Hello and welcome to this feelings atrium open thread situation, which today is dedicated bi or otherwise multi-gender attracted women. Sit down and have some lemon water or perhaps a muffin!
We get a lot of feedback and questions from bi women who date men and/or who are in long-term relationships with men; while there’s bucketfuls of information out in the world about dating men, it’s aimed at straight people and doesn’t touch upon a lot of what comes up in different-gender relationships for bisexual people, and queer women’s spaces tend not to discuss the issue in much depth. Many of our bi staff and writers who date men have the same issues and questions. So many women feel like there isn’t a space to talk about their experiences in this area. So! That brings us here; we’ve tried to make the space we want to see in the world in the form of this open thread. Obviously one open thread is not the be-all and end-all of discourse about bi women’s relationships with men, but it’s a start. We have some amazing bisexual staff members and contributors who will be here throughout the day to chat and commiserate and share experiences! We’ll be here probably until about 8 pm EST/5 pm PST, although maybe people will be able to hang out longer! Who knows!
A few things before we begin:
+ This hopefully goes without saying, but this is a space created primarily for bi and multi-gender attracted women! If that does not describe you, you are welcome to be here, but please don’t make the space about you; you’re here to listen and learn and possibly support, but not necessarily to weigh in. Thank you! If you are a non-bisexual person and your comments are deemed detrimental to the thread, they may be deleted, and you won’t be owed an explanation about why.
+ All that anyone here, both readers and staff, can really talk about with authority are their own experiences — it’s not possible to make sweeping objective statements about things as broad as identity or relationships, so please don’t a) try to make them yourself or b) assume others are trying to do so without good reason! Let’s all walk into this with the best faith in each other possible! Yeah!
+ Unfortunately, it seems like essentially a foregone conclusion that someone will at some point say something deliberately hurtful, instigatory and/or trollish, because this is the internet and a bisexual tree can’t fall in a forest without someone popping up to say “Well my bisexual ex-girlfriend….” When these comments inevitably arise, please don’t engage with them if they don’t seem in good faith, and instead report the comment to us so we can just delete it. To do so, just use Autostraddle Social messaging to contact me, Rachel, or email rachel [at] autostraddle [dot] com with a link to the comment in question!
OKAY THEN let’s go! What’s on your mind? How do you stay involved with queer community, especially when involved in relationships with men? How do these romantic relationships support and affirm you, and in what ways are they challenging? What have you been dying to talk about with other bi women? Tell us everything!
Well, I’m a bisexual women who’s never dated anyone, so I’m actually really interested in hearing about other’s experiences. It’s hard for a lot of my friends (straight and lgbt) to understand how I identify, so I can only imagine what it’ll be like when I finally date someone, regardless of gender. Anyway, really excited to read this thread!
My girlfriend identified as bisexual for years and years before she ever dated a woman. People would always say things like “How do you know if you’ve never slept with a woman?” I always find that funny and ask them how they knew they were straight before they slept with a man. It just verifies that straight is “normal” and also that relationships must always be sexual to be valid. Have you had to deal with this question a lot?
straightness is perceived as the default, same as whiteness is. people don’t have to prove their straightness, but we have to prove our queerness, which is basically impossible if we’re in a monogamous relationship with an opposite sex partner. Too gay to be straight, too straight to be gay.
“Too gay to be straight, too straight to be gay.” Soooooooo true.
Never directly, but I can always hear it in their tone. Like a friend who says I’ll never understand what it’s like to have sex with a man because I’ll never date a man. I’m always like, that’s cool, pretty that’s not how my life works, but okay. They really don’t understand it because they’ve never lived it, or rather, they don’t try to understand. And, oh my god, it annoys me that they always view relationships through sex. That’s only a factor and it’s definitely not what I’m most interested in when I’m looking for someone to date.
^^^ That was to Ash
I totally experience this. But at the same time, it’s easy for ME to question MYSELF as well, which makes it all the harder to fend of other peoples’ aggressive questions.
I feel this so hard. Queer people are expected to defend their very identities even when we’re not always sure, even when we haven’t figured everything out.
We’re forced to pretend like we’re absolutely sure about everything ever or be totally dismissed.
