Being Bisexual in a Straight-Passing Relationship

I got a message from a close friend of mine recently regarding a topic that I’d been thinking about a lot. She prefaced her question with a long paragraph justifying her questioning, and then asked: “but dating a guy doesn’t make me any less valid in being bi, right?”

The answer seems obvious. Of course, she isn’t any less valid, but it’s a sticky situation. I would know since I’ve been in that same place; I was asking myself that same question only a couple of months ago. In February, I started dating a boy (one whom I like very much), which was something that I hadn’t expected. I hadn’t been in a relationship with someone of the opposite sex since high school, and the relationship before the one I’m in now was with a girl.

A lot of articles that I’ve read relating to this topic are all about how the community treats them like they’re less-than, or not queer enough. Both of those reactions are terrible, but I’d like to clarify something before I continue with the woe is me issues of being a bisexual woman in a straight-passing relationship: even though I know the struggles of hiding my own identity from myself and those closest to me, even though I spent so many years hating this part of me, even though I relish every instance of queer representation in media — I’m still in a straight-passing relationship. This means that on the surface, people wouldn’t know I’m queer. People wouldn’t jeer or comment, people wouldn’t shout obscenities, people wouldn’t shame me for publicly showing love. These things don’t take away my experiences of being bi, but they’re a privilege and they definitely make my life and my love easier. It’s a privilege that lesbians or bi women in relationships with other women don’t have, and it’s incredibly important to remember that.

I’ve never felt discrimination of any kind from my LGBT friends or community when it comes to being in a straight-passing relationship, so all of the woes and struggles that I’ve experienced are purely from a place of internalized hatred for who I am. Sure, sometimes people comment about how I’ve “chosen men” or ask: “aren’t you gay though?”, but those comments are generally few and far between. Most of the time, my relationship is met with comments of support and happiness because I myself am happy.

My friend Rebecca came up with a wonderful metaphor for how bi people are perceived when they’re in straight-passing relationships. If I love pottery, and I meet someone who also loves pottery, and we hit it off and fall in love and all that jazz, then my pottery-loving friends are going to be overjoyed! “Look at all this love! And they both make pottery! How cool!” they’ll say. Then, if I later get into a relationship with someone who doesn’t like pottery that much, my pottery-loving friends are probably still going to be happy for me. “You’re so cute together!” they’ll say. I’ll still be making pottery and my friends will support me in my solo-pottery endeavors, and they’ll separately support my cute non-pottery related relationship. The key here is that now the support is separate, but it’s still support. My friends will still love the fact that I’m happy and in love, they just won’t be overly enthusiastic about the relationship since it no longer relates to pottery, which means it’s no longer relatable to them.

Now that I’ve discussed how the community is generally supportive when it comes to bi people being in straight-passing relationships, I want to talk about the hatred within myself that I mentioned a little while ago. That internalized hatred is something that I think every queer person harbors — It’s hard to switch from hiding, suppressing, and shaming yourself to being proud, being open, and being happy.

I still doubt myself constantly, even though I have no reason to. I know my identity, and it’s taken me a long time to be proud of who I am, but sometimes I slip up. Sometimes I’m not proud at all. Sometimes I’m ashamed of being too queer; sometimes I wonder if I’m not queer enough, sometimes I want to rewind and never come out because I’m in a straight-passing relationship, so why does it matter?

It matters because being bi has made me who I am. It’s allowed me to be close with queer people that I might never have been close to, and it’s given me the ability to have conversations about complex issues regarding sexuality. Coming out made me see how brave I can be, and it made me realize that those who are unaccepting don’t deserve to be a significant part of my life. I am still bi when I’m in a relationship with a woman, with a man, and when I’m not in a relationship at all. My identity lies separate from the person I call a partner, and that’s how it should be. My sexuality is mine, my identity is mine, and understanding that fact is a constant struggle within myself. Loving yourself is hard no matter who you are, but it’s definitely something worth working toward. Being bisexual has made me so much stronger, and nobody (not even myself) can take that away.