Not So Queer Friendly

Yesterday I was hanging out with a bunch of straight people and talking about burning man (I’ve never been.) There is apparently some survey afterwards you can opt to take that asks people how many new sex partners they have acquired over the festival. It differentiates between “sex” aka penetrative sex and “foreplay” which apparently also includes oral sex.

I asked why they gave this survey, was it to track STDs or something? And they said no, it seems to be more about getting a sense of the depth and type of connections people had with each other.

I made some comment like, “That’s not really very queer friendly because a lot of lesbian sex would be dismissed as foreplay by that definition.”

At which point, one of the guys said “Oh no, burning man is very queer friendly.” And I’m all, “Who are you, Mr. Straight Man to define queer friendly?” Only, I just thought that instead of said it because I was surrounded by straight people and didn’t want to make a scene.

Can any event where straight people outnumber queer ever be *really* queer friendly? We will not be able to approach the majority of people there romantically for fear of being rejected *because of our sexuality.* Sure, we don’t get beat up, but we are still seen as the “other,” as dismissed without consideration. As slightly subhuman, in a way. It’s a weird feeling, it’s hard to describe, but it’s different from being rejected (or pre-rejected) by a gay man. In my experience, most gay will still have a fundamental respect for your sexual orientation (perhaps because they also understand what it’s like to be attracted to men.) I don’t get that same feeling from straight women.

And, it is also different from being rejected by another queer woman who just isn’t into you. I guess most obviously, gay women are better about not unconsciously leading on other gay women, because they see romantic potential between two women. Straight women just don’t see romantic potential there, and I can feel really not-seen by them.

For me, in the end (perhaps as a bisexual) it always comes down to invisibility. When I told this guy “that’s not queer friendly,” he didn’t see why it wasn’t. He refused to witness my experience, and that is where most of the pain lies.


Bisexual Performance – or – Girls Who Pretend to be Bisexual

Nothing is better than a good, fake bisexual roasting. Fucking straight female attention seekers, co-opting queerness to enhance their heteronormative sex appeal. We should have a pussy eating entrance exam for bi women! With judges – make me one! Amirite?

(Hint: I am not right)

Do you remember that song, I Kissed a Girl by Katie Perry? (Yeah, I know it’s been a while.) It’s about… a girl, kissing another girl – and liking it! But, you know – it was sanitized. No one was eye-deep in pussy, Perry had a boyfriend, and it was just an experiment (a “naughty” one at that.) And some queers cried “appropriation” and I get it, but, on another level it actually reminded me of my very early experiences with women from a time when, well, we just assumed everyone was straight.

Many of my first experiences with girls were essentially bisexual performances for men, and before you cry “hetronormative appropriation of queer culture” you should know I was 12. Or 13, but young anyway. I didn’t know myself, I didn’t know my sexuality, and I certainly had no idea how it related to other people or the queer community as a whole. It didn’t stop me being attracted to women when men weren’t around. It didn’t stop me casually dating women in my 20s. It didn’t stop me from eventually falling in love the woman I now call my girlfriend. But, yeah, when I was young I used to kiss girls to turn men on. It’s not PC, but it’s true.

Most of the criticism for this phenomenon falls to the girls themselves – like from this bisexual woman who doesn’t want to think of herself as one of those bisexuals (aka, a bisexual performing straight woman.) One of the most common questions I got when coming out as bisexual was was I a “real” bisexual (aka, how much pussy have you eaten?) starting from when I was outed at 13. I went from being a fairly nerdy, anonymous middle school girl to someone who was immediately hypersexualized, and I did not have the emotional maturity to deal with it.

On a related note, check out this graph:


It’s from a study that documents the higher rate of sexual abuse among bisexual women than among any other sexual orientation (see here.) In this study, 46% of bisexual women had experienced a rape (as opposed to 13% of lesbians, and 15% of straight women.) You can also see most of these rapes were happening during the ages of 11-17 (at every other age, straight women are more likely to be raped.) Bisexual women are vulnerable to being raped right around the age they are likely to be discovering their sexuality and coming out. This is also the age we tend to see a lot of “fake” bisexuals, who are forced to absorb a lot of cultural expectations about their sexuality.

