Rainbows and Rainclouds: My Adventures with Bisexuality, Bigenderism and Bigotry
It’s National Coming Out day. Did you know? It has a little irony to it, because as most people who are LGBTQ can tell you, coming out isn’t a singular process. It’s extended. You do it every day of your life. Every time someone’s surprised by the way you act, or the things you say, or the clothes you wear. You have to explain yourself again and again. Sometimes, to understanding. Sometimes, to confusion, and sometimes to bare-faced bigotry.
I go by the name Kate. I’ll occasionally tolerate Katharine, as long as it’s spelled correctly, and sometimes Katy if you’re special. I also take Usagi, Usa and Ms, if you’re looking to please. I am unfussed about the pronoun you use for me. People usually use she, but I’ll accept anything except maybe “it”.
I define as bisexual and bigendered. My interest is more predominantly in women; if I were to spell it in numbers, the divide is around 80-20. Conversely, my bigenderism has a similar divide – I alternate between genders rarely, switching to my non-cis gender only 15-20% of the time, but it’s a part of my identity none the less.
A lot of people know that I’m bisexual – I’m hardly quiet about it, or the things I wish I could do to Natalie Portman. Fewer people know that I’m bigendered, and explaining the concept to someone new to it is often impossible. I try my best, but it can be hard and demoralising, particularly getting responses like “Well *I’ve* never seen that in you, so it can’t be true”. You’ve also never seen me shag a girl, but are you going to tell me that isn’t true too? Sadly, some people do.
Identifying as bigender is one of the most liberating things I’ve ever done. I could never fully label myself and my gender before. I knew I felt strange, like my odds and ends didn’t package in well. Oval in a circle shaped hole, as it were. I’d feel so strange, binding my breasts, frowning at my reflection. Now I can finally accept myself.
I can only talk about my own experiences, so I want to use today to talk about biphobia and how, despite its relative unknown status, it is depressingly common in both gay and hetero circles.
Here’s a fun game. Go on gaydargirls.com, and see if you can find just how many of the profiles of gay women state “No bis”, like that’s okay. Google Julie Bindel to find such wonderful quotes as “weekend lesbians” and other derogatory remarks about women who date both men and women. This view is pervasive in lesbian culture. The wonderful Simone wrote about an article in DIVA, legitimising biphobia for all gay women to see (http://blogwasred.wordpress.com/2012/04/09/oh-dear-diva-leading-magazine-for-queer-women-legitimises-biphobia-2/). Attitudes like this are damaging and upsetting. I’ve never even considered dating a gay woman who hasn’t asked me if I’m going to go “straight” on her. If I’ll leave her for a man. Which, by the way, I can’t really see as any worse than being left for a woman.
In hetero culture, the attitude is similar. The assumption, essentially, of bisexual women is that they are secretly straight. I’m currently in a long-term relationship with a man. I have been told, by many people, many times, that therefore my sexuality and identity don’t count. Surely I don’t face any discrimination anymore, they say, straight-faced without a hint of irony, not registering the biphobia in their own voices. Explaining this is difficult, unpleasant. My sexuality isn’t based on action. It’s based on feelings, emotions, attractions, internal chemistry. That doesn’t just “go away”, regardless of who I’m currently fucking.
Here’s a suggestion for the rest of the world: Accept everyone at face value. If they say they’re bisexual, then they are, no matter if they only sleep with men, only sleep with women, never sleep with anyone. It’s not your job to define their sexuality for them. I know lesbians in relationships with men. The world doesn’t work with basic definitions. Everything merges, changes, and everyone has different circumstances and different understandings, and one day, the whole world will welcome them with open arms, whether they identify as gay, straight, bi, pan, he, she, zie or penguin.
And that’s my favourite thing about the world, about humanity, about being who I am. I live in hope of a better tomorrow for everyone, regardless of any of the things that make us different, because the things that tie us together are much stronger and more important than any of that.
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