Words by Zali, 21 NSW
Being queer is an endurance test you can’t quit.
When I was sixteen, I came out as bisexual for the first time. Over the past five years, I’ve come out what feels like a thousand times. Almost every time, I’ve had to explain/defend (usually defend) my sexuality, so now I don’t disclose it unless it’s absolutely necessary to do so. I’ve coded my social media to clue people in without me needing to have the conversation, and I always refer to the LGBTQ+ community as “we” in conversation. It still feels like I’m hiding, but defence mechanisms exist for a reason.
I have had countless friends come out as bisexual since I was sixteen, and a lot of the time I’ve been the first to know. Being the bisexual welcome wagon wasn’t something I ever intended, but there is something very special about knowing someone is trusting you with such a vulnerable part of themselves. It’s something I’m very grateful for.
As proud as I am of my identity, I have never encouraged anyone to come out. I’ve had a lot of people ask me how to, or if they should, or why I did. The thing is that a lot of the time, queer people only come out because they feel like they’re lying if they don’t. It took me a long time to realise that you’re not lying to people by not disclosing something about yourself that could potentially put you in emotionally or physically harmful situations.
There are a lot of pointy bits, a lot of sharp edges that come with existing as an openly bisexual person. Most of the time no one thinks to warn you because they’re either so used to it that they’ve become desensitised, or they’re the ones sharpening those edges.
Biphobia doesn’t look like homophobia. In some ways it’s nowhere near as bad, in others it’s worse.
The “phase” thing is obvious, but it probably stings the most. Bisexuality has, for as far back as the label has existed, been regarded as the Gateway to Gay for bisexual men and a brief experimentation with the pink side for bisexual women. According to society, men are just too irresistible for us to not pick them over women (I’m not sure society has met men.). Even when we give society a box to put us in, it’s not good enough. They need a smaller, prettier box.
There’s also the fun public opinion that we’re more likely to cheat – despite the fact that bisexuality and non-monogamy/polyamory are completely different things that don’t intersect in the majority of bisexual people. As a bisexual woman in a monogamous relationship with a man, I’ve wasted a lot of anxiety on worrying what his friends and family will think of me if I disclose my sexuality explicitly. Being bi means feeling like people will distrust you by default. It’s pretty dehumanising.
There’s the idea that bisexuality is transphobic due to the popular but inaccurate belief that bisexuality is being attracted to only men and women, and pansexuality is the label which includes nonbinary and trans people. There are two things wrong with this. Firstly, the notion that trans men and women aren’t “real” men and women is nonsense. Secondly, both bisexuality and pansexuality are inclusive to gender non-conforming and gender fluid people.
Finally, there’s sex. Bi people, it seems, are good for only one thing: fetishization. This is the one I’ve had to deal with the most. There isn’t a way to accurately explain the stomach twisting feeling you get when you mention being bisexual to a guy you thought was decent and see his eyes light up all Pennywise-y. It sucks for two reasons: 1.) you just realised that this guy sees you as nothing more than a sex object, and 2.) you just got reminded that your sexuality is nothing more to the average straight dude than a wank sock fantasy. You’re not a person anymore, you’re a porno.
I’ve had female friends kiss me on a dancefloor in the hopes of getting a guy who won’t leave one of us alone to evaporate only to find a circle of guys around us when we parted.
I’ve had my boss’ husband tell me at a Christmas party that I couldn’t possibly be bi if I haven’t slept with a girl.
I’ve had my mother tell her friends how “Zali thinks she’s bi” behind my back.
I’ve had every single one of my close female friendships questioned and sexualised.
I spent an entire lunchtime crying because some boys in my class were spreading a rumour that I was a lesbian and I couldn’t figure out why it upset me so much.
I fell in love with a guy who has never once fetishized or questioned my sexuality and felt less valid as a bisexual woman because I’m with him, even though being attracted to men is a huge part of what being bi is.
That’s just me, and that’s barely scratching the surface. Biphobia is an everyday thing for me. It’s an everyday thing for most openly bi people. It sucks, you learn to deal with it, and it sucks some more.
That’s not to say being openly bisexual is all bad. My parents are a lot more accepting now than they were a few years ago, and the boy who started that rumour apologised when we became friendly enough to bring it up again. Biphobia is so internalised in our society that often, people don’t notice that they’re participating in it. These conversations need to be had, as uncomfortable as they are.
I’ve noticed that a good way to get people to stop being assholes is to make sure they know full well that they are in fact being assholes. So, for everything: Biphobia, transphobia, homophobia, xenophobia, racism, ableism, any and all discrimination, we have to call it out. Talk to people. Stop laughing at jokes that aren’t funny. Stop holding everyone to our own personal standards of tolerance and understanding, because we all have a lot to learn.
To the openly queer, congratulations. Don’t be dicks to closeted queer people. The closet exists for a reason. You were there once.
To the questioning and closeted, you’re fine. Take a breath, there’s no rush. Pride isn’t going anywhere.