One of the most profound moments along my journey to accepting my identity as a Bi+ person was seeing a comment on a post under the reddit group r/bisexual. I’d subscribed to this group as a teenager in one of my first private acts of coming out, on a throwaway account, well before I ever had the understanding or courage to say the actual words. It was one of those “bisexual culture is…” posts, which I have particularly enjoyed ever since I read the first one while sitting, legs awkwardly sprawled over the couch in cuffed jeans, wearing a flannelette shirt AND a leather jacket with my hair cut in a bob. On this occasion, the comment was on a post about bisexuals loving lemon slice. While I (insanely enough) had lemon slice in the fridge without knowing this reference prior, the post was not what hit me. Instead it was the comment “bisexual culture is making jokes about things being bisexual culture to feel seen”.
The realisation hit me like a sledgehammer. The identity struggle I had long been facing was perhaps one at the very essence of a bisexual experience. Or at least one that was very common, enough to be a uniting, rallying cry used to validate and draw community close just the same as (and more importantly than) cliched haircuts or the cuffing of a pant leg.
It’s the struggle of invisibility held in the pit of your stomach. Of self-eradication. Of self-silence. Self-doubt. It is insidious and can be all consuming. It is fearing yourself to be an imposter, thinking you are a fraud. The internalised anxiety and uncertainty. The feeling of standing on the edge of straight culture, misunderstood and fetishised. The feeling of standing on the edge of gay culture, not quite accepted or validated. The faint, echoing hollowness of not quite having a community in which you can be your complete self at your truest, in peace.
This struggle is one that I have felt my entire life. It was the struggle of growing up in a highly conservative Mormon community, thinking “thank God I’m not gay” just a little too much as I began to approach adolescence. It was assuming that the feelings that I had for girls were entirely standard, regular even - what every other girl experienced. It was being confident in the fact that because I knew I liked boys, I couldn’t possibly be a (*whispered*) (!!)~lesbian~(!!) no matter how many flutters overtook my stomach when Wendy turned to me with her freckles and her blonde hair shining in the sun after church.
It was the struggle of not having any benchmark or example. I didn’t even know that there was such a thing as bisexuality until I was at least in my late teen years. I had always felt uncomfortable in straight spaces where masculinity and femininity were performed in stark contrast and had always been drawn to queer community without understanding why, knowing only the binary of straight vs gay, with the ‘gay’ barely visible in any form within my suburban, religious, Queensland life. Not even knowing that bisexuality existed and that this part of my identity had an actual name or was a ‘category’ of simply being created just another, impermeable layer of denial. Denial that I only had the bravery to unpack after many years trying to perform heterosexuality in short, ‘straight appearing’ relationships, while seeking furtive moments with women in between, rushed in club bathrooms and tucked around the corners of smoking areas, on queer dating apps under a name that was not my own, moments filled with lingering looks and bumped hands and wisps of hair tucked back behind ears.
Learning about bisexuality and realising that the way I had always felt had a name was only half of the journey, however. I was taking baby steps, I had made a profile on a dating app and finally had my photo, my name and the label “bisexual” below it. But it was here that I learned to my despair that the type of expectations and assumptions made about Bi+ people were often as pervasively negative in the queer community as they were within the straight community, and they were assumptions that others were very quick to tell me about in my inbox. Depending on who I messaged, I was either a sexual ‘tourist’ trying to ‘experiment’ before settling down with a man or a ‘unicorn’ presumably up for a threesome. To lesbians, I was tainted goods and to straight cis men, I was a novelty. I was never a person.
As I dived further into queer culture and bisexual history, I learned that this was all too common, and perhaps the reason there had been no examples of Bi+ people available to me growing up. Gatekeeping in the queer community combined with fetishisation in the straight community is one hell of a tornado to navigate. It is no wonder, then, that our visibility can be so murky. For a sexual identity that is widely inclusive, being defined as attraction to people with genders similar to and different to my own (including trans and non-binary people, I will say it louder for the people at the back!) it still manages to carry a fair bit of stigma. It manages to still be so easily erased; an identity that onlookers love to disappear into the definition of your relationship. A bisexual woman in a same gendered relationship becomes a lesbian, a bisexual woman in a mixed gendered relationship becomes straight. Unlike monosexual identities, being bisexual means having to ‘come out’ over and over again, or risk disappearing into a presumed identity based on the gender of your partner. A presumption which to me feels like being kicked back into the darkness I felt before I knew who I was.
So – how do we persist?
For me, the only way forward has been with self-acceptance. It has been the realisation that my identity as a bisexual person is entirely my own, one that I have fought to understand, recognise and accept. It was bloody hard won, and thus so incredibly important to me and something that cannot be taken away from me. I hold it deep within myself in all its complex glory. My identity is something that I do not have to prove, because it is an essential part of who I am and how I live. It is the lens through which I see the world every single day. It is a lens through which I look upon my mixed gender relationship and sit with comfortably, the exact same way as I would do in a same/similar gender relationship; knowing they do not have a pull on my identity either way. It is a lens that feels like the perfect fit. It is a lens that I choose to actively validate and recognise in its queerness and its power – telling myself I am who I am, I always have been, and always will be.
In line with this concept of validation, I am writing this “love letter” to my identity. To the struggle, and to the nuance. To feeling seen. To feeling queer enough. To feeling enough.
Another tweet I recently scrolled by on my twitter feed profoundly stated, “bi culture is making a home in the in-between spaces”. As I have discovered, there is a whole community out there, spanning the ‘in-between’ space; one that grows more visible by the day. It is a community I feel lucky to be part of.
Check out some of our awesome Bisexual t-shirt ranges here.
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