Thursday, May 17, is the International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia (IDAHOT) and this year Care2 is bringing you personal stories from around the world on the fight to eliminate anti-LGBT prejudice and discrimination. For our complete coverage, please click here.
The hardest part of being out and bisexual isn’t what you’d expect. Yes, I’ve experienced icy glares and unpleasant comments when out with female partners, and I know that being perceived as a lesbian in public could be dangerous. While I’ve thankfully been spared any personal experience, I’m acutely aware that hate crimes do happen. And bisexuals experience just as much homophobia as gays and lesbians when in same-sex relationships, and when publicly affiliated with LBGT events and organizations. Functionally, we’re no different when we’re involved in the gay community.
But there’s another kind of homophobia we experience as bisexuals, and for me, it cuts deeper. By and large, it isn’t perpetrated by people and groups who would hate me regardless of what I do and say. It doesn’t come from bigots and hate groups. It often comes from friends, family members, co-workers and other people I see and interact with on a daily basis. Sometimes, it even comes from queer allies.
It is true that many bisexuals end up in long-term opposite-sex relationships — although characterizing those relationships as strictly “heterosexual” is not always accurate, since bi people can and do date each other. Since only 2-10% of the population is queer, depending on which study you read, it makes sense that there are many more opposite-sex prospects out there for bisexuals — particularly those who don’t live in big cities.
And when a bisexual ends up with someone of the opposite sex, whether it’s for a year or for life, something strange and disturbing happens. It’s hard not to feel, sometimes, that people become too comfortable with the idea of you in a “straight” relationship. As if everyone you dated or had feelings for before ceased to exist. As if you’d always really been straight all along.
Often, it’s unintentional. Of course my family will focus on my marriage to my husband and not my ex-girlfriends they haven’t seen in years, or perhaps never even met. To a certain extent, it’s unavoidable in any long-term relationship. The past fades into the background. After a few years with someone, unless you have children or continuing legal disputes from a previous relationship, it disappears entirely.
But, just as often, the homophobia is blatant and deliberate. Marrying someone of the opposite sex is held up as evidence that same-sex attractions were “a phase” (or worse, a mistake). As if sexual identity is something you can outgrow. Some people seem to want to warp our relationships and experiences to fit their narrative that sexual identity is a choice, a lifestyle, a sin — rather than seeing that bisexuals, like anyone else, very rarely have any conscious say in who we are attracted to and who we fall in love with. The only difference is that sex and gender are not the same kind of limiting factors that they are for most other people.
Photo credit: Caitlin Childs via Flickr
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