"The date was awesome and she's great, but I think she's bi." My girlfriend's friend says, adding quickly, "No offense." The latter was for my benefit. It's something I've gotten used to over the last year or so since I've been with my girlfriend — lesbians talking about how they won't date bisexual women but, of course, "no offense." I've learned all about dating apps where you can screen out bisexuals, which I assume is also meant with "no offense."
The thing is, I am effing offended. One thing I've realized over the last year is how happy I am to be a bisexual and how many people are, quick frankly, dicks about it.
It wasn't all a surprise. I've always known that there is a lot of anti-bi sentiment generally. Bisexuals are perceived as less trustworthy and there's the fun little "greedy" or "indecisive" stereotypes that still persist. I've always known there was some animosity toward bi people from certain, but certainly not all, members of the queer community. When I had only dated men but had had sex with women, I was accused of doing it "for male attention"— despite no men being involved in most of those encounters. Some lesbians think you're just experimenting with them. There's no room to be legitimately exploring your own sexuality. Instead, there have always been accusations of bi women just being products of male fantasy rather than, you know, autonomous sexual beings with attractions and needs.
But because I had never fallen for a woman before, I was never as bothered about this as I should have been. I'm embarrassed at that now. I had been attracted to women and had sex with them, but there had never been any romantic feelings up until I met my girlfriend and realized I could fall in love with a woman. I am happier than I've ever been in a relationship.
I guess I thought that would answer any lingering questions once and for all. I guess I thought, though, I shouldn't have needed to do it, that a happy "bi-product" of my relationship would be making people see my sexuality as "legit." Yet here I am a year into a lesbian relationship and, confoundingly, people are still openly hostile and suspicious about bisexuals to me. I don't get it. Here's what it's like:
You're Never Enough
There are the people who think that you're not bi enough or not gay enough or too femme. Always too this or not enough that. There are straight people who are waiting for me to "go back to normal" and gay people waiting for me to inevitably return to heteronormativity with nothing more than a "JK!"
Yet here I am, literally walking proof of the thing that bisexuals claim to do — which is, by the way, only saying they are sexually attracted to men and women. Yet a lot of people make it clear they just don't quite buy into it. Quite frankly, it sucks.
There Is Not The Same Support Network
There are times when being a same-sex relationship is really hard — that's not news to anyone. But I hate that my girlfriend and I have a hand squeeze that's code for "Did you clock that creepy man following us and muttering? Just keep an eye on him" and another one for "I'm sorry that woman just muttered 'F*cking lesbians' as she walked by, are you OK?" and yet another for "God I hope this guy stops chatting us up soon, I can't stay polite much longer."
I hate that I have to feel like this person that I love is unsafe just for walking around with me. Don't get me wrong, I know that as awful as feeling unsafe periodically is, it doesn't even scratch the surface of how terribly many LGBT folk are treated. Here's the thing: It is still awful. It would be amazing if I felt like a belonged to a community that actually backed that up. But instead, when I'm around (some, not all!) queer folk, I feel like I can't say much without the eye roll coming out and the "You've been gay for like a second and some people have been mean to you, chill out." vibe. In a way, that's fair — I'm relatively new to the sh*tty things a lot of people have been experiencing for years or decades. But it still feels terrible. If I was a lesbian who had come out at the age of 28 and was in my first relationship with a woman, I don't think there would be the same disdain. Why should it be any different for a bisexual who only happens to be in her first lesbian relationship at the same age?
We Need Better Language
One of the weirdest things is, since the last year has fired me up on behalf of my bisexuality, is how often people don't realize that I am bisexual. People who just meet me for the first time with my girlfriend assume I'm a lesbian, which is a weird feeling, because that's just not who I am. It's not a bad thing obviously, but it's not me. Unless I wear a T-shirt saying "FYI I also am attracted to men," then people make the assumption and I don't really know how to feel about it — or what to do about it.
I think part of that is a real language problem. Even now, I say I'm in a "lesbian relationship," so people, understandably, assume I'm a lesbian. There's not a word to describe a relationship where one or both partners is a bisexual. "A bisexual relationship" doesn't sound right. Instead, bisexuals are ascribed to whatever partner their currently with, which is usually a heterosexual relationship. And then everyone is suspicious of bi people, in part because they don't realize how many people are actually bi.
I don't know what the answer is. I don't know how the language needs to change. But I do know that when you refuse to date a person because they happen to be attracted to men and women, I'm offended, really offended. I also know that I love being attracted to men and women, that I'm madly in love with my amazing girlfriend, and that I'm proud to be bisexual. I just need the words to talk about it and for people to listen.
Images: Author's own; Giphy