I completely agree with everything you said. What I struggle with is actually labeling myself with the word bisexual because of the ‘sexual’ part of the word. I’m not a very sexual person, but I’m not asexual – I identify somewhere between sexual and demi. The problem then is explaining to this to people every time because I don’t have a word for it that feels comfortable, so sometimes I default to bisexual despite the fact that it’s not fully representative of my identity (at least based on the general public’s understanding of the word.) By doing this is I then compromise by identity for the benefit of someone else, when identity is first and foremost for yourself.
I used to get from my mom when I’d try to come out to her in high school, “How do you know you’re attracted to women when you haven’t been with any?” I asked her why she would assume I was attracted to men when I hadn’t been with any either. Never got a good answer for that one…
Just want to say I hope you are able to find a friend group. The bi-phobia in the LGBTQ community drives me crazy!
oh good heavens. i’m in tears. even just being recognized in this way is a lot. and awesome. a lot of awesome. thanks, you scissor sisters.
What I meant to say there was ‘yes! Isn’t this awesome!’
Recognition and visibility can be such big themes for bi folks, I’m really glad we have a space to talk about this today.
aw! welcome jenn!
i also choked up just upon seeing the headline. i am so grateful for this space and hope it stays open/that this theme or area continues to be something autostraddle visits occasionally or more than that. i am frequently torn up about dating/loving a dude, especially as someone who came out as A LESBIAN!! NOT BISEXUAL!! at like 13 and then had to revise later and it’s very hard and confusing and weird and aaaah
anyway right here with u cryin
Yes yes so much. It would mean a lot for this not to just be a one-time acknowledgement of the joys and struggles I have as a gay woman in love with a man.
I feel you. I hate it when ppl say bi folks have it easier when coming out. I’m bi, came out as gay, then revised my position. Somehow ppl saw that as a betrayal of some kind, especially straight allies who supported me through high school.
I had the same sentiments! Its tough being bi and being in love with a man. Everyone assumes you’re straight, or that you’re ‘confused’. To have someone validate your legitimacy in the LGBTQIA spectrum is such a relief!
Honestly! I usually self-identify more with the ally role because there’s so much pushback about “how bi” I really am since I’ve been dating a guy for 10 years (and get married soon). This headline and discussion are warming my little bi-heart!
Totally agreed, and very grateful this space was created. I often feel like I don’t count as queer because I’m dating a man, and I feel like I’m some kind of undercover pansexual.
Undercover Pansexual would be a great band name and / or purrody comic about people’s ridicmewpuss bi/pan-erasing cattitudes. Not that anyone needs to know what’s inside my head…
Agreeeed. This thread was all I ever wanted ever* and I feel so … visible :3
*possibly slight hyperbole but close
This is me!!! I am a bisexual dating a man person and it is so weird sometimes. I’ve dated women exclusively for ten years, then about a year ago I had this strange and completely unexpected attraction to a man. I ultimately ended up with my boyfriend and he is super great–very feminist, aware of his privilege and completely supportive of my identity.
But I still sometimes struggle with what society expects out of a male/female relationship. When I dated women it didn’t matter–we were already breaking a big unspoken code, so breaking all the little rules of relationships was easy in comparison. We got to build our relationships ourselves, without any expectations about how things are “supposed to be.”
But now that I am with a man I struggle with jealousy. Which I have not really struggled with before. I tend to look at other women as competition. Again, I’ve not really done this before. And it feels like all of these little ugly rules about the way women are supposed to be are subtly insinuating themselves into my consciousness. It’s weird and I want to know if I am alone in this.
I can’t speak to the jealousy part Heather (I’ve encountered it in relationships with both men and women), but your point about society’s expectations really rings a bell for me. When I’ve been with women, there’s this thing where you know that we’re doing something that’s not quite the norm and for me that kinda meant that we could build our relationships however we wanted. In my relationships with men, I’ve felt more conscious of there being existing ‘rules’, people have opinions of how things should and shouldn’t be, and you don’t get that so much with same-sex relationships.
I think I put a finger on the jealousy thing. I was raised to believe that men “just can’t help themselves,” and that un-virtuous women were shameless harridans who would just steal away your man given the first opportunity.
So this dynamic never popped up when I was dating women. But suddenly dating a man I find myself influenced by these old beliefs. Strangely, coming out as bi has helped to raise my awareness of some of my own super patriarchal attitudes about relationships.
