By E. E. Giles
I can’t remember now if I had one specific moment when the lightbulb suddenly came on, or if it was more gradual, like a dim light slowly getting brighter. I’ve spent the majority of my life doubting myself. Looking back, it seems like a lot of time wasted. But it took all of that time to accept myself, or more specifically, to accept my sexuality. Like a lot of folks, I grew up seeing and hearing things that led me to believe bisexuality was non-existent, not valid. Bisexual people are just selfish, aren’t they? They just wanna fuck everybody. They’re promiscuous. They can’t be in long-term relationships. They’re not faithful. They just can’t make up their minds. They’re just straight girls looking for attention, or gay guys stuck in the closet. When are they gonna pick a side? These messages can be insidious. They have a way of creeping into your ear and whispering that something is wrong with you, reminding you that you’re the problem, wrong, broken. I believed those voices for a very long time.
A few years ago, I started finding spaces online where bi people came to vent, to console and to celebrate each other. Finally hearing what bisexuality meant to bi people felt like being in a coffeehouse with friends while it snowed outside: warm, familiar, safe. I had never met any of these people face to face; maybe I never would. But we knew each other; we undeniably saw each other. The more I learned, the more I realized that I had never truly known what it meant to be bi, and in how many different ways folks could express it. Attraction to more than one gender, attraction to your own gender and other genders, attraction regardless of gender. These were real people feeling the things that for years I thought were malfunctions in my brain. I felt comfortable in a way I never had before. I felt real. I have these online bi spaces to thank for helping me not only to understand my bisexuality, but to love it, to be proud of it. These are the spaces where I still feel unquestionably understood, acknowledged and validated.
Sometimes, I forget that not every space is safe for bi folks. But every time I forget, someone quickly reminds me. A few weeks ago, as I lazily scrolled through my Facebook newsfeed, I came across an article shared by a page I follow, a group that seemed to be inclusive of all women-loving women. The title of the article was something like “These Queer and Bisexual Women Share Their Stories of Discrimination within the LGBTQ+ Community.” I wanted to read it, sure that I would find some stories from women to whom I could relate. As I went to click on the link, my gaze slid down to the comments section; it’s often hard to avoid glancing through the comments, as much as we may try. The top comment below the article read something like this:
“I have a hard time with this because I can see both sides. Throughout my life as a lesbian, I’ve had concerns about dating bisexual women. I’ve dated a few bisexual women in the past, and even had a long-term relationship with a bisexual woman, but she eventually ended up going back to a past boyfriend because of the pressures of family and society. From my perspective, when a woman says she refuses to date or share spaces with bisexual women, it isn’t really discrimination. It’s fear. Fear of losing a woman you love to a man, fear of competing with the entire population instead of just women. I understand that the experience of queer and bisexual women is real, I just don’t think it’s helping anyone to call it discrimination.”
As I read this, I felt heat rising up in my chest. My breath became short. Before I could click away, I noticed how many people had agreed with this comment, liked it, even responded by thanking the woman for sharing such an “important” opinion. I had to close Facebook and close my eyes for a second. My cheeks were getting hot, and I felt water threatening to push past my eyelids, like someone had just thrown me out into a sandstorm, naked. I wanted to scream, or throw something, but all I could manage to do was sort of tremble, waiting for my breath to return to its rhythm. There it was, my reminder that I had gotten too comfortable. The world sees us as something to be feared.
Despicable as it is, I’ve grown used to being feared by others because of my race, because of my precarious place in this world as a black woman. I’ve only very recently come to understand that this fear is still discrimination, just in another form (note for those who may be new to this: discrimination is an ever-adaptive beast and it takes many forms, changing with the times). Black folks have spent years, decades, centuries fighting to be recognized as human, and we’re still fighting today. Right now, this very minute. When a police officer murders a young black child and can claim fear as a valid reason, this is discrimination in one of its ugliest forms. Claiming that you’re scared does not give anyone the right to invalidate someone’s life. It just doesn’t. It’s really that simple.
I understand that we’re not talking about murder in this specific case of Facebook articles and social media comments, but the point still stands. Your fear is discrimination. The onus is not on bi folks to placate your irrational fear; it’s on you to unlearn it. It’s been said many times, but clearly bears repeating: bi women are in no way more likely than gay women to leave their partners, to cheat on their partners, or to engage in any of these behaviors so often ascribed to us. If a woman you love has left you, I’m truly sorry for your loss, but you need to stop blaming bisexuality. Had she left you for another woman, she would still be just as bi. The only difference is that you wouldn’t hate her for it. Honestly, aren’t you tired? Tired of making excuses, hiding behind fear as a reason to mistreat people? Tired of lying to yourself? I know I’m tired; we all are.
I know that the women who praised that comment on Facebook, and the one woman who wrote it, will probably never see this. And that was a conscious decision. I could have chosen to write these thoughts as a reply to her comment, on Facebook, in public, but I chose against that. Because as much as I would like those women to understand all of this, I no longer feel safe in that space. It has shown itself to be a space where biphobia is not only tolerated, but celebrated. And I refuse to throw myself into that sandstorm again.
E.E. Giles is a 23-year-old black bisexual womanist, partnered with a man. In typical millennial fashion, she is usually broke and currently lives at home. When not working, E.E. loves to write, read, act, sing, dance and create in as many ways as possible. A textbook introvert, she aspires to one day share her art with an audience willing to listen.