In 2014 I started uni as a baby baby bisexual: underage and only recently out of the closet. I had to wait a whole year before diving into my coming of age as a queer lady. This year I attended my first Girlthing at Q Bar, my first SHADES party, and I am writing for my first Queer Honi. I’m learning more about gender politics, my identity and what it means to be out at university. And for the last year or so, I have been in a monoamorous, heterosexual relationship.
My sexual identity is at the core of my self-definition, but there is no normative pattern to which I can conform in order to be read as bisexual. While they are problematic, there are accepted scripts for dress, speech and behaviour we can conform to in order to be read as gay or straight. But I haven’t yet found socks in the colours of the bisexual flag.
Performative indicators aside, the tendency to assume monosexuality means that even one’s partner is usually an unreliable measure of their sexuality. Indeed, this problem for many bisexual folk is twofold. In exclusive relationships, we don’t have a right to an identity that extends beyond the gender of our partners, but if we simultaneously express multiple facets of our identity, we confirm the biphobic opinions that we’re all promiscuous, greedy or just experimenting.
These suspicions are pervasive: bisexual wom*n are edgy Gender Studies majors; bisexual men are afraid to come out as gay.
When I was single, it was easy to tell anyone who questioned the validity of my identity where to shove it. However, now that I’m in a long-term relationship with a cis man, I find it harder to correct the assumptions made by my friends and family. It’s not that I think they’re right—far from it—it’s more that the assumption that I’m straight is one from which I benefit.
As a cis white wom*n, I already have privilege in the queer community. The bisexual erasure I experience because of my boyfriend is infuriating. But it also means that I am often exempt from the same discrimination and oppression suffered by many others in the queer community because of their gender or the gender of their partners. I like feeling included in queer spaces, but at the same time I worry about taking up too much space.
Do I have a right to complain about a privilege? Doing so seems self-absorbed and unhelpful, taking up space in a discourse in which far more important issues are already crowded out.
My identity hasn’t changed, but the queer imposter syndrome I experience means that I now feel like my opinions are less welcome, my experiences less valid. I am no longer perceived as an authentic representative of the B in the acronym.
Ultimately, though, the loss isn’t only mine. The queer community is founded on diversity and acceptance. When we tacitly allow the exclusion or erasure of bisexual people we lose some of the very substance that makes our community powerful.