I know what the B in LGBTQ stands for. We all do, right?
But sometimes it feels like I forget, and maybe it’s because others seem to forget too, because it doesn’t fit into the binary. We are so culturally hard wired for zeros and ones that it’s difficult to remember that not even bodies come in complete binary, let alone hearts, minds, or spirits.
I’ve come out as bisexual before. I don’t talk about it a lot because of the questions. “But you’ve been happily married for 16 years. To a man. Don’t you miss pussy?”
Well, no. I mean, I never divided people into their body parts to decide who I was attracted to in the first place. It was always an “all things being equal, this is the person who gets me, and whatever body part is involved is what is involved.” It’s never been in my head like, “Oh, what’s for dinner? Tonight I’d like some pussy. Tomorrow, cock.” That may be how I pick out porno, but it’s never how I’ve approached my love life.
Then there are the doubters. People who are so ingrained with their way of thinking, they can’t get outside themselves to get it. “Oh, you’ve been with a man for sixteen years. So you’re heterosexual and just experimented.”
No. You do not get to decide my orientation. If that belief gets you to sleep at night, fine. But you’re wrong.
Just like the million times I see people saying, “Oh that guy fucked a bunch of guys, so he’s gay.” No. You don’t get to decide that. There’s a difference between orientation and sex. A confusing one sometimes, but that’s intensely personal.
All you need to remember is that it’s not up to you. I admit, I’ve done the same thing. A lot. It’s pretty hard to resist that cultural tidal wave. It doesn’t make you the worst person ever; just check it when you catch yourself doing it. Or if someone points it out, stop.
So this brings me back to internalization and my personal struggle. This isn’t a rant directed at other people so much as directed at myself and my own thoughts about who and what I am. As a matter of practicality, I’ve assumed a male gender at various times on the internet. On Facebook, it was because of the sexist ads. Early on in my life, on IRC I posed male because anyone with a feminine name or bearing was mercilessly bombarded with unwanted sexual attention, which I do not deal with well at all. Someday I’ll feel brave enough to post why, but right now that’s just too much.
To me, the lines of the masculine and feminine feel more like a role, like a trend. I gravitate to people who have genuine aspects of both. My husband can be feminine, and that’s what I love about him. I get very exasperated and defensive toward people who criticise feminine men because that’s really no better than judging a woman. And I get angry when so-called feminine traits are called weak in men, like crying, because I don’t think females are weak. Crying is something both sexes have evolved to do, physically in equal measure, so restraining it is unnatural and ridiculous.
These thoughts come naturally to me. I did not spend time studying or contemplating my views. I had to learn how I was meant to behave as a cis female. I have to work to understand conversations about the joys of motherhood and dishwasher soap. Neither of those things are bad. My lack of interest in them isn’t more or less evolved than anyone else’s; it’s just natural to me.
But I will say that at times I think there is a special place in hell for people whose constant privilege in this regard makes them super-comfortable saying that my discomfort with their culturally supported inclinations is somehow a slight on them. So not only do I get to pretty much explain and defend myself to the world, I have to comfort you because you feel bad that I need a safe space to vent? Anyway.
Actually, if you’re offended by that, it’s probably directed at you. And you should ponder it when speaking to anyone who is culturally oppressed in some way. You’re not actually a bad person, but always check your privilege. I do it, and I’m going to get into that in a moment. But I do not forget for a moment that outside my own blog and my author space, I definitely reap the rewards of at least appearing cis-het, WASP, and affluent. Whatever is in my heart is carefully concealed by my choice, and I know just how fucking lucky I am to be able to make that choice.
And this is where we get to my own internalized erasure.
I write m/m, and I will tell you every time I explain why that the reason changes, and it changes daily. Or mutates. Or expands.
Mostly, I don’t feel like rationalizing it because fuck you for questioning what I write. Who the fuck are you to question me?
And yet, I want to know myself and to make sure that I am right in my own heart and mind, so I do ponder it. The most apt label I have encountered is “gender fluid”. I do not feel the need to ask people to address me by specific pronouns, though some people do. I had toyed with gender queer but that seemed… rigid. Fluid is how I perceive myself in nearly all aspects. I have some moorings; there are many things that do not change, but perhaps it is that fluidity that makes me bisexual. And perhaps it is that unattainable part for me physically, the reality that I cannot simply switch to being male-bodied when it suits me, that leads me to a rich fantasy life where I can be.
I do not always dream as a woman. Sometimes I am a man. Sometimes I dream that I am both. This is how it has always been. I did not know it was different for others.
That’s where I am. That is how I feel in my heart. But I understand that what I write is mostly read by women and for various reasons.
As a writer, all I really want to do is to tell a good story. As a person, I hope that some nugget of truth, whatever idea I am cogitating, gets through. For example, while Black Gold was a hot, hot story with rockers, it was a bigger meditation for me on media and fame on personal lives written after I’d read about Matt Bomer. Black Gold 2 was about duality, living two lives and trying to merge them–something I’m obviously still struggling with.
These are not exclusively m/m issues or ideas, but that’s what I write, and I am the B in LGBTQ. So what prompted all this thinking was that yesterday I saw a call for queer writers for a magazine. And I passed it on to my BFF and writing partner Thursday Euclid and gave little thought to contributing myself.
Now, intellectually, as someone who passes for cis-het, there’s part of me that feels like I’d be intruding on that space because I do experience privilege. But that wasn’t entirely why I passed. A big part of it was imagining myself being cornered and having to recount my sexual history–to defend my bisexuality to strangers. I hardly seem able to defend it to my own friends. And that hurts. It hurts more than I feel like I can bear at this time.
