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I am too gay to be heterosexual but too straight to be gay.
Despite being the third letter of the LGBTQ+ acronym, there is still, at best, a concerning amount of confusion and, and at worst – discrimination, against people who identify as bisexual. I happen to identify as bisexual myself so, in the spirit of February being LGBT history month, I feel like it’s important to talk about the often overlooked bi-erasure phenomenon and my personal experiences with it.
Bi-erasure, defined by GLAAD – an LGBTQ advocacy organisation – as the “pervasive problem in which the existence or legitimacy of bisexuality is questioned or denied outright” is a very real thing. And, perhaps surprisingly, it comes from both outside and within the LGBT community.
I could tell you stories of women saying they don’t want to date me because they think “I’m just a straight girl looking to experiment/going through a phase”. I could tell you about the harmful fetishisation of my sexuality by some heterosexual men who think that they might get a threesome out of it. I could tell you how I regularly question my sexuality because if I date someone of the opposite gender, it somehow makes my identity less legitimate.
It also caused a lot of distress when I was growing up and attempting to understand my sexuality – when I was around 10, I developed a huge crush on a girl in my class. Like, mind-blowing. I still remember her name – Julia. She had long black hair and always had grazed knees from doing cartwheels in the playground. And because bisexuality was not something that was talked about at the time, I came to the (incorrect) conclusion that I was gay. I remember writing in my diary something along the lines of “I think I’m a lesbian and I don’t know how to come out to my family”. But then I kissed a boy when I was 14 and that felt great, too. So I just decided it must have been a glitch in the system. It wasn’t until several years later that I realised that you didn’t have to “pick a side” and that liking a girl is not mutually exclusive with liking boys. If bisexuality was more normalised, it might have made my puberty and coming to terms with my sexuality a much less painful experience.
But the challenges didn’t stop once I put a label on my sexual preferences.
Being in a relationship with a man does not make me straight and does not mean that I have finally “picked a side”. Having said this, I have to admit that I have internalised some of these harmful narratives. Sometimes I question whether I really am bisexual if I am dating a guy, or if the fact that my dating history doesn’t split evenly 50/50 between men and women might somehow mean that I’m not bi. It’s like having impostor syndrome but with your sexuality.
I do understand the privilege that comes with being bisexual and being able to “pass” as straight. After all, if I were to marry a man and remain in a heteronormative relationship for the rest of my life, many people would assume I was a straight woman. I would avoid some of the homophobia that still is unfortunately present in today’s society. However, being with a man will not magically make me straight, in the same way that being with a woman will not make me a lesbian. Yes, I’m greedy. No, I’m not indecisive. Maybe it’s just time we accept that it’s okay to love who we love and stop gatekeeping gay-ness.