By Laura Jean Moore
Past Lovers: bisexual women, straight women, bisexual men, gay men, straight men. Context: clueless/closeted/curious. Then: out, but dating online. To rehash the elsewhere detailed conundrum of identifying as bisexual on OkCupid: Many queer women won’t date you, and men are eager to find a woman who they think will have sex with their girlfriends in front of them. Both groups are disappointments. Both make the same assumptions: that penis is king, that love between women is secondary, that a bisexual woman is an accessory—to queerness, or a couple’s sex life.
From what I have heard from bisexual men, it is not much better for them. Straight women assume they are gay and gay men think they have vagina cooties. Being bisexual is like being an atheist with Muslim and Christian friends. Neither understands each other, but both agree you are nuts. You are a person without an umbrella, a rebel without an army, a dreamer without a bed.
You have, at least, the memories of your crushes and the kisses left on your lips by lovers, hookups, and friends. You know, too, for whom you have cried tears of heartbreak, tasted disappointment, feared rejection. These are not truths that can be erased by other people’s confusion. They are too embedded in the skin. You learn to talk about who you are and not talk about it. You learn that your love is sometimes a joke and sometimes a threat. You wake up in the morning and calculate which you to wear in public.
I guess if people don’t understand you, you have to explain yourself. I guess if people assume you are something you are not, you have to out yourself. But sometimes you just want to be a person. The exhausting part is when other people say they just want you to be a person too, but only if they can pretend you are straight or gay or whatever makes them feel comfortable. And so you pretend too, if only to have a break from conversations that include “Actually, I’m…”
100 years ago rigid social expectations dictated one’s role as a woman or man and one was expected to perform love in the service of a familial ideal. If one happened to marry the person one actually loved, it was a happy coincidence, not a feature of design. The liberalizing of our culture has meant that we have modified our social structures to more reflect individual desires and identity. In theory, the purpose of these changes is to enable all people to have more freedom and individual determination in the course of their lives, as well as the ability to live publicly with fewer secrets. In practice, the rise and increasing publicity of non-cishet identities has resulted in complaint and backlash from those for whom the previous system was working already.
The thing that people who complain about pride events and visibility weeks and history months don’t understand is that no one has pride events and visibility weeks and history months if who they are is already regularly acknowledged, culturally accepted, and legally protected. What looks on the outside like a special interest group or a protest, is on the inside a statement of worth and an insistence on thriving despite being harassed, threatened, and sometimes killed. But the saddest fact of these necessary and now-ubiquitous demonstrations is that when someone has to emphasize their difference in order to be treated equally in spite of that difference, what they have in common with everyone else often gets lost in the conversation.
I am so tired. I wish I could just have a beer and talk about the weather, too, but reasonable people who I usually have reasonable conversations with, still think that because I am bisexual, I must want to have sex with everyone. Others whom I don’t know, but who I bet consider themselves upstanding and moral individuals, have screamed at my friends on the street and told them that they are abominations and faggots and deserve to die. Viola Davis won an Emmy this week and it was a big deal, because not only are there few substantial roles for black women, there are even fewer times they have been rewarded for their performances. We have visibility week, pride events, and history months so that someday, instead of asking for rights, for healthcare, for justice, for better representation, we can just have a beer and talk about the weather.
Is that too much to ask?