There’s no denying it – relationships truly define us. And unfortunately, if you’re bisexual, your identity can easily be misread.
Date a female-spectrum person and they assume you’re a lesbian, date a male-spectrum person and they assume you’re heterosexual. So what is this “straight privilege” thing we keep hearing about? Are us bi women really lucky to be able to play het… or are we subject to even more discrimination due to misunderstandings over us failing to “choose a side”?
Despite having worked in LGBT media for a large part of my career, I’ve often felt uneasy about just how well I fit into the LGBT community. Attending Pride with a male partner a couple of years ago invited more than a few stares. Another ex-boyfriend was kicked out of a gay bar we went to – even though we weren’t being overly affectionate and I was there, ironically, doing vox pops for work. Most of the male partners – my current one included, thank goodness - haven’t batted an eyelid over my bisexuality, but others have simply failed to understand.
“Surely if you’re with me you’re heterosexual now, because you’re in a heterosexual relationship,”
“I don’t get why you need to identify as ‘bisexual’ unless you’re going to have a girlfriend too.”
Another exclaimed, smiling,
“You can change your MySpace profile to ‘straight’ now!”
Others have requested threesomes with my friends, despite me firmly explaining that I am monogamous. “I told my partner about my sexuality from the start,” says Bonnie, 34. “He struggled with it initially. Not because he didn’t trust me, but he was intimidated by the fact that I had a broader experience. He called it Chasing Amy Syndrome (after a movie where the protagonist has issues with his new partner’s bisexuality).” Bonnie says she “hates being invisible” as a bi woman with a male partner. “I’m aware I end up benefitting from it in that I don’t have to worry about being victimised for my relationship, and I do accept that. But I’m queer—that’s who I am.”
Bonnie urges other bi women to make sure they don’t hide, and that they take part in LGBT activism as much as they can. “Be a part of your local queer community. Join the Facebook groups, go to the meetups. Take part in the marches and the rallies and the pride parades. Show up and do the work as we move towards equality. Stand up for your queer siblings across the world.”
“I didn’t have the word bisexual all the way back then, but [my ex] knew that I’d been with women,” reveals Laura, 51. “He didn’t have a problem with it at all. Sometimes (rarely, but it did happen) we admired women together and once we met a woman we both really liked and we had a short conversation to the effect that if we’d ever want a threesome she’d be the one. I didn’t do anything with other women in the end, I was strictly monogamous. But he never felt threatened by my crushes.” However, as she’d never been fully open about her bisexuality to the outside world, Laura was greeted with some confusion after her divorce. “The people who knew me through my ex or only knew me after I had started dating him were very surprised to hear that I was going to date women,” she sighs. “I never really thought about it when I was still married to him, but in hindsight I could have been more open about it, even more so from the activist point of view I now have. Especially for the sake of my kids. My youngest is bi too and he only told me three years ago.”
So next time you see a “straight” woman walking hand-in-hand with a man at Pride, or a woman giving a man a quick kiss in G-A-Y, don’t assume they’re invading your space. They could easily be as much a part of the LGBT rainbow as you are, and, like you, have perhaps suffered a raft of insults and slurs and soul-searching due to their sexuality over the years.
Being bi and dating a guy certainly isn’t a “safe” option.