As queer issues are beginning to get public attention, and awareness of gay and lesbian relationships is rising, there’s one group that often gets left out in the cold: bisexual people.
Many people can’t grasp that sexual attraction doesn’t have to be limited to one gender. And this can lead to some pretty upsetting internal conflicts for bi folks.
In this video, one bisexual activist shares her experiences of not feeling queer enough for the queer community. Check it out.
Click for the Transcript
Today I’m going to have emotions. Angry bisexual feelings! Today I want to talk about something that I’ve only ever felt comfortable bringing up to a couple of people, so congratulations on being my new best friends.
I want to talk about feeling like I am not enough or not good enough for the queer community.
So last night I went out with a couple of friends to an establishment that caters toward gay men, and a new acquaintance came up to me and was like, “So, what do you straight girls think of a place like this?” And I was really taken aback because that’s not something I would say to a stranger I just met. Like, “Oh, you’re obviously gay,” or “You’re obviously straight,” or whatnot. So immediately I jump to the defensive and–what did I say? I say, “Oh, no! I’m gay too!” Gay. Not bi.
And I don’t know how to explain it, but I knew that in that moment, my interest in men would’ve invalidated my interest in women. Because, “Oh, you’re at a gay bar. You must be here for all the men in short-shorts, right?” Not true! I was there because it was my friend’s birthday and I wanted to have a good time.
And the next thing he said was, “Oh, I would never have guessed. You look so straight!” So I guess that femme invisibility is something we can talk about another day.
This is something I’ve struggled with since I came out: feeling like my interest in men invalidates my interest in women, or anybody else. I feel like growing up and growing into a queer identity, there are rites of passage that some people go through. Now I can’t speak to those for boys or for trans or genderqueer people, but I know that for girls there’s the first time you discover The L Word, or the first time you ever hear Tegan and Sara, or the first time you watch But I’m a Cheerleader.
With the exception of Tegan and Sara, those other things I’ve only started doing in the last year. And pretty much only because my girlfriend made me. But I remember hearing about them and being interested in them but thinking that I didn’t have a right to be there because I still liked boys. And I realized that that exploration and confusion is part of the coming out process. But at the time, I thought, “Oh, I still like boys, so I guess this doesn’t actually apply to me.”
And I remember there being girls in middle and high school who I thought were really pretty and I really wanted to be friends with, but I never processed those feelings as romantic because I still liked boys.
Because I didn’t have any of those experiences at that formative, awkward, pre-teen period, I feel like I missed out on something really crucial and that I don’t really fit in with queer women communities the way somebody who’s always known she was a lesbian might. I mean, let’s be real. It’s not unheard of to go to a queer women gathering and have an ice breaker question be, “So, how old were you when you first saw The L Word?” Uh, 23?
There are few things in the world that irritate me as much as when people call me a “late-bloomer.” Because A) we have talked about this, there is no perfect time to come out. You can come out when you’re 12, you can come out when you’re 70. Everybody does it at their own pace. How dare you judge somebody else’s process? Don’t do that. It’s mean. And B) I could’ve been an early bloomer! I realize now that I had baby gay crushes on people when I was younger and that I totally loved Avril Lavigne when I was 12 and it was not just because of her music! But because I still liked boys, I ignored them and I didn’t consider them to be part of the identity that I’m not okay with. But I still think it’s important to acknowledge them and I don’t want them to be erased just because they happened before I knew what they were.
Again, a lot of these things are not bi-specific, but for me personally, knowing that I still liked boys made it way harder to process any other feelings. So I didn’t. I pretended they weren’t there.
In high school…I feel like I talk about high school a lot, but important things happened in high school! Even if I try to pretend I never went. In high school, one of my good friends and I started realizing that we were queer around the same time and we would talk about it pretty often. She was pretty into openly labeling herself toward the beginning, and I had a really hard time with it. So she asked me flat out, “Could you ever see yourself dating a girl?” and I said, “No, probably not,” and she asked why. And my answer was actually really sexist. I was like, “Oh, because I’m emotional and girls are emotional and there’s drama and I don’t want to deal with it,” which is bullshit.
And she said, “Yeah, I don’t think I could either but it’s because of what society thinks and because I don’t think I would be accepted.” Oh. Yeah, I probably should’ve said that. And that was the answer that I had in my head, but I was too afraid to say it. And I also didn’t feel like I had the right to say it, because I still liked boys.
In my last bi-erasure video, I talked about the bi versus gay thing and why I sometimes choose one word over the other, and one thing that I brought up that I forgot to turn the camera on for was that multiple people have asked me how come I don’t just date boys to make my life easier. And I think it’s pretty obvious what they mean by “make my life easier.” It’s about being able to blend into a heteronormative society and have a marriage be recognized in all 50 states and not be treated as a second-class citizen and not be worried for my safety when I hold my partner’s hand in public. You know, little unimportant things like that.
And people say that as if I’ve never thought about it before, but I’ve been asking myself that question every day since I was 14. The answer is that I don’t really have control over that. I didn’t choose my orientation, so I don’t choose who I fall in love with. I didn’t choose to start loving a guy right after I came out, I didn’t choose to love my current girlfriend, I just do. It just happens.
It is challenging for me to love who I am. I have to work at it every day. I love that there are queer spaces. I love that there are… It’s hard. Wow. I love that there are spaces where queer women can come together. I love that there are spaces where bisexual people can come together. It has been hard for me to join both of those because…because why? Because honestly sometimes it feels like one negates the other. And it shouldn’t be like that.
And in some ways, society did it to me. And in some ways, I did it to myself. And that’s hard to admit.
I am not blaming the leaders and the organizers of these spaces for any of this. I think it’s incredible that people donate their time and their resources to making sure that queer people have safe spaces, and I really really commend them for that.
I blame this mostly on my own insecurity, both as a bisexual person and as a human. I blame this on the struggle that I had growing up, thinking that queerness had to be monosexual and not realizing that there could be more to it than that. And I don’t know, I don’t know what else there is.
But like I keep saying, I think I’m getting better every day. And a lot of it is because you guys are really supportive and helpful. So, muah. Thank you.
Alright, that is all for feelings hour! Thank you so much for watching. Please subscribe, like, follow, do all those things. I’m going to start talking about bisexuality more often because you guys seem to really like it, so if you have suggestions for videos, please tell me. I think that’s all I got, so see you next time!
My feet are so asleep! Ah! That was part of my angry bisexual feelings about my foot!
Camille Beredjick is a blogger and LGBT rights activist living in New York. In 2010 she started GayWrites, a daily blog covering LGBT news, media and culture, and last year she launched a YouTube channel where she talks more personally about issues of queer identity, representation and self-acceptance. She studied journalism and gender studies at Northwestern University and works in communications at an LGBT nonprofit. Follow GayWrites on Tumblr and YouTube, or tweet Camille directly at @cberedjick.