“You’re not bi, you’re with a man.”
As someone who has been openly bi for almost a decade now and has dated mostly men, this is something I hear far too often. Sadly I’m all too used to this casual biphobia coming from straight people. It's worth noting, however, that these comments are usually from people I’d be most uncomfortable being my true self around. “Well, I’ve only seen you date men,” was a favorite line of a particularly bigoted family member.
This is something I’ve come to expect, though, along with comments like me “liking a bit of both” and being greedy.
However, I’ve found myself discriminated against by members of the LGBTI community just as much.
It’s ironic that a community that proclaims that love is love and you can love whoever you want to tell me I’m performing my sexuality wrong and that I’m essentially loving the wrong gender.
Stonewall’s 2017 LGBT in Britain report found that 27% of bi women have experienced discrimination from others in the community compared with 9% of lesbian/gay women. 43% of bi respondents to the survey reported that they had never attended LGBTI spaces, compared to 29% of gay/lesbian people.
The very community that is supposed to support everyone and raise each other up routinely tells bi women that they don’t belong if they are in relationships with straight men.
When I was at university, I was part of the LGBTI society. However, I stopped attending meetings when, after I got a boyfriend, the then-president, a lesbian woman, joked that I was “a traitor.” When my long-term relationship ended in 2016, I had a few months of singledom and was dating people of all genders, and I was always open about my sexuality. I was braced for the more lewd comments from men on Tinder like “up for a threesome?” but it hurt to come across a lot of women who said they didn’t want to date a bisexual because they couldn’t trust us.
In 2018, a study published in the journal Psychology of Sexual Orientation and Gender Diversity suggested that lesbians and gay men see bisexual women as more attracted to men and perceived to be "inauthentic" in their attraction to women. I can understand that since when I’ve mentioned to women that I’m bisexual, I’ve witnessed the physical discomfort in them and am usually dumped after 2 dates and told I’m going to leave them for a man anyway.
I was always honest and open with my husband about my sexuality from the get-go. It was never a big deal to either of us though. He knows I’m not going to leave him for the first woman I lay eyes on, and he loves that I can be as open with him as possible.
I don’t want to go into too much detail about my personal relationship with my husband here because I don’t feel that I should have to justify our relationship. Suffice to say, he makes me happy, he’s the love of my life, and he’s the most supportive partner I’ve ever had. That’s all that matters, right?
Despite that, though, throughout our relationship, I’ve struggled to keep a hold of my bisexual identity, but that has nothing to do with my husband or me being in a relationship with a straight cis man.
This feeling only increased after we got married. I realized I wasn’t the only one. Many of my online friends who are bi and in relationships with men felt just as excluded.
I thought I’d be safe in the online community, but every week it seemed bi people were faced with fresh biphobia, from LGBTI-focused brands and publications to high profile members of the community and tv shows. Or even worse, when a bi woman talks about their relationship, they receive an overwhelming amount of hate.
When Kate Raphael wrote about how her boyfriend helped her reconnect with her queerness by giving her a haircut during lockdown for Xtra, the post went viral due to the sheer amount of vitriol in the Twitter replies. As a bi woman who has found herself in the same situation, it was distressing to scroll through.
Bi women are told we have “straight privilege” because we don’t look gay (whatever that looks like), completely ignoring the fact that by claiming we have this privilege, you are completely invalidating our actual sexuality. I’m no less bi because of who I love, and I refuse to be made to feel otherwise.
Unfortunately, people will always gatekeep and try to tell you that you can’t be bi if you love sleeping with men, but you should never let that stop you. Don’t let them get under your skin. In my experience, the friends who judge you based on who or what gender you date were never truly supportive friends in the first place and didn’t deserve your love.
It can be easy as a bi woman to feel like you don’t belong in the queer community and even question whether you have a right to be there in the first place. But listen to me when I say that you absolutely deserve to be here, you are welcome in my house, I’m glad you’re here. Whoever you date or don’t date (because you don’t have to be actively sexual for your sexuality to matter) has no reflection on your sexuality.
Many think that being with a man “took away” my queerness, but in reality, having a partner who supports me and encourages me to express all sides of myself allowed me to be my true best bi self. I no longer fear what others think of me or our relationship. The only two people who matter are secure in it.