Am I Enough? Thoughts and Venting and Feelings on Bisexuality and Gatekeeping

I’m going to be honest. I’m a little freaked out about this blog post. I’m scared of sounding whiny, of sounding self-indulgent, of sounding a million other things because I have spent years telling myself that this is No Big Deal and Other People Have It Worse So Just Shut Up.

But I need to write about this, and maybe someone else needs to read about it.

I’m bisexual. I’ve been out for ten years, this isn’t something that most people who know me don’t already know. It’s on my Facebook profile, I’ve said it (seemingly) casually in tweets.

I’m bisexual, but most of the time I feel like I can’t own that identity. Sometimes it’s a little confusing just because, well, maybe pansexual is more accurate – I’m not just into cis men and women, I’m into trans men and woman too, and I’ve been attracted to people outside the binary – but that’s a whole other conversation and I’m going to leave it at just saying that for me, bisexual is how I’ve identified for ten years, and it’s the identity that feels right to me, and it’s the one I’m going to talk about.

I feel like I can’t own it because I’ve never been romantically or sexually involved with a woman.

I hear gay men and lesbians talking about the “straight-passing privilege” of bisexuals and think I’m just the poster child for that and I should just shut up.

I didn’t realize until recently how much this hurts me. I didn’t realize the little ways in which I’ve changed myself because of this. I feel like I’m not allowed to identify as LGBTQ+ or queer or bisexual or anything. When conversations about these identities and communities come up, I feel like I have to step back – like I don’t belong there, like I’m not who this conversation is about.

Like I’m an outsider.

I’ve only had relationships with men, and the vast majority of my crushes have been men. Even though I experience romantic and sexual attraction to women, because I’ve never slept with a woman or dated a woman I started to wonder if I was faking. Like, faking so hard that I’d convinced myself. I heard the people who, when I came out at fourteen, said that I was just following along with a trend. That I just wanted attention. I can point back to crushes I’ve had on girls from the time I was a small child (I generally credit Jade from Jackie Chan Adventures as the first but it might be Lola Bunny from Space Jam) but I still wonder if I just jumped on a “trend” when I was fourteen and convinced myself it was real.

I stopped talking about being into women. I stopped thinking that a relationship with a woman was even possible for me. When I talk online about wanting dates and wanting relationships I only talk about guys. And every time I do, this part of me aches, because I know that’s not even true to who I am. I’m someone who craves love and affection and I’d love to find that with anyone, not just cis men.

But I hit tweet and I hit post and I think I’m just not bisexual enough.

On the few occasions that I do say “hey, I’m bisexual” or mention it I’m always scared that someone will look at me like, “Really?”

When I wrote “This is an Essay About a Fat Woman Being Loved and Getting Laid” I only mentioned men, because that’s the only sexual and romantic experience I have. It’s all I can write about it, and I put in this line at the end: “We flirt with another fat girl at the coffee shop.”

It was all I could think to do to acknowledge my sexuality, to show that I’m not straight, that I’ve never been straight.

I’ve had people comment on and criticize the heteronormativity of the essay and I don’t blame them. They don’t know me. They don’t know that as proud of that essay as I am as a fat woman, I have spent so many days thinking that if this is the only experience I have then this is just more proof that I don’t get to say I’m bisexual. That I don’t get to say I’m queer or part of this community.

Yesterday, the LGBTQ+ community got a huge win in marriage equality. It’s not the biggest win or the last win and there’s so much more to do but it was a big win, and I spent the day on this high. I watched reaction videos and proposal videos and coming out videos and sobbed.

I started thinking about my place in this community, in this moment in history.

I came out as bisexual online and to family when I was 14. The people who truly mattered were supportive. But I also dealt with harassment and bullying, with a group of girls I’d known in elementary school (I was homeschooled through middle school) piling on over AIM telling me that I’d never find love, that I’d be beat up in high school, that no one would ever marry me, because I was fat and pagan and bisexual and all of this was gross.

High school wasn’t as bad for me as I predicted. It wasn’t physically unsafe. I was never beat up. I knew other people who identified as things other than straight, and we were generally physically safe.

I can’t say there was no violence against queer kids at my school. I tended to not know what was going on socially and if none of my friends were involved, I wouldn’t have heard. I can’t say it never happened. But I don’t think it was common.

That doesn’t mean we were entirely welcome.

