When I started planning content for pride month, the first subject that popped into my mind was the biphobia and bi erasure within the LGBTQ+ community, and how being a bisexual woman in a relationship with a man often makes me feel excluded. At first, I wasn’t sure if it was a good idea writing about this, as it’s not the happiest topic. It’s the first year I’m officially out to everyone around me so I wanted this pride month to be all about celebrating my own sexuality. But it’s hard to accept your own sexuality, let alone come out to others or celebrate it, when a big part of the community makes you feel unwelcome, questions your sexuality and debates if it even exists.
(Content warning: biphobia, homophobia, self-harm.)
The problem, in my experience at least, isn’t necessarily people assuming I’m straight because they saw me with a man, that’s an understandable mistake. What really bothers me, and what’s actually hurtful, is people who invalidate, ignore or question my sexuality after I’ve already come out to them, just purely based on the gender of my partner or the way I choose to dress.
I lost count of how many gay men and lesbian women refuse to believe or accept that I’m bisexual, or just can’t accept that bisexual people, and even more specifically bisexual people in a relationship with someone of the opposite gender, have a place in the LGBTQ+ community.
Anyone who’s part of the LGBTQ+ community can agree that all of us are underrepresented. Too many movies have the main plot line evolving around straight couples, we barely get any screen time and when we do it’s even often as the gay best friend or some other ridiculous role. But the representation of bisexual people is even worse. Either we’re completely overlooked, called attention whores, or our sexuality is treated as a phase between heterosexuality and homosexuality.
Even those who are supposed to be part of our community, who know what it is like to be different and forgotten about, who have first-hand experience with homophobia, don’t mind discriminating against us. There are pride events going on this month who forgot to invite bisexual groups, people who have specifically mentioned couples in opposite-sex relationships are not welcome, an online LGBTQ+ magazine used biphobic headlines for clickbait, and I still encounter biphobia and bi erasure within the queer community on a regular basis.
Look, I get it. Being a woman in a relationship with a man puts me in a situation where I’m somewhat privileged. I can make out with him in public, or openly talk about him at work, without being judged, fired or even assaulted for who I am. I can love him without having to fear for my safety. I get it, it would be different if I was seeing a woman instead. I know that because I have experienced it myself as well. I remember the first time I made out with another woman in public. The people around us judged us, questioned the realness of our mutual attraction and claimed we were just trying to get male attention. And they reacted with disgust, threesome requests and invasive questions.
But being in a long-term relationship with a man doesn’t mean I’m straight, and shouldn’t be any reason for others to question my sexuality. It shouldn’t be a reason to exclude me from pride events, to silence and erase my sexuality. My boyfriend’s gender doesn’t determine my sexuality, it’s just a result of it. I identify as bisexual, I’m attracted to both men and women. That means I’m still bisexual even when I date men, and I’ll still be bisexual when I date women.
No one else but me knows what I’m feeling, no one else but me can decide my sexuality. Pride should be all about supporting each other in this community, to create visibility and show people their identity is valid. The queer community excluding specific groups because they’re not gay enough is just as bad as society excluding gay people.
I’ve learned through my own experiences how important acceptance and validation is when it comes to sexuality. It’s easy enough to start doubting yourself, and we don’t need others feeding in to it. Society already makes it hard enough to be out and be proud of who we are, causing mental health issues, self-doubt and in some cases even self-harm, the last thing we need is the queer community invalidating and excluding us as well.
Our feelings are valid, and so is our sexuality. So let’s start working towards an environment where all sexualities and all genders feel welcome, not just those with the most visibility. And let’s remember that there’s still a long way to go, both for the LGBTQ+ community in general and for bisexuality specifically.
Note: I specifically talk about the erasure of bisexuality within the community, because that’s what I personally have experience with. It’s also important to mention that other groups, such as straight trans people or aromatic/asexual people, are facing the same or similar problems. We have to embrace and support everyone, and those who are underrepresented in particular.
There is no definition of what a queer person or relationship looks like and we’re all different from each other. So let’s try not to exclude or attack anyone in the LGBTQ+ community based on their sexuality, gender identity, their partner or the way they look – especially not during pride month or pride events. This should be a loving and welcoming community that looks after each other, supports each other and provides a safe space for those who need it.