Graphic by Shay Suban
If there ever were a stupid question, this would be it.
I’ve been bisexual since before I knew there was a word for it. Yet, until recently, I found myself asking this question whenever the opportunity arose. Surprisingly, I’ve realized that coming out did nothing more than worsen the problem. At least before, I only had to question if I liked the opposite gender. Ever since coming out, if I leaned towards favoring either side of the spectrum I’d panic as if I were losing my entire identity. Unfortunately, this struggle I went through is not uncommon. It’s a product of all my personal experiences with Bi erasure, culminating into a deeply internalized sense of biphobia. This is my story about how I dealt with that struggle.
My earliest experience with Bi erasure came in the form of a valuable life lesson that my drunken father set out to teach me at the ripe, young age of 13. “Listen son, someday when you’re off at college you’re gonna realize two things: first, that all women are a little bit bisexual, and second, that all men are either gay or straight, no in-between.” To my father’s credit- not that he deserves any- I was also taught to love and appreciate my gay friends… since they make great wingmen. As difficult as growing up under the roof of such a bigot was, I had always assumed that my poor relationship with my dad meant that his words would never get to me.
So, I moved on with my life. I dated a few girls in high school and passed as unquestionably straight, all the while watching gay porn every night like a ritual. As I grew to accept my sexuality more during this time, I realized that each step was becoming increasingly difficult. It was almost as if I didn’t want to accept myself and the feelings I had.
Looking back the reason is plain as day. I was wrong. My father’s words left their mark. In fact, I believe that the conversation I had with him laid the groundwork for all my future struggles with my sexuality by planting a seed in my head that said the way I felt was wrong.
Flash forward a few years to me coming out to my mom, whom, unlike my father, I hold an infinite amount of love and respect for. It started off well. She cried, gave me a hug, and belted off all the cliches under the sun about unconditional love. The only peculiar thing I noticed in our conversation afterward was that she kept using the phrase “gay” at odd times. I came to find out that as accepting as my mom is, she doesn’t believe in bisexuality. She believes that a person’s sexuality is determined based on their partner’s sex. Thus, I was straight at the time that I was dating a girl, and should I ever bring a boy home, I’ll be gay, which was fine. Even though I was received with open arms and kind words, I couldn’t help but feel defeated when all was said and done. After all, that was parent number two that didn’t even believe my identity existed.
Soon after the talk with my mom, I began diving into the media to find anything and everything validating my sexuality in an attempt to stop my growing insecurities in their tracks. But of course, Bi erasure comes in many forms, not just the misguided opinions of your parents, and I quickly learned that lesson online.
At first, I noticed only the painfully obvious issues in media: lack of LGBTQ visibility as a whole, a roughly equal amount of hateful rhetoric as there is supportive, and a skewed representation of what the LGBTQ community actually looks like. Digging deeper, I saw that even in LGTBQ content, the main focus was on a certain type of gay or lesbian couple. There was no space for outsider queers like me.
Fed up with the media, I turned to the Bi community as a whole and started looking for someone like myself. Anyone really. All I wanted was someone who fit the same basic profile. I thought at this point it would be impossible to feel underrepresented- it’s just people that feel the same way I do, right? Nope. As much as I hate to admit it, there was a splinter of truth to my father’s words. In the Bi community, women make up the majority and are much more vocal than their male counterparts. Even now, I can only name maybe five Bi male celebs off the top of my head, but I could easily list over twenty famous Bi women. The same goes for the community at large. Any Bi male that fit my description either wasn’t out or wasn’t visible. And as much respect as I have for Bi women and the struggle they endure, our experiences are completely different.
Ironic, that a cis white straight-passing male couldn’t find a place to fit in. But that’s the situation I found myself in.
For a while, that dose of reality was tough to swallow. Being unable to find an empathetic outlet for my feelings towards my sexuality just added to the heaping pile of evidence that was telling me it would be so much easier to just pick one. If I were gay I’d be accepted, represented, and would retain a sense of being true to myself. If I were straight, I’d be the spitting image of privilege in America, a deal that many would call me an idiot for not taking. I’m sure I’ve spent more time debating those pros and cons than I’ve spent exploring my sexuality.
Recently, I finally realized that fact. Nowadays, I’ve given up on the search for something or someone relatable as a source of validation for my feelings. The entire idea that someone could even need an outside source to confirm the way they feel is inherently superficial and meaningless. I’ve taken solace in knowing that I have a group of friends who are accepting, supportive, and understanding. When I do occasionally meet someone who’s dealing with the same things that I have, I tell them what I wish someone would have once told me:
Regardless of the words you hear, and the mouths they come out of, just know that you are not wrong. Your feelings are authentic and you are the only person that knows how you feel. Even if the world seems dark and lonely, and that it’s no better under the rainbow, that’s no reason to change the way you think. The only person who would gain from that is the person that you would pretend to be. The real you will be just as miserable underneath as before. So go forth and be yourself. I promise that there are others out there like you. And that those feelings you once called a curse make you who you are.