My freshman year of high school was the first time I attempted to be an activist. I wasn’t new to the idea of activism – my mother grew up all over the South with parents who were outspoken in the civil rights movement, who moved around supporting Martin Luther King Jr., who fled towns more than once because their allyship to black activism was not appreciated.

My parents have never been the kind of people who see injustice and sit and let it happen. I wanted to be the same way.

I found out about the Day of Silence and decided that I wanted to do that at my school. I started working on getting it to happen, and high school had been so safe for me as a bisexual student that I never thought organizing this even would be difficult.

I ended up in a meeting with the principal, who was very calm, who smiled, who said that of course all students were welcome, that of course they were supported, but he just didn’t think a Day of Silence was right for the school. He didn’t think that anyone would be served by gay students putting themselves out there and saying they were gay. We had to take baby steps, and this was a giant step, and people would just get hurt.

I would get people hurt.

I would get my friends and peers hurt if I encouraged them to put duct tape over their mouths for a day and tell people that it was for gay rights.

I was 15, and I’d always been a good, rule-abiding kid. I didn’t know how to stand up to authority. I felt that he was wrong, but didn’t know how to express it, didn’t know the right words. I argued some, but when he didn’t bend, I just said okay and left the meeting and went home in tears.

I don’t remember how I got from there to the actual Day of Silence, when I didn’t put duct tape over my mouth because that would draw too much attention, but I did stay silent the entire day. I had cards that explained why and wrote out notes. A few students joined me. It was something. I felt like a failure. But I did it again in other years, and I can’t say it was ever a rousing success, but it was something.

Yesterday, I thought a lot about that 15-year-old girl who went into her principal’s office and stood up for this cause she believed in because it was part of her, who put herself out there and spoke up because it was who she was and who her friends were and she wanted a better world.

I wonder if she would be disappointed in the 24-year-old who only does that activism from the sidelines, through RTs and weblogs, like an ally, not like someone whose own life and happiness depends on it.

My most outspoken form of activism is my fat activism. There is no denying my fatness, no denying that I experience oppression and stigma because of it.

It is too easy for other people to deny my bisexuality, to say that I don’t have any real stakes in this activism and this movement.

Yesterday was part of my future and my rights, but I didn’t feel like I could stand up and say that. I didn’t feel like I was allowed.

I don’t know if this blog post is me saying, “No more,” or trying to shed light on the gatekeeping in the queer community. I’m writing this and I’m crying because I haven’t allowed myself to face up to how much this has been hurting me. Some of the things I wrote in here are things I realized only as I wrote them.

I don’t know what this is for me, or what this is for you, or what this is for anyone. I don’t know if my bisexuality is enough or if my pain is enough to qualify me to write this or post it, but I am, because I need to.

So here it is.

4 thoughts on “Am I Enough? Thoughts and Venting and Feelings on Bisexuality and Gatekeeping

  1. Anon says:

    Hi,
    I just wanted to say how much your post touched me. I’m bisexual and currently in a heteronormative relationship. So I don’t go to pride. I don’t feel like I’m able to express myself. I don’t feel queer enough to celebrate the momentous achievement the US just had. Even though I’ve had relationships with women.

    I even came across Bi Booklr friends the other day and wanted to be included but couldn’t perk up the courage.

    So I just wanted to say, I get it. I’m there. You’re not alone. It’s a horrible feeling. And it feels like Activist Birb perking up to say, “What about me?” when you know so many other people have it harder. But it’s still hard for you. How do you even balance that? I don’t know.

    But thank you for your post. Thank you for reminding me that I’m not the only bi girl out there trying to find a place.

  2. Jo Knox says:

    I really loved your post Sarah…I feel that no one on Earth has the kind of authority over another that the word and it’s meaning, “allow” could be strong enough to stop an action…we are ancient consciousness experiencing form and one’s thoughts create the experience and how we react to it…love you with great admiration!

  3. acquiescent72 says:

    Wow! What an interesting perspective. I found this an great read and could relate in some ways. I’m also bisexual, though male, and in a “traditional” marriage. I don’t openly identify as bisexual, however, and I don’t have this huge sense of pride in being bisexual. I see sexuality as just one part of a person’s entire identity, but at the same time I don’t think it is something to shove down other people’s throats either.

    Anyways…just found this interesting. 🙂

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