Dear Lesbians and Gays — I’m Bisexual and You Treated Me Like Crap
I’m done with you
My dearest gays and lesbians —
I’ve loved you since before I even knew you. From a young age, I was drawn to your transgressive sexuality and gender expression, your courage to be yourselves in the face of oppression, your fabulous rainbows and your sensible shoes.
I’ve marched in your parades, joined and organized protests for your rights, volunteered with your local groups and worked for your most prominent national organization.
I’ve loved you fiercely and advocated for you tirelessly. But I’ve finally accepted the fact that you will never love me back because I’m a bisexual woman, and you have shown me time and again that you are not here for me or my community, despite the numerous disparities we face in comparison to you and the non-LGBTQ community.
When I was a newly out baby bi, I co-founded the first ever LGBT student organization at my Southern Baptist university with this beautiful and charming lesbian classmate with whom I fell madly and angstily in love. She was the first of many who told me I should just “choose” to be a lesbian.
Then there was the time I was at a drag show and the performer came up to me and asked me why I was at a gay bar. I said “I’m bisexual” into her microphone, and she cackled wildly and said, “Oh honey, we all know that’s just a stop on the way to gay town.”
In grad school, a “straight” female friend repeatedly called me greedy and suggested I was promiscuous whenever I mentioned my bisexuality, even though we slept together several times. But she wasn’t gay, and apparently bisexuality wasn’t a valid option.
Then there were the countless times one of you told me my identity wasn’t real, was just a phase, or that I wasn’t committed to the cause because I could choose to pass as straight.
Too many times, I thought you might be right, that my identity was something strange, that maybe I was fooling myself about my lifetime of attraction to people across the gender spectrum. And I sincerely thought if I just kept fighting for you, for all of us, that I would prove myself worthy of your love and acceptance.
Then I took a two-year fellowship working at the nation’s largest LGBT civil rights nonprofit. I knew going in that, like any large movement organization, they had a rocky past with both trans and bi communities, and a tendency toward centrist politics. But I thought maybe I could effect change from within. What a silly, naive bisexual I was.
By far, the most pervasive biphobia I have ever experienced was during my two years working at the Human Rights Campaign. When I started in 2014, the Human Rights Campaign website didn’t have a single bi-specific resource, much less a topics page about one of the four identities it claimed to represent.
The staff who identified as bisexual were rarely empowered or allowed to do bi-specific programmatic work, if they were even out to their gay and lesbian colleagues.
I met bi community leaders, and tried desperately to heal the deep rifts and end the organization’s longstanding neglect. I believed HRC could do better for a group that constituted half of the LGBTQ community.
In my two-year tenure, with the support and feedback of a small crew of wonderful coworkers, I created the content for a bisexual page on the HRC website, wrote three of the five publications for the page and edited a fourth, all co-branded with national bi advocacy organizations, wrote nearly all of the bi-related blog content and op-eds, organized an employee resource group for bi, queer, pansexual and fluid (bi+) coworkers, worked with the diversity staff to bring in bi community leaders to do trainings, developed and conducted my own bi community cultural competency trainings for board members, staff, and volunteers and coordinated all of HRC’s programming for Bisexual Awareness Week.
When bi community leader Robyn Ochs came to do a training with HRC staff, a cis white gay man who directed the organization’s entire field operation said, “You know, I just never think about bisexual people.” No shit you don’t.
Six months have passed since I left HRC, and it seems that a handful of blog and social media posts during Bisexual Awareness Week last September is the only thing the organization could muster in my absence. Half of my out bi+ coworkers (love y’all!) have left and the others don’t have positions that allow them to do the kind of work I was able to do.
It seems clear that what started with one angry bisexual attempting to effect change from within also ended when that same angry bisexual left.
To be fair, HRC isn’t by any means the only national LGBTQ organization with this problem. Several national groups have a habit of using “gay and transgender” as shorthand for the LGBTQ community, completely erasing us. Although a few of our national LGBTQ organizations have openly bi+ staff who are doing amazing bi-specific advocacy, our numbers are dwindling and virtually no one else is doing bi work in these organizations except for those few brave souls.
To put it bluntly, when bisexual people aren’t around to advocate for ourselves and push for change from within, that work simply doesn’t get done, because the vast majority of y’all lesbians and gay men don’t give a shit about us. And yet, we still fight for you and with you.
When Amber Heard got the shit beat out of her by Johnny Depp and the media blamed her bisexuality, you were silent. When right-wing weirdos launched a public attack on a native bi+ leader who spoke at a White House event, more silence. When gay icon Boy George went on a blatantly biphobic Twitter rant, still nothing.
In the words of esteemed and dedicated bi+ leader Faith Cheltenham, former president of BiNet USA and a personal mentor —
Until bisexuals stop being the unmentionables of the LGBTQIA community we will continue to be the punching bags of both gay and straight, with respite nowhere to be found. If bisexuals believe there are circles of influence that they are systematically prevented from accessing to their detriment, they believe correctly.
Until bisexuals find equitable representations of their organizations in litigator roundtables, national and state policy roundtables, legal policy teams, national and state transgender policy roundtables, rapid response communications groups or faith working groups, we should protest our exclusion.
Lesbians and gay men, this angry bisexual is tired of being your afterthought. I’m exhausted by showing up for you, time and again, with no reciprocity. I’m tired of facing more biphobia from organizations that claim to represent bi+ people than I do in the straight cis world.
I’m tired of trying to prove that I’m worthy of your love while you seem to forget or deny that I exist.
Bisexual people are tired of being told that our voices, our needs, our lives are a distraction from the “real” issues, when we constitute half of what you claim as your LGBT community.
And more than anything, I am tired of watching my fellow bi+ advocates — beautiful, talented and resilient people — burn out, break down, get fired for standing our ground and take our own lives because you make it so fucking hard for us to feel safe and affirmed.
Even after 15 years of being out, my voice still shakes sometimes when I say the word “bisexual” aloud to one of you, and I get a little jolt of adrenaline, bracing for the snarky comment, the rolled eyes, the dismissal of my existence.
Let me be clear about what is at stake here, lesbians and gays. Bisexual people are literally dying because of your neglect, erasure and exclusion. We are sicker, both physically and mentally, than you are because more of us are closeted from our communities and our healthcare providers.
Our youth face more bullying and harassment and higher rates of suicide than their gay and lesbian peers do, and we all have less social support.
Sixty-one percent of bisexual women such as myself will be raped, beaten or stalked by our intimate partners — and as Heard’s experience shows, our identities will likely be blamed for our own abuse. For the numerous bi+ community members who are also transgender, disabled and/or people of color, these staggering disparities are compounded.
I watched HRC make its own bed in 2016, once again ignoring the voices of the LGBTQ community’s most marginalized members, and dumping its resources into mind bogglingly ill-conceived endorsements, most notably the political campaign of a candidate who waited until the last possible moment to “evolve” on marriage equality (sorry that job didn’t pan out for you, Chad).
I knew the time was coming when bisexuals, queers, transgender people, people of color, undocumented and other marginalized groups within the LGBTQ community would be asked to once again push aside our needs, close ranks with white cis gays and lesbians, and overlook our differences — you know, for the sake of preserving marriage equality.
And sure enough, here we are, fighting for scraps from a table at which we have never been welcome, and once again being told that our needs — our very survival — don’t warrant attention, visibility, funding or resources.
As the LGBTQ community faces an uncertain future under Donald Trump’s presidency, I’m giving up on you, gays and lesbians. I don’t love you the same way anymore. You broke my heart too many times. I will no longer fight for the liberation of people who actively perpetuate my community’s oppression.
I’m too busy just trying to survive.
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