I completely relate to you on this. It’s something I’ve struggled with a LOT in my current relationship. In my relationships with women jealousy was never an issue, but with men? I completely bought into the “men can’t be faithful, and women are competition” narrative, despite knowing my partner well enough to know better.
I’ve found I combat this best by seeking out things to praise in other women. I’m not sure what the correlation is in this being helpful — maybe it helps me to humanize the people I find myself getting jealous of.
Aaaah! Thank you so much for this thread! I am a queer/bi woman dating a queer/bi male identified person for almost 8 months. Early on in our relationship I let my mom know that my monogamous partner identified as bisexual, and her first comment was “Oh, so is he not really committed to you then? Does he sleep with other people?” The assumptions are so frustrating.
As many others have mentioned I’ve encountered biphobia in spaces that are supposedly LGBT spaces. I went to SF Pride this year and was kissing my partner in the street, definitely received some dirty looks and heard someone comment “Ew..straight people”. I struggle thinking about ways to let people know we’re queer without shouting it at every person we walk past…
Yeah. I’m just a little involved on a volunteer level with our local lgbt advocacy group, but the very idea of being out there feels so invasive of the actual struggles of the other folks. Mine really feels more like people don’t know all my exploits, and that’s kind of how it’s supposed to be. I guess if I ever am actually in a romantic relationship with a woman instead of just a sexual relationship, maybe I won’t feel like such a fake. At least I feel less fake now than when I hadn’t been with a woman at all.
hey heather! i relate to this a lot! i didn’t expect it at all, but i think when i got serious with the dude who’s now my husband, i felt like i must not be as good or as desirable a partner because i wasn’t straight. i think i felt like there were things straight women just intuitively knew or understood about being girlfriends to men, being attractive to men, being sexually active with men, etc that i didn’t, and that i was somehow a lesser partner because of this, that my person was “settling” for me or putting up with my less-than-ideal girlfriend capabilities. i still struggle with this sometimes, but it’s been affirming that when i have brought it up in some way to my partner, it all sounds totally foreign and wacky to him, which helps me remember it’s all in my head.
I have definitely felt that I was missing some sort of secret straight girl intuition. It has been a challenging adjustment.
@Heather, I have gotten the same feeling that I lack the straight woman secret knowledge, and felt it especially keenly when planning my wedding with my now-husband. I hadn’t even imagined I would get married, it was illegal when I dated women!
I relate to this completely. Thanks for putting it into words!
Hi Heather, I relate a lot! When I date men, I find myself falling into the more traditional female relationship roles in a way that makes me pretty uncomfortable. When I date women and non-binary folks, I feel a lot more liberty to construct a relationship structure and dynamic that matches my ideals because there isn’t really a set paradigm for us to fall into.
Have you talked to your partner about this? I wonder if it would help for y’all to have a really deliberate conversation about relationship roles, goals, dynamics etc.
We have. He’s very understanding. In fact, it wasn’t until I talked to him about it that I realized that part of my issue was that I was expecting the worst of him as a man–which is really unfair. I also was feeling like suddenly I had to fit all these feminine beauty standards. This is a silly thing to fixate on, but I worried I was too tall and too curvy for him, since he is about a half inch shorter than me. I never cared when I was taller than or shorter than a woman.
It’s so relieving to hear that other people have experienced this, too! At the time when I started my first relationship, which was with a guy, I mainly wore men’s clothes. When I showed up for our first date, I was wearing one of the only pink things I owned and carrying a purse. He told me later that it surprised him because it was such a change from my usual wardrobe. I had a very strong internal sense that guys liked their girlfriends to look a certain (feminine) way and that if I didn’t do that I was failing. It took me years to figure out exactly what I was doing and why because I didn’t stop to question it for a long time. My boyfriend never voiced an expectation that I look or act femininely – my general sense of “what guys want” was running its own programming unrelated to the actual specific guy I was with.
One of my biggest anxieties about potentially dating guys again is that I’ll fall back into those patterns and assumptions without realizing it. It’s heartening to see other people recounting how they’ve experienced and managed that.
