Happy Bi Visibility Day!

23 Sep

Today is, as several of my Facebook friends inform me, Bi Visibility Day. Hooray! I have identified as bisexual in the past and have had plenty of infuriating conversations with people, identifying as gay and identifying as straight, who didn’t take my sexuality seriously, or made assumptions that I was either straight or gay (depending on the kind of space in which they encountered me – and also depending upon their own sexual orientations). I was told more than once that my sexual identity “didn’t exist.” I’ve been told that I’m ‘either straight and trying to look cool, or gay and too scared to come out properly’ (by someone who, incidentally, identified as straight and decided that I was probably the former. Then I went out with another woman for two years. Not as a direct result, but, y’know. LOL). I’ve been told by people identifying as gay men, as an afterthought following a brief monologue about how great penises are, that, of course, I ‘don’t care for that kind of thing,’ except I totally did when they said it. I’ve found that, much like in many straight spaces, many people in LGBTQ spaces just assume that you’re the same end of the spectrum that they are – and that there’s a spectrum. In short, I was told a lot of bullshit about my bisexuality when I had it.

I haven’t identified as bisexual for a few years now – not, I hasten to add, because I “grew out of it;” at least, not in the stereotypical, offensive sense. While I don’t tend to find people whom I perceive to be men who are non-trans and/or non-queer attractive in the slightest, I don’t feel that this makes me a lesbian. I actually find terms like ‘straight,’ ‘gay,’ and ‘bisexual’ quite problematic because they imply a binary of gender, and ‘straight’ and ‘gay’ are particularly problematic for me because I feel they serve to define the subject as belonging to one of those oppositional genders. I’d like to point out here that this doesn’t mean at all that I have any beef with anyone who uses these words to describe themselves or their preferences: it is, of course, absolutely up to you how you identify and the words you use to identify yourself (to a point, since language is public property and publicly used, so I couldn’t, for instance, define as a black person, or an OAP. But you know what I mean). If you feel comfortable identifying as straight, gay, bisexual, a man, a woman, or whatever, then that’s awesome.

My point is that, for me, it isn’t that simple. I was identified female at birth, and I generally present as high femme, and lots of people take me to be a woman, which is a word that I don’t mind using as shorthand for my identity when in situations in which it isn’t really necessary to go into the ins and outs of it. However, I don’t actually identify my gender as being one end of a binary; for me, that binary is irrelevant. My gender, rather than ‘woman,’ is ‘femme’ – and, since feminine femaleness is no tautology, I feel justified in identifying outside what many call cis gender identity. (I actually think that ‘cis’ is a really problematic term, but I’ll not go into that right now for fear of going to far off-topic. I might write about it in another post, though!) As such, words like ‘straight’ and ‘bi’ and ‘gay’ have no real meaning for me, since I do not position myself on the gender binary, and also since my partners do not necessarily accept that binary either.

I understand that I walk through the world being afforded many of the privileges offered to “cis” women, because people who don’t know any differently identify me that way by looking at me. I also understand that, were I to be visibly trans, or visibly masculine, this would probably result in particularly uncomfortable and abusive experiences (although that isn’t to say that the routine denial of the sexualities of those perceived to be queer and women is unimportant, because it fucking sucks). But neither of these things detract from how shitty it is to have your sexuality decided for you by those who have not cultivated an understanding of sexuality, or of your sexuality.

This is where I think my current sexual practices and gender identity/ies cross over with those of people who identify as bisexual – because people are still making assumptions about who I like to fuck – although, thankfully, not friends or people in my community (that I know of). I understand that ‘queer’ as a sexual identity confuses a lot of people, but I don’t think this is any excuse for intolerance, or assumptions, which I think can function as a form of control. Even though I don’t find the terminology useful, I wanted to write this post in solidarity with people that identify as bisexual. I don’t consider myself “under the bisexual umbrella,” but that doesn’t really matter: my sexuality, and my gender, are still invisible to a lot of people, and that’s fucked up and annoying. Of course, I don’t expect people to get it as soon as they see me, or struggle to pick up cues from my appearance. Visibility can be difficult because it is all too often contingent upon assumption, whether those assumptions are right or wrong. I think if we had more bi, pan, and queer visibility then that could function to do away with visibility as we know it now, because people would have more options and therefore less certainty with which to place others – which I think would be awesome.


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