Pride month is here, and like many bi individuals, I have very mixed feelings towards pride. On the one hand, I think it's incredible for so many reasons. It's an act of protest while simultaneously a celebration. It's so incredibly important for us to come together as a community. Also, it helps us feel less alone in the world. Seeing thousands upon thousands of people celebrate across the world, we know that no matter where we are, there are others who are just like us.
But on the other hand, being bi at pride isn't necessarily all it's cracked up to be. Many of us don't feel welcomed or embraced, especially if we're in an opposite-sex relationship or, as gay people like to incorrectly put it, a "straight relationship."
A few years ago, I was in a relationship with a bi, genderqueer individual who preferred female pronouns. She and I were at pride with some gay men. Very audibly and drunkenly, they made fun of her for being with me, saying things like, "She doesn't even know that her boyfriend is gay." She also received numerous dirty looks for holding hands and kissing me. Pride ended with her in tears heading home. While I told her I'd come with her, she insisted that I stay because she knew how important it was for me to celebrate pride, especially since I had come out as bi recently (and she had been out for many years).
Obviously, pride sucked that year. In a space that was supposed to be accepting of queer folks, my partner of the time felt more rejected and alone than she had ever felt before. And at that moment, she hated the LGBTI community, or more specifically, the gay community. I felt terrible for convincing her to tag along when she had no desire to go in the first place, fearing that exactly what happened would indeed happen.
By the time pride rolled around the next year, I was single, and I had an absolute blast making new friends. The fact that I'm perceived as gay is in large part why I had fun. I wore a rainbow tank top and pink short shorts with way too much makeup caked on my face. Without a woman on my arm, people wrongly assume I'm gay when I'm dressed like that. The next two prides I celebrated with my boyfriend, and again, I had an incredible time. That's because two men holding hands and making out in the street during pride is not only encouraged but celebrated.
Now this year, I will be celebrating pride with a queer woman whom I am dating. Once again, I'm nervous. Luckily, I am far more prepared than I was at my first pride since coming out 4 years ago. For one, I am confident in my identity and so too is the woman I'm dating. She also grew up going to gay clubs (before she realized she was bi) and knows how gay men can be exclusive in these spaces. She's so used to it that it doesn't bother her anymore. We've also spoken beforehand. I let her know that at any point during pride, we can leave a space if either of us feels uncomfortable. Either of us can say the word, and we're both out of there!
It's a shame that we even have to have these conversations prior to going to pride, but being bi, I believe it's necessary to do so. It's also a shame that I won't be attending any leather/bear parties with her, but that's just the way the cookie crumbles. I'm hoping I can find a bear party at the same time she can find a lesbian party. We both smooch with some other people and then come back and report on our fun.
I bring all this up not only to voice some of the experiences I've had, which I'm assuming nearly every other bi individual in an opposite-sex relationship at pride has also experienced to some degree but because I think pride can still be an incredible time for bi+ people in opposite-sex relationships.
I think, however, we may have to change our expectations a little. Instead of pride being a wild party, it may be a time to educate the larger community — a time to wave our bi flags high.
Let's not forget that pride was first and foremost a protest, and it continues to be to this day. It was a protest against oppression, bigotry, and police brutality. We wouldn't have pride parades today without the activism of Marsha P. Johnson: a transgender woman of color, who people often forget was bi too. Bi people helped to start pride, and we deserve to be in it now.
Now, I'm not saying we should protest gay men or anything like that. But I am saying that we should use this time to come out and educate others about being bi. Let's talk about some of the discrimination we receive from both the gay and straight communities. Let's talk about the mental and physical health disparities bis experience.
Let's use pride as an opportunity to remind the larger gay community that we are very much a part of the LGBTI community.