So, the man I’m dating and I are in an open relationship. I’m certainly not saying that An open relationship is a solution for jealousy (I’m sure it isn’t), but the way we worked it out was by starting with a blank slate. No rules. And as we went along we quickly realized what *actually* makes us feel good, what makes us feel bad, and where to draw our own lines. I was able to realize that sometimes the jealousy thing was just a performance for me. A thing I thought I was meant to do, instead of a thing I did because I was really feeling left out or neglected. No doubt, we still hurt each other sometimes, but it’s honest. I think maybe this wouldn’t work for people who already have a jealous streak or who identify firmly as monogamous, but it’s where I’ve found a lot of comfort.
I couldn’t agree more with this. It isn’t for everyone, but being open has really helped my boyfriend and I strike down a lot of the bs rules for male/female relationships. Which has been really nice in my first serious relationship following an emotionally abusive marriage.
I’ve experienced the same thing. I dated a woman before I dated a man, and it’s so hard dealing with people who feel like they can now comment on your relationship. IDK, but when I was a freshman in college and my boyfriend came to visit and we were walking around campus holding hands strangers were commenting. Maybe when I held my girlfriend’s hand they assumed we were friends? I don’t know. Gender roles are weird and I hate them.
i had a really good comment just now that the server ate! um..
i don’t date men as often as i used to because i feel like in a way i’ve been spoiled by queer relationships – i expect a certain degree of emotional transparency, and i’m usually confused when guys aren’t on the same page. in my experience, they don’t expect to discuss every single fucking hint of a feeling every five minutes, and I NEED THEM TO GET ON MY LEVEL.
i’ve had guys act really weird when i’ve done something as simple as holding hands with my hand on the outside, and it’s made me feel like i’m gross or inadequate somehow – but really, i think this experience has just made me less likely to suffer bullshit. i’m glad to hear you found a cool, feminist guy who gets it; they’re rare, but awesome.
“feel like in a way i’ve been spoiled by queer relationships”
THIS!!! I’ve chosen to have relationships with exclusively queer, often gender non-conforming identified people since my early twenties because it seems so much easier to build and negotiate roles and expectations because you are already going off script in so many ways. I’m worried that if I act on the attraction that I have for straight cis-guys that I’ll fall back into accepted roles and norms or that building relationship roles that work for us as individuals will be harder and more frustrating because of these roles. I’m also worried that I’ll feel disconnected from the queer idenity that I spent the last couple years becoming ok with. I feel that as queer identified people the process of becoming queer has shifted world views and I’m scared that dating a cis-guy, especially a straight cis-guy would be really challenging because of this.
This. I identify as queer/pansexual for the most part, but almost don’t let myself pursue the potential feelings I have for guys because of what you just said. Also because if I were to state an interest in men, my family and friends, who seem to just now really accept that I am LGBTQ, would be like “wait… but you said you were gay”. I feel like the identity and community I’ve spent so much of the past couple years creating would just fall apart if I were to be with a dude.
I think about this a lot too, and being spoiled by queer relationships. I can’t do the straight relationship script, and I’m done trying to navigate the assumptions I see about who does what in a straight relationship. I’m currently in a relationship with a cis-guy, and it’s overwhelmingly positive (we’re moving in together this weekend), but one of the reasons I think it is that way is that he is bi too, so our relationship is sorta a bit queer, even though there are two opposite sex cis-gender people in it.
I identify as queer/bisexual because I experience some sexual attraction to cis dudes. But this society stuff I hear so strongly. I’m pretty sure at this point in my life I could not be in a romantic/sexual monogamous relationship with a cis dude because I could not deal with people assuming I’m straight/throwing out my queerness (which is stupid because I’m relatively femme-presenting, so I’m sure people assume I’m straight all the time).
“I NEED THEM TO GET ON MY LEVEL.”
I so identify with this! :) Fortunately this is not a problem for me currently, but I really love the way that many women are more intuitive about discussing emotions in relationships.
Yes! Queer relationships have spoiled me for good communication. I’m so much pickier about the men I date now. And I love playing with changing dynamics in the relationship. It feels like a true partnership and that is so fulfilling.
Maybe this won’t make a ton of sense to most of you guys here, but I feel like I’m sort of the opposite? Everyone is saying they have difficulty when they date men because you’re expected to do traditional gender rolls and you don’t want to.
I want to be the in the traditional lady-gender roll – even with women. I want to be listened to by my partner, but I also want them to take the lead (in decision making, in sex, in walking, dancing, driving, etc.). I really can’t handle the idea of dating someone and being completely equal to them. Maybe this sounds really screwed up (and maybe it is?), but while my needs and wants should absolutely be respected and I should be listened to, sometimes my needs and wants are to ‘submit’ to someone else (and I don’t mean in like a BDSM way, though that’s cool too).
