We don't hear a lot about the “B” part of LGBT. Out of our group of incredibly diverse Baristas, I'm the only one who claims that letter in the alphabet soup. It comes with with its own territorial hazards, both with straight people and within “the Family.”
Telling someone I'm bi is always a hit or miss experience. I tend to run into one or more of the following attitudes:
1) Bisexual people are just confused, going through a phase, or claiming it as part of rebellion.
2) Bisexual women are really straight, but vying for male attention (aka Katy Perry syndrome).
3) Bisexuals are prone to lying and promiscuity, they can’t be monogamous because they’re always looking at the other gender and wanting what they’re missing (read: bisexual = depraved slut).
4) Bisexual people can “pass for straight” and when they have hetero relationships, they’re traitors. They aren’t really part of “the family.”
More under the fold.
To address the first attitude: I’m not confused. I have the physical and emotional capacity to be in romantic or sexual relationships with both men and women. There is nothing confusing about this. It simply is. I’ve known since age 14 that I'm attracted to both men and women. I’ve had girlfriends and boyfriends. I have been married to a man, and was partnered with another woman for three years. That’s over half my life, hardly a phase.
On the second: God, do I hate this. One of the reasons that I don’t identify myself as bi (I personally like the term queer better anyways, YMMV) is specifically because I present as a femme woman, and in our male-dominated society, a bisexual femme woman is presumed to be bi only so long as it gets her male attention. This is utter crap, based on the social norm that women's bodies are there for male pleasure (there's that gender inequitable society again!). I don’t have it on with women as a way to draw in more men. I seek out women because I love them. In order for this attitude to be overcome, we have got to have a more gender equitable society where a woman's sexuality is for her own pleasure, and not for that of straight cis men.
On the third: This is insulting, and saddening. Why the negative attitudes towards us Bs? Jealousy? Bitterness? Are there really that many people who were in relationships with someone they presumed was either a 1 or 5 on the Kinsey scale, and then were left behind for another lover, who just happened to be of a different gender? Is it projection?
Let’s all remember that for many people sexuality is fluid, and can change throughout our lives. The important thing when you’re in a relationship, no matter the orientation or gender identity of the individuals involved, is to communicate. Let’s stop blaming other people’s sexuality and gender for what, in the end, is an issue about trust, honesty, and a willingness to communicate and accept people for who they are. And leave the projection to Peter Labarbera.
On the fourth: I’m not going to pretend that bi erasure is anywhere near the kind of oppression that gay and lesbian people go through on a daily basis. As was said in another forum, invisibility through passing privilege is a far cry from oppression. I was with another woman for three years. I know what oppression of gay and lesbian people is like; I’ve lived it, both as a queer woman living under DADT, and as the partner of a lesbian servicemember. In tandem with this are gender norm expectations. I present as femme. It’s just who I am. As a femme-presenting female, I pass as straight in society’s eyes unless visibly in a relationship with a woman, hence I have straight privilege unless I declare otherwise. But I’m queer.
Identity is its own monster. Gender and sexuality are not black and white, labels don't mean much, and it gets old to be told to fit into some binary ideal. I get tired of hearing about how I’m not a “true gay” because I have at times matched the default hetero norm. My internal experience was completely valid for me, but somehow not for everyone else. And yet, when I was with my ex-partner, I was fully accepted in the alphabet soup family. It’s like oppression is a competition. I thought we were all in this together, to normalize gender and sexuality queerness in the world at large.
So what happens if the Right Guy comes along? I will be surprised as hell, probably unprepared. After a battle with my mind, my heart will win. We don’t just choose whom to love, after all. The heart wants what it wants, and no amount of attempts to segment and label will change that. I realize that in that situation I will pass for straight, and my relationship will have automatic societal respect. I would have straight privilege. It won’t stop me from being bisexual. But it will mean that for all practical purposes I’ll be trading in my “queer” credentials for a membership card that says “ally,” and all my past experiences be damned.
Why should that be? Because I’d have fallen in love with one of the genders I’m attracted to, that makes me some kind of traitor? That just sucks, because so much of my life is wrapped up in being queer, in combating oppression, and normalizing queerness in general society. A straight relationship status wouldn’t invalidate any previous experience of homophobia, nor would it influence me to stop working for equality. But I’m almost afraid to contemplate a hetero relationship for fear of changing that part of my life. I invested so much time and energy in coming to terms with being out as a woman who loves women. I lost a lot of friends and family over it, and to have to go through all that all over again on the opposite side of the coin is daunting.
Bisexual Blenders, speak up. What are your experiences with being bi? What have you found to be true for you?
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