Biphobia and the Pulse Massacre
When I read about Orlando, I was surrounded by straight people. Well meaning straight people, yes, allies, yes, but straight people all the same.
I was surrounded by straight people because I was at my house with my husband and my daughter. I spend a lot of time around straight people (thats what I get for marrying a cishet man), but I noticed it more today than I have any other morning. When I heard the news, I started counting down the time until I could be around queer people.
Being a bi woman means occupying a lot of weird liminal space. In that way we are very queer….we don’t fit well into boxes. Too gay to be straight, too straight to be gay, we are often locked out of the resources and support meant for the queer community due to biphobia and erasure while being pornified and objectified by the patriarchal male gaze of heteronormative culture. It’s no wonder that bi women are suffering from such a serious mental health crisis.
Being bi comes with the double edged sword of “passing.” Because I’m married to a man, and because of my high femme gender presentation, most people will assume I am straight. I do not have to worry that when I hold my spouse’s hand in public that someone will beat me. I do not worry about the state refusing to recognize my marriage. I do not worry about losing my job for being queer. I do not worry that a car driving by will roll down the window and scream slurs at me about my orientation.
But the horrible thing about “passing privilege” is the closeting, the erasure. And never have I felt that so keenly as I feel it today while I mourn Orlando.
“Passing privilege combined” with bi erasure and femme invisibility means that unless I tell someone “I’m queer” they will probably assume I’m straight. It means that when I come out to people, they don’t get it, I don’t fit the narrative they are used to hearing. It means straight people make jokes about “Spring Break” or “Katie Perry”. It means straight men ask if they can watch. It means that people, both gay and straight, DON’T BELIEVE ME when I say I’m gay. It means coming out over and over and over and over again…sometimes to the same person. It means I get dragged back into the closet every damn day. It hurts every time, but today in light of this already bleeding wound, biphobia and erasure is excruciating.
It means I feel alone a lot.
I feel alone today in this household of straight people. Sympathetic straight people, yes, allies, yes, but straight people nonetheless.
I feel alone when the queer community talks about fighting back against homophobia with kiss-ins. Kissing my partner produces no hateful response from society (a privilege). So…where is my resistance? I must be doing this wrong.
That’s where the guilt enters in. The deep, deep isolating guilt that comes from internalized bi-phobia.
Am I allowed to feel this devastated, this full of rage?
Am I gay enough to be this upset?
Am I appropriating the grief of real gay people?
It hurts. On top of the pain and grief of loss, on top of the “that could’ve been me, that could’ve been my friends”, on top of the psychological terror, there’s also the sinking feeling of self-doubt.
Thank God for the radical queer community, the people who helped me heal from some of my guilt about not being “gay enough”. They came through for me in the past, and they are coming through again, reminding me of who I am. Reminding me that I count. Reminding me that I am enough, that my emotions are valid, that my existence is resistance, that I deserve to be here.
“How are you?” my bi friend texted me.
“I’m so, so angry.” I texted her back, “But then I feel guilty like…am I allowed to be this upset? Maybe I should only be like, 50% sad.” I tried to make a joke about it, but she knows.
“You get to be 100% sad, Elle. Because you are 100% queer. And because I am 100% sure that there were bi people in that club, too.
Bi erasure shouldn’t be another effect of this violence.”
Bi erasure shouldn’t be another effect of this violence.
I’m still wrestling, during this grief, with my own internalized biphobia. I still feel on the outside of everything most of the time.
But that is why we have community.
To remind us that there are a lot of us, here, on the outside.
To remind us that those of us out here, on the outside, can at least be out here together.
To remind us we aren’t alone.
So I’m passing this on to you:
You aren’t alone.
Bisexual people, pansexual people, polysexual people, any non monosexual people, when you worry that you aren’t gay enough, when your identity is erased, when you feel like you don’t fit anywhere….you are not alone.
Asexual people, intersex people, people who are often left out when we say LGBTQ+ or even QUILTBAG but really mean just gay and lesbian….you are not alone.
Trans people, when your achievements and contributions to leading this movement are ignored, when the poster child for Gayness is a middle class smiling White Cis Gay Man with a Family, when you fear for your safety as anti-Trans legislation steadily climbs…you are not alone.
Queer and/or trans person of color, when your struggles are pink washed and the Rainbow Industrial Complex ignores you and does violence to you…when you are on the outside, you are not alone.
Undocumented queer people, when straight people focused on immigration reform erase your struggles by leaving you out of the conversation, when white gay people say abolishing ICE is not part of our Gay Agenda…when you feel isolated and forgotten, you are not alone.
Latinx queer people, Black trans performers, when the media erases that the majority of those killed in Pulse were part of your community, you are not alone.
There are a lot of us on the outside here. We are on the outside for different reasons, but here we are, out here.
And I couldn’t ask for better company.