Even in my protective bubble of privilege, I am hurt, and all I can think about are my sisters and brothers with nothing to retreat to. How their tender skin is always exposed to the elements. I’m not arrogant enough to think that there’s anything I can personally do, but I wish I could. The best I’ve ever figured out to do is to sit, to listen, to agree things are fucked up. And to speak out when I can.
Right now, my writing is where I feel I can speak.
As for speaking out, well, I’ve recognized my own erasure. I’m not sure I’m ready to shout it outside of my own space, and I still feel inappropriate. I’m not sure how to shake my internalized erasure. I still feel like I’m opening myself up for criticism, which is really why anyone posts on the internet, right? Not to vent or chat, but to hear your shitty opinion.
But, I’m putting it here and comments are open. Just remember that my nickname at work is Snarknado.
8 thoughts on “Internalizing Bisexual Erasure”
You know I’m super proud of you for this, right? If anyone gives you shit, I’m right here to stand beside you. Not that the Mighty Snarknado can’t fight her own battles, but just in solidarity, because your self-identifications are valid and I believe in their worth even when you doubt yourself.
No I’m grateful for it. I’ve spent a lot of time arguing with myself over whether to say anything because I know how people talk. I know what they’ve said to me about me and what they’ve said to me about other people. And it comes from *everywhere* It just may hurt a bit more when my defenses are down when I’m in LGBTQ spaces. Or what are supposed to be those spaces.
That’s a common problem for anyone who identifies beyond the OTHER binary — homosexual vs heterosexual as opposed to male vs female. There are TWO dominant binaries in our culture in that regard. If you look at our society, it’s repeated everywhere. The us vs them. The haves and have-nots. The “whites vs coloreds” that still plagues us in 2013 despite all the efforts to create equality. There’s gay&lesbian vs. everything else sometimes, just as there’s straight vs everything else. And it’s very easy to be caught between the hammer and the anvil on that.
Escaping oppression with the mask of privilege or “passing” can save your life, career, etc., but it will never save your soul. The illusion of “passing” for straight or cis that a bisexual in a het relationship or a non-binary-identified person who presents as their birth-assigned gender does grant privilege, but it is not the same kind of privilege that is received by someone who naturally fits those categories. Picture a Jew passing for a Gentile or a mixed race person passing as white. They are not immune to the bigoted jokes, but it’s more than that — it’s the insidious, assumptive mode of thought and action that goes on around them and excludes them invisibly even as it presumes their inclusion. It’s damaging, and it’s elusive, and it’s pervasive. There’s no escaping it, and even as you partake in it seemingly wilfully, it eats away at you from inside.
Would a closeted lesbian living a life resembling yours consider her privilege to be true privilege? She could partake of its seeming safety, but the price paid internally would be high. It’s not identical to your situation, but it’s similar. It is, in fact, comparable. For anyone to say otherwise is ignorant.
Think of all the closeted persons who kill themselves when the burden of “passing” finally devours the last hope and happiness they hold in their deepest hearts. Think of how many trans* people kill themselves without ever coming out because they lose all sense of their true identity and conclude they’re “wrong” because the dominant culture has eroded all they believe to be real. This happens to people without gender dysphoria. It happens to people who aren’t revolted by the idea of having sex with a member of the opposite gender. It’s not “owned” by any one group and invalid in others.
People can give me flak if they want, but I know who I am. I know the abuse, the trauma, the erasure, the violence, and the lasting scars I’ve experienced, and no one can erase me, not anymore. You know better than most what losing one’s identity can look like and you know the uh…unique…road I traveled to reach a place of accepting my identity.
No one is ever going to convince me again that I’m not who I am or I don’t see the world truly. I may need to adjust perspective from time to time, but that doesn’t mean my lens is flawed. I’m so proud of you for putting this out there and risking hate. I’m proud of you for acknowledging your privilege and accepting that sometimes you might need to be called out on it, because I know you’re honest about wanting to know and adjust and diminish your negative impact on oppressed persons. When you come from a place like that, you deserve better than to be invalidated…even by those who perceive you as having privilege they do not. ♥
♥ I’ve internalized things to a point where I’m already arguing with myself that this is a whole lot about nothing. That it’s going to challenge people for no real productive reason and that maybe I should’ve just gone on quietly writing my stories as a means of coping. That certainly would’ve been easier.
But I also feel like there is a reason I felt like I needed to post this and that I needed to do it today. I know some of it is me. I’m cracking under pressure and something had to give.
It also gives me appreciation for those whose struggles cannot be put off to a more convenient time. Maybe it’s just always been there to keep me aware, to understand how to perceive the slight but not to let it show.
I can completely identify with all that you said. To know that you are different, but appear to be the socially acceptable “normal” puts us in the awkward position of not being fully excepted on either side. Although, categorized in LGBTQ bisexuals are some what viewed as people who can’t make up there mind. As I have been told “choose already”.
I would love to be more open concerning my sexuality, but know that I am not ready to have to explain myself. Thank you for giving me such a well voiced prospective.
Thank you for commenting! I get those comments, too. Or just the jokes about “bisexuals should just choose already” without even realizing like, hello. I’m sitting right here.
I’m out here. I know I need to be more out in person and at work because people need to be aware of what they’re saying. But it is hard!
Hugs to you I can’t imagine that was an easy blog post to write. On behalf of the silent, thank you for sharing your struggles and fears. It truly does help people to see they aren’t alone even if their burden is different than yours… issues with sexuality and our acceptance of our sexuality plays a major role in who are are, how we interact with others and who we become. You are an inspiration.
Thank you ♥ I know you’ve struggled with people in your real life judging you. It’s definitely easier to go along to get along, but I don’t think it’s healthy to keep quiet. Especially once I realized how much I was internalizing it. It kind of woke me up.
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