On bi-erasure and coming out

Its pride month again! Last year I wrote this post explaining why Pride is still celebrated. I stand by what I said there, but over the past year I have grown, as has my experience. This year for pride month I will be getting a little more personal, not because I feel the need to share my story, but because I feel that my story is one many people can relate to and everyone can learn a bit from.

About two years ago I came out to my close family and friends as bi. Coming to terms with my sexuality was a complicated and personal journey and because of that, its not one that I will not be getting into here. I will talk about it a little bit, but more importantly I’ll talk about my experiences after coming out.

To start out, my coming out story is nothing exceptional. I’m lucky to have an accepting family and group of friends. After coming out, I no longer tried to suppress my identity and now the vast majority of people that know me know about my sexuality. That being said, I still experience some of the struggles faced by queer people and would like to share that experience to you. In this blog post I’m mostly going focus on bisexuality, as that’s obviously what I have the most experience with. Keep in mind that each sexual identity faces different challenges and I’m unable to speak to them all.

When I came out to my dad, the first thing he said was, “How do you know?”. It wasn’t said with malice and looking back on it, I know it was a completely innocent question. At the time though, I was defensive. My response: “How do you know you’re straight?”

This question goes beyond just me and my experience. Often queer youth are questioned on how they know they are gay or bi or asexual or anything in between. Queer people are routinely assaulted or raped in an attempt to “turn them straight” (this is referred to as corrective rape and is super common in South Africa). Before becoming cemented in their sexuality, queer people are expected to experiment with heterosexual experiences. Straight youth on the other hand are never questioned, they are not raped or assaulted in order to be corrected, and aren’t expected to experiment before coming to a conclusion. The lack of questioning straight youth face is illustrative of something about sexuality: it’s inherent.

It’s known inherently, too. Sexuality is an extremely personal thing.  Someone’s sexuality may not be obvious to you. This is especially prevalent for bisexual people. For example, I am currently in a relationship with a boy. That being said, I am still bisexual. My sexuality isn’t dependent on who I am currently seeing. The binary mentality many people have towards sexuality leads to what is called “bi-erasure”, or the lack of representation for bisexuality.

Both the queer and straight community play a part in this. Bisexual people in a committed relationship are often seen as choosing sides. If they are in a heterosexual relationship, they are just seen as straight and not a real part of the queer community. If they are in a queer relationship, they are seen as gay and not a part of the straight community. As a result, neither community is particularly accepting of bisexuality as a valid sexuality.

Fetishism and representation play another huge part in the difficulties faced by bisexual people. Bisexual women in the media are portrayed as a personification of the male gaze and provide an opportunity to play out threesome fantasies. Bisexual men are almost never represented. I could go on and on about representation (not just for bi people), but will just save that one for another post.

These are just some of the problems bisexual people face in coming out. Each person has a different experience and each identity faces different challenges. I encourage you to keep an open mind. Be understanding, be kind, be accepting and have a happy pride month!

Every good wish,

Julia

For Anchorage PrideFest schedule go here!

 

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s