On Biphobia, and the Cozy Nature of Closets

On Biphobia, and the Cozy Nature of Closets


I’ve been posting a lot of content about Pride on my facebook this week. And that has made me reflect on the fact that I am probably confusing people, and that maybe friends and acquaintances are making assumptions about me.

I know these assumptions. I’ve heard them spoken out loud, whispered softly, and now I can hear them in my head. I can hear them breathing beside me, walking behind me, following me home from the bus stop, tapping me softly on the shoulder. The assumptions go like this: it’s just a phase, you’re only trying to get attention, you want too much, you’re just a stowaway on someone else’s ship, you’re confused, you need to choose a side. And these: you’re a straight lady if I ever did see one with your long hair and your pretty dresses, and oh wait a second girl didn’t you get all straight-married once when you were 24? Yep. I guess so. I did, sorta kinda.

But no. No, I didn’t. Because I am not a straight person. I never have been straight, though I am often read as straight because I am feminine in presentation and because two of the long-term relationships I’ve had have been with cisgender men (and then there’s that one I refuse to acknowledge – hah). I loved those people (some of them, and oh so profoundly), but I have loved people across the gender spectrum. I have loved other women. Very deeply, completely, with all of myself. That love, that part of me, is there in the songs and stories I’ve written. But that love has not often been spoken out loud.

I went to a Pride Week lecture yesterday about bisexual invisibility. The content of the lecture is covered here by a writer I very much respect. She does it justice in a way that I could not, so you should go read her piece.

Yesterday’s lecture was amazing, and made me realize some important things. It made me realize that I don’t tend to speak about my sexual orientation because of fear. This fear derives from the very real reality that when I’ve called myself bi or queer, there are times when I’ve very much been shut down, erased, disbelieved, or judged. And that hurts, particularly when it’s from people you trust and love.

The lecture also made me realize that I don’t want to be invisible anymore.

People like me who are drawn to more than one gender have to come out again and again in a way. Part of this is because we might appear straight for a while to the world because of our choice of who to love. For me, I really never wanted to come out in the first place. I’ve always been a shadow-creature of sorts, an observer who wants to watch the world and then create things from pieces of reality when I find moments of silence. I didn’t want the world to watch me back, scrutinize me, assess me. I wanted to just be who I am, without a cumbersome label or a box to fit inside. So I just moved about in the world, avoiding both spotlights and search beacons, telling people who I am only when I felt they needed to know.

But then something someone I admire said yesterday made me reflect on the reality that coming out can carve out a space for others to be who they are without so much fear. And that is something I would like to do: to make the world a little safer for others, even if it makes it a little less safe for me. I am able to overcome my fear of heights when I remember that I love the sky. Being high above the ground means being surrounded by the sky. And so I can overcome this fear too, this fear of being known, when I remember that I love how in so many ways the world has embraced me, gently encircling around me, because of the very things that make me strange and different.

Closets are cozy, comfortable places. Mine has been a shelter in a world full of colliding storms. My closet is full of all of my nice dresses. But it has also been full of complacency. My closet is a small, contained space, and in that manner has acted like a cast around fractured parts of me, holding these pieces together. But, I remind myself, a closet is not a place to dance wildly. Nor is it a place from which to launch a revolution, write songs, tell stories, and love other human beings. And I want to do all of those things. Very much so.

So, after the talk yesterday, I went away and reflected for a while on how afraid I’ve been to let people know my authentic self because I thought it would cost me love.

I’ve had women in the queer community disbelieve and de-legitimize me because I’m ‘not really gay’ (I paraphrase, but I’ve felt your tone and seen your eyes). I’ve had straight people think that I just haven’t reached a decision yet, that I’m a deftly balanced fence-sitter. I’ve had strangers on the internet think that I just identify as queer or bi to make straight cisgender men like me more. I’ve had queer women not want to date me because of the fear that I will go off and want to be with a man (oh good god I won’t; when I am in love, my heart is so completely full of a particular person that it seeps out into my songs, my mind, my steps, my every moment, and it feels like love has become a beautiful ocean of light around me).

