I’ve always known that I was attracted to people – regardless of their gender. I’ve also known that sexuality isn’t something that you consciously change. There is no day-to-day basis. It just is what it is. But it wasn’t until university that I started to stray from the hetero-normative ideals that were ingrained in my brain throughout my childhood. Here, I began to explore this aspect of myself that I’d ignored for the majority of my 19 years.
I was one of the lucky ones. For the most part, my friends were extremely supportive and didn’t let this newfound information about me impact our relationship. However, like many other queer folk on campus, I continuously experience micro-aggressions that are propagated by normalized misconceptions that people have about bisexuality.
“Oh, you’re bisexual? So…wanna have a threesome?”
It’s a question I’ve been asked way too many times by white heterosexual men. Which takes us to an important lesson: promiscuity and sexual preference do not correlate. This means that being attracted to more than one gender doesn’t impede one’s ability to be loyal in a monogamous relationship.
Regardless of where you are on the gender spectrum, bisexual people are constantly fetishized. At Queen’s, this manifests through expectations that heterosexual men have of me to play out their childhood fantasies, as if I exist solely for the pleasure of others. Beyond our hallowed borders, fetishizing bisexuality is extremely prevalent in many other aspects of society – just take a look the music industry and you’ll see what I mean. In late December of 2019, ex-1D star Liam Payne released the song “Both Ways”. Lyrics like “Lovin’ the way that she’s turning you on / Switching the lanes like a Bugatti Sport / Nothing but luck that she got me involved, yeah,” play right into the narrative of bisexuality being hyper-sexualized.
It’s hard to not let this rhetoric influence the way you understand yourself and your sexuality. Am I wrong to be feeling this way? Is my identity as a bisexual woman valid? Do I just exist in relation to others, rather than in relation to myself? I’ll be the first to admit, these are big questions. All of which play into this concept of bi-erasure: the idea that bisexuality should be ignored and, in some cases, that it doesn’t even exist.
In the past six months alone, I’ve been turned down by a woman for “not being gay enough”, and turned down by a guy for “being too confused”. It’s odd living on this periphery of the straight social scene, while not being quite welcome in the queer one either.
Bisexual women are often labeled as bi-curious, implying that someone needs to have “enough” experience before they can label themselves as bisexual, or that it’s just an experimental phase a girl who is really just straight has in college. But who are we to judge what constitutes “enough”? Would you ever ask your “bro” how many sexual encounters he’s had with women to confirm his sexuality? I didn’t think so.
There’s no right way to respond in these situations. By speaking out against these biphobic micro-aggressions, you’re exposing yourself to possible acts of verbal or physical violence. But passively ignoring these comments is a different act of violence against yourself.
Bi-erasure and fetishizing bisexuality work in tandem to objectify queer men and women – leading to the lack of bisexual representation on campus. Through many years of confusion, I finally reached a point where I’m comfortable with this aspect of myself. But I know many people, and society as a whole, have yet to reach a point where they’re okay with people living in this in-between, gray area. We need to get comfortable being uncomfortable, because there isn’t always just black and white. Your experience is valid and your sexuality is legitimate. You’re not confused or unsure – bisexuality is real and you deserve to take up space without having your sexuality rendered invisible. So at the turn of the decade, let’s start being conscious about the way we speak with others. And, for the last time, do not ask me for a threesome.