Pride isn’t all it’s cracked up to be for bi folks. While the various festivities that occur throughout the month of June are supposedly inclusive of all members of the LGBTI community, the events often feel like it’s only truly welcoming of gays and lesbians. Unless an event or booth is specifically advertised as being bisexual — saying “BI/PAN” in big letters, the default is that it’s gay.
Pride can be particularly tough for bi people who are in a different-gender relationship (i.e., a man with a woman). The thing is, no bi person at Pride wants to be mistaken as straight. Especially during Pride, we want to feel like equal members of the LGBTI community. Unfortunately, though, when someone sees a man kissing a woman, they’re going to erroneously assume that the individuals in the couple are straight. Bi couples then may receive angry glances or negative comments from gay folks who feel as if they, the seemingly straight couple, are co-opting a space that isn’t meant for them.
Simply put, this sucks.
Still, I understand gay people’s reactions. There’s a long history of straight folks — particularly women and bachelorette parties — who come into gay bars, get hammered, and treat the men there like zoo animals on display for their amusement. So it makes sense that gay men (and to a lesser extent, women) would be overly protective of the few spaces that are for them.
This puts bi folks in a particularly tough predicament. We want to celebrate Pride with our partner but don’t feel welcome doing so. At the same time, we understand why some gay folks may be quick to judgment or anger when they see a bi couple holding hands or kissing in the street.
Nevertheless, there are things you can do as a bi person in a different-gender relationship that will help you feel more welcomed at Pride and make you enjoy the month of June a tad bit more. Oh, and don’t worry, gay folks are not off the hook either. In this Allure feature, I detail all the things LGTI people along with pride organizers can do to make bi folks feel more included. However, I want to give actions that you can do so you have a sense of autonomy over how your pride experience plays out.
1. Deck yourself in bisexual flags, clothing, accessories, and colors
It’s tough to be “visibly” bi — and what does that really even mean? I know when I wear my crop tops and cut-off booty-shorts, I come across as gay. When I’m walking to the gym in Adidas sweat pants and a ribbed tank, I come off as straight (that is, until I open my mouth and you hear me speak). The only way to appear bisexual is to wear things with bi colors and symbols.
Lucky for us, the bi colors are pink, lavender, and blue — some of the most beautiful colors. (Imagine if it was yellow, orange, and grey… ooph, that would have been rough.) If you’re looking for some bi swag, I’d suggest purchasing from bi artists. My two favorite online bi stores are Bisexualshirts.com, which is run by bi artist Jayne B Shea, and then Bicon Robyn Ochs created an Etsy store called BiProducts, which has bi and pansexual flags, earrings, and pins. All proceeds from BiProducts sales support the production of Bi Women Quarterly, a free publication featuring the voices of bisexual women.
You’ll also enjoy pride so much more because you’ll receive sooo many more compliments. When I wore a bi shirt last year at NYC pride, I’m not exaggerating when I say dozens of people came up to me, saying that they loved my shirt and are bi themselves. That’s the thing — when wearing bi colors or clothing, you’ll also meet other bi folks who you wouldn’t have met otherwise!
2. Change what you want to get out of Pride
Pride means something different to everyone. For some, it’s a time to embrace their sexuality when they often struggle to do so the rest of the year. For others, it’s a time for activism; in the spirit of the first Pride being a riot, they protest the current U.S. administration and anti-LGBTI policies around the globe. For others, it’s a big party and an excuse to get wrecked. For me, Pride is many things. It’s a party, a time to meet new people (I’ve noticed most people are down to chat with strangers/make friends during Pride), but also a time for bi activism.
I will use this time to educate others about being bi. That doesn’t mean I’m going to engage with folks who are biphobic or are looking to argue. No, absolutely not. I will, however, take the time to answer some questions about being bi to people who ask respectfully. I’ll also help out some “baby bis” who are just coming out — showing them that they do have a vibrant community and are not alone!
3. Take a break from your partner and venture out alone
If you feel like you’re constantly getting nasty glares or harassed with questions for being with your different-gender partner at Pride, venture off alone a little bit. I’m well aware you wanted to celebrate with your partner — and yes, you should do that and also have been doing that. But if it becomes “too much,” instead of going home straight away, take a little break. Perhaps you head to a lesbian event while your partner attends a gay circuit party. An hour or two later, you both can meet up, share stories, and go back to celebrating Pride together.
At the end of the day, Pride is as much for bisexual people as it is for gays, lesbians, and all other members of the LGBTI community. While it’s frustrating that we have to claim our space more at Pride events, it’s worth doing. The more bi folks go, have fun, talk about being bi, and wear bi colors, the more bi folks will feel welcome attending all the festivities.
As corny as it may sound, be the change you want to see. If you’re like me and want to see more bi folks in different-gender relationships enjoying themselves at Pride, then it starts with you and your partner(s) doing just that.