Girl I FEEL you! I identify as a pan/femme and am in a happy LTR with a cis male. However, any relationship I’ve been in I enjoy partaking in more “feminine, nurturing, submissive” gender norms. I’ve never found in any way that this makes me weak, I’ve found that we both take turns acting in this role (whether he realizes it or not). My main issue has been being able to even openly identify as pan because the LGBT community in my experience has been less than welcoming about it. Honestly, my current relationship aside, I’ve purposely avoided female relationships for that reason- like many on this thread have said the opposite of male relationships.
But I guess that is something that varies widely from one person to the other? My husband is way better than me in the whole talking about feelings and communicating. And the girl I dated before him was even worse at this than I am, so…
I feel you so hard. This is really eloquently put: ~But I still sometimes struggle with what society expects out of a male/female relationship. When I dated women it didn’t matter–we were already breaking a big unspoken code, so breaking all the little rules of relationships was easy in comparison. We got to build our relationships ourselves, without any expectations about how things are “supposed to be.”~
I try to do that in my relationships with men too, as a bisexual woman. I carry it over so we can build whatever we want a relationship to be, rather than what roles men and women are supposed to fill.
Piling on to everyone agreeing with this comment. I also feel the press of hetero-patriarchy in my relationship with my dude-partner. I know that the same dynamics CAN insert themselves into queer relationships, but I think that many queer folks, at some level, have had to “do the work” already and have a different layer of consciousness of queer theory, feminism, anti-racism, etc.
Cishet dudes may be the most enlightened of folks, may have read all the books and all the blogs, may donate to all the right orgs and say all the right words, but at the end of the day, they are told by society that they are on top of the pile and will remain so.
I love my cishet dude-partner, and I will work with him and for him as he works with me and for me. But he will never understand what it means to NOT be a cis, het, white, dude person. Ever.
whoops I clearly have no idea how to use HTML formatting because that did not come out the way I intended, and apparently there’s no way to edit it? The part of your comment I was referring to was this:
“When I dated women it didn’t matter–we were already breaking a big unspoken code, so breaking all the little rules of relationships was easy in comparison.”
Im a bisexual woman who has predominantly dated men. Before coming out as bi/ realizing I was bi, I had been with my ex for 3 years. I had a lot of trouble controlling my jealousy in my first relationships. I would be triggered by any attractive woman that would talk to my boyfriend. This huge weight was lifted once I realized I was attracted to the women I was jealous of.
I started reading a lot about open and polyamory relationships (which i suggest you do) to see how they dealt with jealousy, and in a nutshell….you just need to sit with it. sit with the feeling and accept its presence and dont feed it with your imagination.
Hope this helps!
Yup. Really identify with a lot of you are saying. I think a lot of the problem is to do with how other people read your relationship. When you’re dating a woman it can feel like you carry your own little bubble with you, even in public. There are no rules for who the two of you are. But when you’re dating a man people look at you and they slot you in to a heteronarrative, and it does affect your relationship.
“When you’re dating a woman it can feel like you carry your own little bubble with you, even in public.”
That is so well put. It’s like this thing that no one else gets a say in, because you’ve both already decided to be together despite the fact that you don’t fit the predominant narrative.
But going out with a straight dude there’s this kind of unwelcome acceptance and approval that I get from people I didn’t get before. It kind of grates on me, because people feel like they have the right to approve or disapprove, and they feel like they get a say.
Nobody gets a say but me and the person I’m with!
Yeah, I’ve dealt with feeling self-conscious about showing affection with him in queer spaces, worrying about being perceived as “the straight people”. And I feel gross about how open my mom is to talk about him versus my ex-girlfriend.
OMG this so much!
I so feel you!
I love my mom, love her. But she never once asked about my girlfriend when we were dating even though it was the most significant relationship I had had so up to that point in my life.
Now that I’m in a committed relationship with a dude she asks me about him every time we talk. She asked for a picture of us together to send to my grandparents. Like, she never would have done this in my past relationship.
