A couple of years ago I remember reading an inspirational blog by Emily Miles1, about declaring that she was bisexual for the purposes of gathering organisational statistics. Like Emily, I could easily have been presumed/assumed heterosexual – I generally look female, I have been married to a man, I am a mother. But I have also dated women since I was 19, and no longer feel limited by binary perceptions of gender either for myself or my partners.
Passing as straight can be a double-edged sword. The weight of people’s assumptions can be significant, and bisexual* women suffer significantly poorer mental health than either straight women or lesbians. Involuntarily blending into the “straight” world when you are not straight is not a good place to be in. It feels dishonest. Having assumptions made about your identity because perhaps you have an opposite sex partner, or don’t conform to a “gay” stereotype of how you present yourself, can be an awful cumulative burden of double discrimination.
The difficulty of not fitting in at either side of the spectrum is belittled – “how can you be hurt by homophobia if you “look straight” or have an opposite sex partner?” (clue – you can). Sometimes it can be difficult to even be recognised by the community that we belong to in spirit – to even be noticed by, and find potential partners of the same sex. And sometimes there seems to be an expectation that we could just “make it easier for ourselves” and choose to be one thing or the other, as if bisexual2 people should be expected to shut down part of their identities.
I used to let people who weren’t close to me assume what they liked for an easy life, and took on board a lot of internalised biphobia and inferiority, but after reading things like Emily’s blog and reaching out to other sources online and in books, I am now more confident in my identity and place in the LGBT community and the fact that this does not change, no matter the gender of my partner.
I’ll tick the “bisexual” box on our internal HR systems, happily in the knowledge that statistics on sexual orientation and other diversity strands are used for everyone’s benefit, to demonstrate and rectify where there are problems. (I prefer the label pansexual though, as there’s more to life than “men” and “women”).
I hope that like Emily did for me, my ability to be out and visible might give some courage to other people that it’s OK to be yourself and you don’t have to fit into a neat category or meet narrow expectations.