I don’t want to read too much into this study, since the sample size of bisexual women was small, but it fits with my own experience. At the time when I was most vulnerable, I was also exposed to a blast of criticism and doubt about my sexuality, as well as a blast of hypersexualization. And, I *was* attracted to men, I *did* want to impress them, and I didn’t fully understand the negative repercussions of bisexual performance. By the time I was in high school, I’d figured it out and avoided it, but I also had a heavy feminist influence in my life. I can understand it would take some women a little longer to come to sort through this mess, especially since many bisexual women lack support from their queer community (I feel uncomfortable attending events for “lesbians” because I have been explicitly un-included before. This is an annoyance at 29, but probably has much sharper repercussions at 19 – “sharper” repercussions being sexual abuse because the only people you can find to support you also hypersexualize you.)

There is a much deeper message, however, to all of this that I – and probably many other bisexual women – have absorbed. And, that message is “your sexuality is not determined by how you feel, but rather how others judge you to be.” I have often felt the obligation to *prove* my bisexuality, even to people who were supposed to accept me. For instance, I used to see a gay therapist who specialized in issues of sexuality. He once, explicitly, asked me if I was really bisexual or if I was just attached to the identity. I was so shaken by his question that for about a month I identified as straight, but felt so sad I eventually decided I’d rather be a happy “fake” bisexual than a sad “real” straight person. But, if I’d kept that identity, I would never have fallen in love with my girlfriend. My life would have been less in ways I can’t even begin to describe.

Perhaps a deeper question is, why do we resent these young, “fake” bisexual women? Unfortunately, I’m too drunk and it’s too late to answer that question. Another day, perhaps.

Not Allowed in Gay Spaces

I was a member of a lesbian science fiction meet-up group, before they explicitly dis-allowed bisexual girls. I mean, I know I’m not a lesbian – but, both me and my girlfriend liked science fiction so I figured whatever, I’ll just join and we can go together. It’s not like we’re really going to be fitting in super well in science fiction clubs dominated by straight men.

But alas, a recent update to her description of the group:

the organizer is purposely and intentionally creating a lesbian space.  this is not a meet up for bisexual women.  if you identify as “queer” as a modernized way of saying “lesbian,” this group is for you.  it is my hope that women who identify as lesbian will join the group.  it is also my hope that those who are not lesbian will recognize this, be aware of and sensitive to the intent of this group, and not join the group.  in these hopes, my hope is also that i do not have to become the “lesbian” police.  i am looking to build a sci fi lesbian community.   thank you.

SF/Bay Area Lesbian Science Fiction Fans

So, this brings up a difficult point of being a bisexual woman in a gay relationship. When I’m out with my girlfriend, people see me as gay. For instance, when we went on our anniversary trip, and we checked in to our hotel room together, I felt a little weird. I told my girlfriend that sometimes I worry how people who aren’t from a big city are going to react to us. She told me she worried about the same thing (it’s worth noting, they were very nice to us at the hotel.) Sometimes men holler at us together, “make my night, let me watch you two” – stuff like that. Sometimes, I think people don’t give my relationship with my girlfriend as much respect as they’d give a straight relationship – say, by suggesting male partners when I have a girlfriend, or by not giving us as much space/privacy as they’d give a straight couple.

All of this boils down to, as a bisexual woman in a gay relationship, many of the things that are difficult about being a lesbian are difficult for me to0. Except, I don’t have a safe space to be with my girlfriend in. I do feel more comfortable being with my girlfriend in places where there are other gay couples. Yet, if I tell the lesbians around me that I am bisexual, many of them will not want me there. Even if it’s not stated, and even if the lesbians I’m with really would not care, I always feel like I’m “passing” – or, have stepped into a lavender closet, so to speak. On the other hand, straight people tend to really not care about my bisexuality, but being with my girlfriend in heavily straight spaces sometimes is awkward for me. Especially when men don’t read us as a couple, and hit on one of us (that really pisses my girlfriend off.)

So, where do we go? Probably the places I feel most comfortable, actually, are gay male places – like, walking around the Castro. They tend to read me as “gay”, but probably wouldn’t be upset to find out that I wasn’t. They also wouldn’t judge me for having sucked a little dick (lesbians are SUPER uptight about sucking dick.)

