Today amidst the rainbows and dancing drag queens, I decided it important to share something. Its been literally keeping me awake at night, turning over and over in my mind - an absolute need to explain something I normally would brush off with an over-intellectualized reflection on identity politics. But this is beyond politics or academic exercises or some kind of call to arms to wave a flag and wage a revolution. This is personal.
Hi. I’m Kitzie. And I’m bisexual.
This wouldn’t even be of note if it didn’t come up over and over since moving back here to Baltimore. But within one (1) month, I’ve been told bisexuals “don’t count”, that bisexuality is “strictly a theoretical construct” and that in dating a straight man I’ve clearly “gotten the gay out of my system.” And this, friends, is all from members of the LGBT community. Even well-meaning straight family members have kindly informed me I’m actually gay, as bisexuality (again) “doesn’t exist” or that one day everyone has to “pick a side.” And this is all from people whose opinions I value and consider intelligent and caring members of communities I consider myself an integral part of. The rest of the world, at 5 days away from turning 30, doesn’t have the hold on me it once did. But this from my people – my community – has made me feel isolated, depressed, and alone at a time reserved for celebration and unity.
Yes, the term “bisexual” is a bit problematic. It implies a gender binary, and excludes anyone trans identified that doesn’t chose and/or fit the label of male or female. (Though I’d assert those labels alone are up for interpretation/deconstructing, but we’re staying out of academia tonight.) That said, even in its most limiting form and interpretation, the term “bisexual” does in fact describe my personal life experience. I have been attracted to, dated, been involved in significant, meaningful, monogamous, long term relationships with (cis)women and (cis)men. Some of my female partners have been lesbians, others bisexual, others decline labeling. All of my male partners have been straight (though at least 1 had had same-sex experiences, and he and another could certainly be considered bicurious.) None, to date, have been transgendered. Does that mean it’s an impossibility or that I’m incapable of attraction towards a trans person? No, certainly not. But bi-sexual, unlike pansexual, is a bit less fluid and a bit more descriptive of acknowledging of the differences in these relationships, but not favoring one gender over the other. Also, whereas pansexual may be a familiar term in queer circles, its less so in straight ones (as is “queer “ for that matter.) Bisexual is more familiar and easy to understand the general concept, if not its complexity.
Whereas using the term “lesbian” gains instant inclusion in the gay community, using “bisexual” gains distrust and some sort of wariness of this nebulous privilege that I’m assumed to be utilizing and benefitting from constantly. When a bisexual woman is with a female partner, it makes it a bit easier to just use the term lesbian. The bisexual seems unnecessary or superfluous – this isn’t the case when dating a straight male partner. Being out as bisexual, aside from being frankly the most honest identifier, helps maintain my queer visibility. I never “feel” straight. Probably because I’m not. Shocking! Being a queer woman dating a man is confusing to people. Sometimes to me. I stand out a lot – from life experience to corresponding view of the world, to language, to even role models, my queerness – my otherness – is not exactly hidden. Ever. And it shouldn’t be – I’m proud of being queer, even when my own community seems to suggest I shouldn’t be. I’m not an ally because I’m currently dating a man. Is Ani Difranco straight because she married a man, after years of dating women and being embraced by a queer community she spoke out for? Some lesbians might say yes. Does that make her straight? Nope.
What reinforces the binary more: using the label “bisexual” or denying bisexuality even exists?
I have also not been spared societal obstacles such as homophobia, parental rejection, or the trials of coming out shared by my gay and lesbian cohorts. To assume or imply that I have, by sustaining this magical bi identity, is hurtful and ignorant. I lost my spiritual home of 16 years to discordance with my sexual orientation. (And consequently, gained a better one.) I’ve lived through absolute rejection and resentment from a homophobic & biphobic father and experienced a thankfully evolving relationship from a once-rejecting, now-LGBT-advocating (!!!) mother. Like every other queer person, it has been a process, a struggle, and a lifetime of sacrifice. I walked away with my girlfriend of 4 years from an act of housing discrimination, when the landlady informed us she “didn’t rent to freaks.” I lost straight friends in college after coming out as bisexual, as if I’d suddenly transformed into a new, unrelatible breed of human. I lost gay friends when I did it again after exclusively dating women for 10 years. Both times, I gained more.
And in all this time I have never hid my queerness. I identified as a lesbian for 10 years because it’s the label that best fit. Then I (quite unexpectedly) discovered strong feelings for a man, and my entire sense of self was turned upside down. But (as Saturn’s return is wont to do!) it opened up my world. I feel more free than ever before – I feel more at peace with the “exceptions.” I don’t have to hide any part of me that doesn’t fit perfectly into a box. I don’t have to deny past relationships or experiences as phases or mistakes, at least not in terms of gender. I just AM. And those few who accept me for that – for what I was, what I am, what I hope to be – I am honored and humbled to know. Right before the parade stepped off today, a member of the Kitty Club who I admire told me she’s making an effort to become better educated about bisexuals, having realized its long been a hang up. It was kind, sincere, and meant the world to me. Perhaps being the “B” in LGBT is just another way to be a Peaceweaver.
I’ve met lesbians who admit to having recurrent sexual experiences and attraction to men, and even relationships, yet still distrust and dislike those using the “bisexual” label. I’ve met trans folks who feel the same. My job, as a traveler on this Earth, is to respect and work to understand perspectives and life experiences different from my own, and challenge any beliefs I may hold that become obsolete, outdated, or in any way damaging to others. This challenge has recently come to light after one of my heros, Z Budapest, shocked the Pagan world by sharing, quite ineloquently, severe transphobia. A second-wave feminist myself who came late to the party, I began and continue to learn, re-evaluate, and scrutinize my own views on female-only spaces and a progressive and evolving landscape that has outgrown and surpassed old safeguards and constructs. This in itself is fodder for another post- for now, I can say it has been a transformative experience. The fae, as always, are excellent guides.
I’m a little weird. Or so I’ve been told. I’ve lived in different cities and different communities, tried on different labels and continue to see what fits and what I’ve outgrown. Time to donate them to the next generation of awkward teenagers. I was wary of bisexuals myself once – my college girlfriend, an open and proud bisexual, will attest to that – and then Goddess and Saturn fixed that. Thanks, guys. I don’t know all that much about theoretical constructs. What I do know is right now, I’m in love with a phenomenal man who spent the day with me at Pride today. Where I got to catch up with an exgirlfriend who’s now a mother to a violin-playing little boy. And I’m so thankful for all the amazing memories I have of so many past Prides, and the girlfriends and boyfriends who shared them. I am one fucking lucky bisexual.
I’m here. I’m queer. I’m bi. I’m used to it – whether you are or not doesn’t matter so much. This Thursday I’ll be 30. Maybe this is what being an adult feels like. Guess I’ll wait and see.
Happy Pride, all.