I definitely have similar feelings! And sometimes the opposite. I listen to my straight girlfriends talk about feeling competitive towards other women or other things you tend to read about “straight” relationships and sometimes wonder if I’m a bad girlfriend (now fiancée…) if I don’t feel those things. My partner is really supportive–I actually didn’t “formally” come out (to myself or anyone, really) as bi until well into our relationship, and he handled it so well–better than I would’ve if he’d done the same, probably. I’m so glad to hear from other women who have similar experiences. Most of my friends are gay women and straight men, so it’s hard to find a space to talk about things I experience in my relationship. Thanks for sharing!
Oh my god, I relate to this so strongly! And I’ve said the same thing about how being in relationships with women have been this sanctuary where I could explore and build an idea of what I wanted a partnership to look like for me – from scratch! And I’ve been really grateful for that and my ability to carry over those standards into my current relationship with a man. It feels so much more like a partnership than any other relationship with a man I had before I ever had a relationship with a woman.
However, I fall into that jealousy for sure. And a worry that our lives will turn into some typical, straight, boring, cookie-cutter, Leave It To Beaver picture that I’ll resent, despite the fact that that is nothing like us and there is no reason to think that will happen. Those “ugly rules,” man. How do they wriggle into our brains like that?
Thankfully, he helps me remember that we aren’t the standard narrative and I remind myself that every day I have a choice to live the life I want, and it’s a pretty beautiful, loving, queer-as-fuck life I’ve got.
I’m not dating anyone at the moment but I’ve noticed that when I find myself attracted to a man I feel weirdly guilty. Like if I happen to fall for a guy all the work I did to get to a place of accepting myself as queer and coming out to the people in my life will be for nothing. Logically I know that who I date does not determine my identity and I’ve probably got some internalized biphobia going on, but there’s this small irrational part of me that just feels that way.
I wish I could hug you through the Internet. I also feel weirdly guilty when I find a cis-guy attractive. The internalize biphobia is definitely real and I think you’re on to something connecting it with the guilt. I feel like I would have to chose my community and my Identity or the guy who was giving me funny feelings, like they can’t co-exist, because on the outside it looks like I’m cashing in on Hetero privilege. And what I find frustrating and is probably the internalized biphobia but right now I can’t figure out how to come to some peace with myself so I’m choosing not to flirt or encourage the cis guys I meet because I’m not sure how to move past the guilt I would feel for being able to move about the world easier with a guy when so many in my community face violence. It’s similar to the feeling I get when I pass as straight because my gender presentation is within what is considered “acceptable” while so many of my friends and the people I date get read as queer automatically.
I relate to these comments so much. I also feel weird if I realize I’m attracted to a guy. It feels like, I worked so hard to get people to understand that I’m queer, and if I started dating a guy we would go back to square one with the explanations and assumptions.
Oof I am so late to this but thank you so much for sharing, y’all have articulated something about internalized biphobia that I have not been able to articulate. I have been sort of scared by the idea that I’ll want to date a cis man because I spent along time telling myself I couldn’t be attracted to women because I’d been attracted to men, and I’m still not done sorting that out. I still have days when that little, lying voice creeps back into my head. Part of that is guilt; I write articles from a queer perspective and talk about being queer and engage in queerness in very public ways so much that if I end up dating a man I’ll feel like I don’t fit into that space anymore, like I don’t have a right to it because I’m a traitor.
You are not at all alone. I also struggle with societal expectations of a male/female relationship and realize every day that my identity and sexuality are assumed as straight by everyone who doesn’t know me personally. Jealousy was never part of my relationship with women but has entered into my relationships with men. I also find that I judge the man I am in a relationship with more harshly (for privilege, who and what he is attracted to, etc.) than I did with women, which makes me feel ashamed of myself but can be difficult to get a grip on.
Nah you not alone. Struggled with this hard. But my man person did cheat on me and blamed my queerness and femme-ness (which was too masculine for his heteronormative tastes). So the jealousy piece felt a bit weird when he was also curiously encouraging me to start sleeping with other women, as a sign that he was actually interested in sleeping with other women, too (not including me). Now being submerged back into the queer dating scene feels a bit…disorienting.
Kind of joining the pile as well. The last bloke I dated was bi, and it was one of the better relationships I’ve had with a man because of the level of transparency, camaraderie and non judgement in not slipping into traditional roles. Whenever I date cis het dudes it’s all playing the rules, wondering how many dates should I wait to have sex so he doesn’t think I’m a slut, do I tell him about my queer history, etc. and it’s…exhausting.
