Words by Steph (she/her), 21 TAS
I’m a bisexual woman and I have a long-term male partner.
Despite bisexuality being the most common sexuality in the LGBTQIA+/queer community (GLAAD), bisexual people (like me) are still questioned and misunderstood often. When I tell someone I’m queer, they ask if I have a girlfriend. When I tell someone I have a partner, they assume it’s a boyfriend.
It’s pretty common for queer folk to experience people assuming their partner is of a different gender to them. Assuming everyone is – by default – heterosexual, is called heteronormativity, and it’s prevalent in many more areas of everyday life. For example, when people go to the doctor, it is often assumed that the only sexual activity they could be doing is penetrative sex, with someone of a different gender. Or if you have ever been wedding shopping, you would know that the overwhelming majority of wedding paraphernalia is designed for “Mrs. and Mr.”
Thankfully, heteronormativity is being challenged more and more in recent years, with many people in society becoming more accepting and aware of the existence of queer people.
Yet the assumption of monosexuality is something that I rarely hear mentioned.
Monosexuality is an attraction to only one gender. Monosexuality includes sexualities like heterosexual, gay, and lesbian. This differs from bisexual people like me, who are attracted to multiple genders. The assumption of monosexuality is a binary, where people assume that you can only be one of two things: gay or straight. Bisexual people, alongside those such as pansexual and polysexual people, are erased from this narrative.
The assumption of monosexuality continues to be damaging for bisexual people. I feel as if I’m caught between worlds, as if society sees me as not entirely straight yet not entirely gay. Straight people think I’m just a confused heterosexual, whilst queer people think I’m not enough to truly be one of them. And I’m not alone in feeling this way. Bisexual people often feel ostracised from both mainstream heteronormative society as well as the queer community (RACGP).
Since coming out as bisexual, I feel a degree of separation from mainstream heterosexual society, as if I am only accepted in the mainstream because I appear to be in a heterosexual relationship. Yet I also haven’t been able to find my place within queer communities, as I don’t feel like I am queer enough to belong there.
Because I am bisexual, I feel pressure to come out to those around me because people don’t know my sexuality just based on the gender of my partner. The pressure to constantly come out is exhausting, as I feel like I constantly have to prove myself and reveal who I am. Monosexual people, who are simply gay or straight, never have to face this unique issue.
I hate the idea of coming out, but at the same time, I hate that people assume I am straight. I believe that people shouldn’t feel the need to come out, because people shouldn’t assume you are heterosexual by default. But I also want to feel embraced and accepted by the queer community, and as a bisexual woman with a male partner, that involves coming out.
I love my partner more than anything in this world, but I face a constant internal struggle because of the conflict between my sexuality and the nature of my heterosexual-appearing relationship. I wish society did not assume everyone was monosexual, that you can only love and lust for one gender. Gay and straight are not a binary, and people have diverse sexualities, including bisexuality, outside of these two categories.
If only people could embrace others without judgment and stereotypes, and not make assumptions about the dynamics and details of other people’s relationships.
Instead of asking, “Are you gay or straight?” – ask people, “How do you define or think about your gender and sexuality?” Instead of asking feminine people, “Do you have a boyfriend?”, and masculine people, “Do you have a girlfriend?” – ask people, “Are you seeing anyone at the moment, or do you want to?”
Bisexual people like me continue to struggle with feeling unseen and misunderstood, but if we could all take a moment to reconsider our assumptions, bi folk will have more space to be seen, understood and loved.