuating that any of this lessens their status as a queer woman. The relationship we are currently in does not define our sexuality or erase our identity. That is actually the whole frustrating, troubling point I am trying to make. Our relationships with men are not a betrayal of our queerness; but queer women are choosing het relationships in overwhelming numbers, often choosing to never experience a female, and in many instances, choosing to live entirely closeted. This worries me.

Relationships can be a hideaway, a safe harbour; so can monogamy, or celibacy, or any form of sexual status. We use them as disguises, to protect ourselves financially, to avoid oppression or maintain privilege. When a bisexual woman chooses a monogamous relationship with a man, many will try to erase her bisexuality. They will say that she's outgrown her lesbian phase; that she was never really into girls; that she is straight now. This is so profoundly insulting and demeaning that most bisexual women in this situation will respond by declaring they are simply "a bisexual girl who just happened to fall in love with a man". But neither stance is entirely true. Queer girls are just happening to fall in love with men at hugely disproportionate rates, no matter where they sit on the Kinsey scale. I mentioned this imbalance to a straight, male friend recently. His response was to joke, witheringly, that maybe it's just because guys are so awesome at eating pussy and having intimate relationships. And then we both laughed hysterically. We laughed for a very long time.

I know queer women who met their male partners while they were at school, at university, living with homophobic family members, or before they'd even met another girl like them; in contexts where it almost makes no sense to talk about free choices. Straight men are also far more likely to pursue bisexual girls; our culture slaps them on the back for doing so, while many of my queer friends say they feel scared to flirt with another girl in case they are rejected or abused for being gay. If dating a girl might get you kicked out of the house, or disowned, or bullied at school, or shot dead in a nightclub, the odds on what gender you end up with are not 50/50. We do not live and love in a vacuum. Hatred, violence, and stigma towards same-sex relationships is very real. Bisexual people can choose to be invisible - and can you blame them? When the alternative is often so horrific.

The reason I am writing this is because it breaks my heart that so many of my friends have never felt safe enough to explore their sexuality. So many feel like they have no place in the queer community, and simultaneously, that they have no place in mainstream culture. Many have turned to the internet as their only means of self expression.

The reasons we fall in love with certain people and not others are hugely complex, and stretch farther than I could ever cover in writing. I do not think it ever "just happens". Love is love, but that doesn't mean it is always treated the same.

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