A PanAfricanist Queer Womanist Collective
I guess I’ve always identified as Bisexual. Before I even knew that such a label existed I was attracted to both boys and girls and it wasn’t an issue for me. In my eyes I liked who I liked and I felt no need to tell anyone or explain it.
The first sign that who I was wasn’t exactly “acceptable” in society was when my cousin (an overzealous Christian who believed one should only date to marry and only in their late twenties) walked in on me kissing my former girlfriend. She was shocked…appalled possibly. After she asked the girl to leave she sat me down and told me that ‘we don’t do that’ because God didn’t like it and that I shouldn’t let the Devil lead me into Sin. ‘Women are supposed to be with men’ she continued and concluded by identifying my behavior as one of the reasons why ‘God doesn’t like the earth’. I was confused and emphatically insisted “But I like her…” My cousin would have none of it. She admonished me so I decided that from that point on I would probably start hiding things. It was my second biggest secret. I had convinced myself that it wasn’t really a secret just something I didn’t talk about because it wasn’t necessary to do so. In high school, I decided it no longer mattered. I discussed it (to varying degrees) if and when it came up. The responses were mixed and sometimes predictably annoying.
From the women:
“Oh? So like..Does that mean you want me?”
“Wow. Are you sure?”
From the men:
“Oh cool. I like ‘Bi’ girls. Can I watch some time?”
“You just haven’t had good sex yet.”
To date, the silliest and most offensive responses have been the dismissive “it’s a phase” , the ignorant “does that mean you want every girl?” and the idiotic “can I watch?” People’s behavior baffles me sometimes.How one can say “it’s a phase” or “this will pass” to a grown, intelligent and emotionally aware individual? For the record bisexuals know the difference between a man and a woman, and we adore both. Why the confusion? I find it difficult to understand what people can’t seem to grasp. It’s really quite simple.
Some of the questions I’ve had thrown at me are classics in the “Offensive Statements” hall of fame and wouldn’t be asked or answered if people bothered to think. I’ve had to answer everything from “do like…gay couples..you know…uh..feel the same? Like…how do they know they love the person?” to “who’s the man in the relationship?” and “who’s better? Who do you love more?” I have had to explain that how they as heterosexuals and homosexuals feel about their partners, is how we feel about them. It’s not a foreign kind of affection that’s felt and expressed by combing each other’s hair after hours of meditation or some such mess. We love normally. Honestly. When I was with my last girlfriend, people would often ask who the man in our relationship was since we were both ‘femme’. I would explain that there was no man because we were two women in a relationship. Also that there wasn’t necessarily a dominant person, we were partners and there was nothing ‘complicated‘ about it. This was before I knew the term ‘heteronormativity‘ so I couldn’t quite explain it’s societal effects and how they impact us as people. When people would hear that we were both bisexual women most would take it upon themselves to reassure us that our relationship was just a phase.
You really can never understand how much dismissal hurts a person until it is you who is on the receiving end of the abuse. Even then it doesn’t guarantee that you won’t ever be an abuser. Someone who’s had others try to invalidate their feelings can (and most probably will) continue to do so to other people (consciously or subconsciously). Case and point: how some gay men say that some lesbians are pretending or that bisexual men are merely confused. It’s sad how easily we project what has hurt us onto others. Nobody is born truly knowing themselves. As you grow and discover yourself, there is always a group of people telling you what you are and what you aren’t. Limiting and defining you.
“You aren’t an artist, you just like to draw”
“You can’t be an activist, focus on your degree”
“You aren’t asexual, you just haven’t met the right people.”
Words alone can derail you and ruin your confidence. A lot of people choose to forget that when they speak on something they may not understand about somebody else’s reality.
Q: “Does that mean you want every girl?”
A: “Do you want every girl [or guy] you meet? No? So why should I?”
Bisexual women have been fetishized to the point where people see nothing wrong with approaching us as if we’re nymphomaniacs, always eager to lay ourselves down for someone else’s pleasure. Please don’t ask if we’ll ‘get with you real quick‘ (let alone think it). It’s rude. Not only are you implying that bisexuals have no standards or preferences; some might assume that you’re also implying that you think we are promiscuous. Honey, just a quick FYI, few people take that as a compliment.
“Can I watch?”
I’m going to tell you something that should be common sense: don’t ever ask someone who hasn’t shown the least bit of interest in you if you can be a part of their sex life. Just don’t do it. It’s rude, creepy, and imposing. Don’t.
No one is “better” than the other. I personally don’t see it that way. Besides answering that would most probably lead to the ignorant:
“If you think that then that must mean you’re honestly straight/lesbian and now you’re just dabbling.”
People are people and some treat you better than others. A female lover could abuse you just as a male lover could adore you and understand your emotions. We cannot figure all that out based solely on gender. Rather, ask about a bisexual person’s experiences with their lovers in terms of intimacy and compatibility. That way it won’t end up appearing as though all you want to know about is who pleased them better (sexually) or that all you hear when they discuss their sexual orientation is the phrase “I sleep with men and women.” In an ideal world these shouldn’t be the things that need to be written down and argued over because we shouldn’t be viewed as pawns for pleasure or confused sex addicts. In an ideal world, one wouldn’t have to feel the need to explain that they love and lust in the same ways that the “average” person does. In an ideal world, I wouldn’t have to ask for people to think before they speak to me and take my feelings into consideration. We would just navigate the conversation respectfully. But this ideal is not where we are, and therefore, I feel that these things need to be said.