No, Bisexual People Don’t Have to “Pick A Side”
As a woman, bisexuality feels like being torn between two separate worlds.
Although we fall under the LGBT+ umbrella, we’re not entirely welcome there. If we can pass as straight, our sexuality isn’t trusted and we can up feeling like visitors rather than members of that community.
Daisy, 22, was surprised how excluded the gay community made her feel. She noticed that she found girls attractive in the same way as boys when she was twelve, but despite ten years of awareness, she’s pressured by her friends to “choose” to be fully gay.
“Gay and lesbian people see us as greedy and cheaters and like we’re not actually part of their community,” she told Galore, “and it’s not fair because you’d think they’d know what it’s like to not be accepted.”
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It sucks because we can end up feeling like we don’t deserve to be integrated within that community, like maybe we haven’t struggled enough to belong because we pass as straight. Keely, another member of the Galore team, feels like it totally ignores the unique problems she faces as a bisexual woman.
“It’s hard to not think, ‘oh well, gay people have it much worse, so my struggles are invalidated’,” she said. “But when you think that way, you’re erasing yourself.”
Straight people aren’t our best allies either. Perhaps you recognize this famous heterosexual proverb: “I don’t hate gay people, I just don’t agree with them.”
We may not be gay but they’re talking about us, too. Plus, straight people opine about our mere existence, calling it “a phase,” so we’re excluded from their community while being expected to return to it one day.
“It’s so scary because when people tell you your sexuality doesn’t exist, you believe it,” Keely said. “Bi people are more pinned with the ‘it’s just experimentation’ explanation than gay people. It’s hard to be taken seriously and people want such definitive hard lines about who you are.”
We begin to question our sanity, like maybe we convinced ourselves into liking women after binge watching South of Nowhere. We avoid figuring it out and because we’re still interested in men, we might convince people that we’re straight or pressure ourselves to choose straightness, even though we can’t.
“For a very long time, I was planning on just dating a man,” Daisy said. “I’m Indian, so when my Dad found out that I’m not straight, it caused a lot of trouble in my family. I felt the pressure to be straight.”
Personally, I haven’t told my parents anything about my sexual identity. I wonder if they’ll just never know this major detail. When I start dating a guy, I breathe a private sigh of relief that he requires no explanation.
Keely is braver than me, though. Her mom knows she likes women but struggles to understand it.
“My mom doesn’t even believe bisexuality is a thing and thinks that we should ‘pick a team’,” she said. “That’s probably why I’ve always discredited myself when it comes to my own identity.”
People mostly erase my identity when I’m in a heterosexual relationship, as if my bisexuality has evaporated. Because of that, it’s important that my boyfriend never discredits it. I can’t love someone who acts like he turned me straight or something. I also can’t be with a man who treats my sexuality like it belongs to him. Then, he’s just looking at me like an opportunity for a threesome and it’s gross and fetishy. Nothing turns me off more.
I can’t even tolerate men who do that in general, although I used to. I was at a bar one night when the manager hopped on the microphone and offered shots to everyone if my friends and I made out. Drunk at 2 a.m., we all did it. The next day, my guy friends were posting pictures of themselves posing in front of us. They acted like they were at the strip club and had captions about how real the night had been. I wanted to barf.
I couldn’t place why at the time but it felt dehumanizing. These were the same dudes who wouldn’t welcome gay men in their social circles but treated women kissing like an exhibit at the zoo. They could only celebrate lesbians, but they needed to feel like those women belonged to them. It had to be a performance. And I felt like it undermined my desire to be taken seriously. It made me seem fake when people were already discrediting me. I stopped playing along.
I revisit that night in the bar sometimes, especially when people tell me that bisexual women make LGBT+ people look bad. I used to agree because I felt so much shame. I’d let people use my behavior to justify why bisexuality gets so much hate, but ultimately that blame was misplaced. It’s not my job, or any bisexual woman’s job, to convince people we exist and are worthy of respect. We just have to live our identities in a way that feels good, possibly making mistakes along the way.
Meanwhile, other communities can help by trusting us. We’re not struggling to pick a side, we are a side. So stop asking us to pick yours.
READ MORE: How To Be Queer In A Straight World