Love is always part of my world. And I think that words concerning love should not ever need to be tucked away in shame. So, this week, I have found a voice that might tremble sometimes like ripples in a pool but that, as a force of its own distinct from the water, will not evaporate.

Though I am very much an introvert, I’ve been out (pun intended) at events a lot this week. This particular Pride Week is infinitely important to me, because this year I’ve vowed to put more of myself out there into the world. So that is what I am doing. And if people keep loving me, great. If you want to love me even more, I’ll love you back just as ferociously because I’m like that. And if someone wants to erase me or make who I am invisible, they can certainly try, and maybe to some extent they will succeed. But I think now they’ll be less able to. Because for the first time in my life, I feel like I am genuinely part of a community of people like me who, in a myriad of both similar and dissimilar ways, are also beautifully strange and different. And that fills up my heart to the point that it just can’t help but spill into the spaces around me.


6 thoughts on “On Biphobia, and the Cozy Nature of Closets

  1. kdaddy23 says:

    One of the things I’ve seen mess with the heads of bisexual women and men is paying a lot of attention to what other people have to say about them being bisexual… and the people saying these things aren’t and probably never would be bisexual. The question I ask them is, “Why are you even paying any attention to them and letting them mess with your head like that?” They come back and tell me that I don’t understand… oh, but I do, since I’ve been bisexual longer than the people I’ve talked to about this has been alive so, yeah, I know something about this.

    Even I have learned that coming out is situational and on a need to know basis – you do it when you want to and if you have to. I do agree that the more bisexuals who come out successfully can inspire our brothers and sisters to come out of their own closets… as long as they’re smart and careful about it because the consequences can be devastating.

    Gay men have tried to steal my legitimacy… and I ignore them because the only person who can change what I am is me; at the end of any day, the final decision rests with me and, well, I will not ever be influenced by the words of someone who doesn’t know what it’s like to be bisexual.

    Ever. The message I give to them is one my mother taught me (and before these folks were born): If you can’t say anything nice, don’t say anything at all.

    Keep your own counsel about your bisexuality and surround yourself with those people who get it and stay away from those people who are trying to steal your joy with their prejudicial nonsense.

  2. Marian Fulton says:

    Beautifully said. Hugs.

  3. Alex says:

    When bisexual women who are in, or are often-to-be-found-in, straight relationships declare themselves bisexual,I think it often comes off as a ploy for attention, to make one seem sexier to men, sadly. When men find out a woman is bi, they’re titillated by that info. As though they now have permission to have even MORE girl-on-girl fantasies including this woman.
    I think some of the judgment that comes from other girls, when a bi-girl outs herself, has to do with jealousy… The other girls suspect their partners are now having all kinds of naughty images/fantasies rushing around their brain, involving this bi-girl friend. They probably are.
    I’ve seen straight girls make-out with bi-girls to stay relevant, in some sad way (sad that competition is seen as necessary for the attention/affection/loyalty/fidelity of male partners). So I think we need to address how men see bisexuality as a gift for them, in some weird way… do you know what I mean? Bisexual women are spoken of as the best girlfriends because “threesomes!”, whereas bisexual men are judged by both sides to be disloyal or really just gay and not ready to admit, it seems. How do we reclaim bisexuality as not a trait we emphasize for the pleasure of men or for their attention?

  4. Borealish says:

    Perhaps us bisexuals (or pansexuals) owe a lot to the trans* community for what seems to be a definitive coming out moment for the bisexual community this summer. Now that L and G rights in the US have become more secured, especially with the landmark marriage equality decision, the rest of us letters are slowly creeping out into the spotlight. In order to stand in solidarity, I had my own internet coming out moment this month as well [https://borealish.wordpress.com/2015/07/17/5-ways-to-step-outside-your-comfort-zone-for-creative-success/] although I’ve been out to many friends for over a decade. Each time I read about a similar experience, I feel a little bolder. Thanks for the post.

  5. […] has finally arrived. Summer 2015 is the “bisexual coming out moment.” Just see posts like this, this, and this, all in the weeks following marriage […]

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