Anyway, in a way, I’m glad this organizer made her intentions explicit because it’s a lot easier to pin down. It’s hard to pin down the subtle ways I feel unsafe in gay spaces, the looks, the intonation, etc. But, I’m sad. I would have liked to go to a queer science fiction thing. Also, I have this larger fear I have that there is no space for me. The problem with being bisexual, is that you don’t date only other bisexuals. You date gay people, and you date straight people – and sometimes bisexuals/pansexuals/queer too. I think this actually the main reason it’s hard to create a bisexual community, is the diversity of sexual partners. So, when I’m excluded from lesbian places – from places where my girlfriend is welcome, from places that are safe spaces *for her* – it creates a divide between us. There aren’t really bisexual spaces, and there aren’t a ton of spaces for us to be safe together.

I’m not really sure what’s to be done. I messaged the organizer and tried to explain some of this to her, but I doubt it will really make a difference. I wrote about it in my blog (and, apparently  you read it – thanks!) but, I’m also not going to demand inclusion, and I’m not going to lie about my sexuality. That’s just not my style.

I’m More Afraid to Come Out to Gay People than Straight People

Specifically, lesbians. I’m more afraid to come out as bisexual to lesbians than to straight people.

I should note that I live in San Francisco – if I lived in bumblefuck homophobiaville, the story would probably be different. But, here in San Francisco, the land of the gays and politically correct, straight people are way easier to deal with than lesbians. When I come out to a straight person, they will usually say nothing. Sometimes they will talk about how great it it gay marriage passed, (or, back in the day, they’d talk about how they thought gay marriage *should* pass) to indicate how OK they were with it. Sometimes, if I casually mention my girlfriend, they will get this facial expression which I’ve interpreted to mean “I am trying as hard as possible to project that I am totally fine with your having a girlfriend.” It’s a little awkward, but sort of charming. I realize that they’re trying to tell me they accept me, without being unhip enough to project that being queer is a big deal.

On the other hand, I dread mentioning ex boyfriends to lesbians. Usually, gay women meet me in a gay context and assume I am also gay. When I’ve casually mentioned a male ex of mine, I’ve gotten responses like “Oh my god, what?” to which I’m awkwardly like “Uh – yeah, I’m bisexual.”

Check out this video:

I get that people have preferences, but what’s amazing to me is how entitled lesbians seem to feel to be outspoken about it. If you didn’t date black people, would you be willing to have a recording of yourself saying that published to the internet? I imagine most people who secretly felt that would probably keep it quietly to themselves. Of course, sexuality is different from race – but the majority of gay people argue that it wasn’t a choice for them. It’s generally polite not to rail on people for things they can’t help, which would seem to apply to bisexuality in this case.

Even with people who aren’t this outspoken, when I mention to a woman that I’m bisexual, it’s usually a “bad” thing. I’m sure to mention it to any woman I go out with on the first date because I expect it to be a possible reason she wouldn’t want to stay with  me. Conversely, when I date men, I’ll usually bring up that I’m bisexual whenever because I’ve never had a man get upset about it. Sometimes, I’ll get a “zomg, that’s so hot can I watch?” which is irritating, but a lot more welcome than the lesbian “that’s a shame.”

To be fair, not all lesbians are like this (my girlfriend, being one obvious exception.) In fact, possibly even *most* lesbians aren’t like this but enough of them are that make me wonder what is going on with it?

I asked my girlfriend for her take on it.

Me: Why do some lesbians not like bisexuals?

Her: Maybe because they’re insecure about it

Me: Insecure about what?

Her: I don’t know – like how I get insecure cuz you slept with guys.

Me: Why does that make you insecure?

Her: Cuz you slept with them before me.

Me: Why would that matter?

Her: I don’t know, cuz they have something I can’t give you.

Me: Like what?

Her: I don’t know.

Me: Like dick?

Her: *giggles* yeah.

Me: Why do you think I want dick?

Her:  I don’t know.

The cultural power of the dick is pretty impressive. I was hanging out with one of my more dude/bro friends the other day, and he was inquiring that had it really been two years since I’d had “the D” and didn’t I miss it? (“The D” was clearly capitalized, given his tone of voice.) I responded that what I missed about men was nothing so specific – it was more a male “energy” or something. I miss parts of all my lovers when they’re gone because everyone is unique, but that’s just a part of dating. What I miss about men as a whole doesn’t feel terribly different from that.

I think that bi-phobia is really a form of misogyny. The stereotype about bi men is they’re really gay, the stereotype about bi women is they’re really straight. The unifying theme is that people have a hard time believing someone who was attracted to both genders would choose to be with a woman. But, I don’t have trouble believing it because I love being with my girlfriend and I choose to be with her every day.