I’m gonna touch on something I generally don’t talk about too much.
The other day, a friend of mine asked me a question that is often a big source of contention in LGBT communities, online and off; “Do bisexuals in straight relationships really deal with the same problems that ones in same-gender relationships do?”
The short, simplistic answer is “No”.
This is the backbone for a lot of gay and lesbian resentment toward bisexuals — our perceived “Get Of Gay Free” card — though it’s certainly not the only sore point (there are bisexual [and pan] women with the bad habit of giving lesbians a hard time for not being “flexible” in their attractions). There’s an argument to be made that any stigma, prejudice, or systematic oppression that bisexuals face from hetero-normative society is because of our same-gender attraction. We’re “gay lite” and if those homosexual inclinations weren’t immediately visible, as they wouldn’t be in an opposite-gendered couple, we could skim through privileged straight society with barely a ripple.
Certainly, if my wife, or myself, were a cis man, there’s a variety of existent concerns that would immediately dry up for us. We’d have moved to Texas to be closer to her sister, instead of holding back because of the lack of protections that state offers to same-gendered couples. We’d have gotten legally married ages ago and been able to share medical insurance, which is a big deal for me because of health issues. In terms of individual prejudice, I wouldn’t have to do risk assessment every time someone asked if I’m involved with anyone. Her family would’ve accepted our relationship immediately and not years later. My grandmother wouldn’t have encouraged me to hide from my very religious Aunt, who died before I found the courage to tell her about the love of my life. Whatever bullying our potential future children face wouldn’t because of their parent’s sexuality.
So again, the short, simplistic answer is “No”. Bisexuals in opposite-gendered relationships don’t face the same oppressions and prejudices that those in same-gendered relationships do.
— and this is important —
it’s still just another type of closet.
Bisexuals “Get Out Of Gay” the exact same way that gays and lesbians do; by hiding and lying about who we are. A bisexual being genuinely in love with and attracted to their opposite-gender partner doesn’t erase their interest or attraction to other genders. And since no relationship is guaranteed to last forever (+ polyamory is a thing), there’s always the chance they’ll eventually fall in love and partner with someone who isn’t of the opposite gender, instantly ripping away whatever flimsy curtain of straightness they were once hidden behind. Their “privileged” place in society hinges on lies by omission.
On top of this, bisexuals face concerns that don’t impact gays and lesbians. These include a host of bisexual specific stereotypes; that we’re greedy, confused, looking for attention, untrustworthy, natural cheaters. People make assumptions about our sexuality based on the gender of our current partner, frequently going so far as to write off our past relationships as “mistakes” if they don’t fit into the sexuality they wish to see us as. Like gays and lesbians, we face possible rejection from our straight communities for revealing same- or other-gender attraction, but unlike them, we also risk rejection from our gay communities for entering into opposite-gender relationships. Our identity is erased, invalidated, and mocked from all sides.
Also, I don’t know if the weird issues between bisexuals and pansexuals, and bisexuals and certain segments of non-binary advocates is an online only thing or if it crops up in offline communities too, but it sure as hell hasn’t been a pleasant experience for me.
I believe that, at the core of it, there’s an understandable resentment of hearing people who appear better off than (insert group/person/you) complain about the injustices they face. Who wants to listen to someone in a completely accepted straight-seeming relationship fuss about having their sexuality erased while you worry about losing your family or your job or your kids or your physical safety, right? Variations of this resentment (“you have it better than X, so shut up”, “acknowledge that you have it better and stop trying to co-opt the fight of those that don’t”) powers a lot of the strife that occurs across Tumblr and other online spaces.
While I can objectively explore and comment on differences between what I face as a bisexual with a same-gender partner versus what a bisexual with an opposite-gender partner faces, it’s… not something I actually waste too many fucks over. Every individual has a mass of benefits or disadvantages that I don’t based on a host of intersecting socio-economic positions; whatever benefit another bisexual happens to get because of their socially perceived sexuality is a small factor in that.
Academics have developed complicated theories and obscure jargon in an effort to describe what is now referred to as structural racism, yet the concept is fairly straightforward. One theorist, Iris Marion Young, relying on a famous “birdcage” metaphor, explains it this way: If one thinks about racism by examining only one wire of the cage, or one form of disadvantage, it is difficult to understand how and why the bird is trapped. Only a large number of wires arranged in a specific way, and connected with one another, serve to enclose the bird and ensure it cannot escape.
What is particularly important to keep in mind is that any given wire of the cage may or may not be specifically developed for the purpose of trapping the bird, yet it still operates (together with other wires) to restrict its freedom."
— Michelle Alexander, The New Jim Crow (via afrometaphysics)