It’s really interesting to hear so many express how relationships with men can make them feel limited by heteronormative structures and assumptions (both external and internal) and how that really does affect one’s relationship.
I have really felt this in the past, and the fact is that it doesn’t go away. I am bisexual, but homoromantic. I think distinctions between sexuality and romanticism (for me this is who is attractive/who I could enjoy having sex with versus who I could enjoy having a relationship with) are really useful for queer people who feel heteronormativity and heterosexism keenly in their lives. Some queer and bisexual people do feel the effect of hetero assumptions and expectations, and some don’t.
My understanding of myself as homoromantic, though queer/bisexual, basically comes down to not feeling comfortable with the expectations and roles that I and others carry in relationships with men. For all intents and purposes, the world sees me and my wife as a gay couple, and I’m more comfortable than that than with the world seeing me as straight (which does happen before people know who I’m married to, because who goes around saying, “hi I’m queer”). In more than a decade of married life, you come to realize that finding someone you want to spend your whole life with isn’t just about attraction and being in love but also about it being compatible with each other and your concept of self in this world we have.
What is that jealousy about? After 22 years of being exclusively with women, I am involved with a man. I adore him, and it’s mutual. But the bursts of jealousy I’ve felt since we’ve been together have been bizarre. It’s out of character for me, and it feels gross.
I think I love you. All of you. ?
Count me as one more bi lady who made an account because of this thread! I’ve actually been reading Autostraddle for a year or two now and was so happy to find this site.
I came out as bi in high school but I often feel like my bisexuality is invisible because I found love early – with a guy. We share a female partner as well (poly triad) and so I feel like I’m less invisi-bi these days. Although since we all live in the Bible Belt I always wonder if folks assume our relationship is religious/patriarchal (it is not). :)
Anyway, it’s so nice to find a place where I feel welcome. Thank you, Autostraddle! XoxoX
Heather, I so relate to what you are saying. I too dated women exclusively for many many years and then started dating men. Until reading your post I have literally never found anyone else who dated the same gender first. It has been hard because I feel I have really lost the queer community that I felt such a strong part of for over 15 years. I have definitely found myself struggling with traditional gender roles in my relationships with men as well. I think someone else used shaving as an example. Definitely felt more internal pressure to keep up with the primping etc. And I also strongly relate to the feeling like I wasn’t going to be an adequate girlfriend when compared to straight women. I still struggle with this. And with the idea of people perceiving me as straight. All really validating. Thanks everyone.
Yes! I am also in a relationship with a guy and while I love women, they have become people I am envious and jealous of. It is so bizzare but I’m glad I’m not the only one who has experienced this!
Been married a long time, just recently looked back over my life and had an epiphany of sorts…it all makes sense now. Have never dated a woman, and don’t plan on acting on anything because I’m happily married, but there’s truly no place for us on either side of the fence a women who identify with bi.
I like to think of myself as a little bird perched atop the fence, it’s got a great view.
NO HANNAH YOU HAVE TO MAKE A DECISION RIGHT NOW AND WHATEVER YOU CHOOSE IS YOUR REAL ORIENTATION SORRY.
THIS FOREVER CHANGING ALL OF MY AVATARS TO THIS:
I’m the blue one.
i’m the same. exact same. and for a really long time i didn’t feel…i don’t know. queer enough? queer enough to claim the label of queer. it took a long time for me to understand that “passing” as straight was erasure, not privilege.
This is amazing; I am clapping.
I was actually told by an ex-girlfriend at one point that I wasn’t QUEER enough (because I liked men).
i’m glad she’s an ex, then. >:(
OH. This is a new concept for me. “Passing” as straight IS erasure, but I thought it was privilege, too, and that somehow the privilege took away my right to feel sad about the erasure. I need to change my ideas.
It is both erasure and privilege, unless you somehow experience discrimination for being read as straight (i.e., in housing, employment, etc.)
I know erasure is fucking terrible. But it’s not cool to say that one isn’t systemically privileged by heterosexism or to say you experience many forms of day-to-day homophobia (and until recently the legal privileges of marriage which were numerous in terms of planning retirement, end-of-life decisions, health care costs, etc).
Relate so much to this. I’ve been in one relationship my whole life, just happens to be with my male partner of 7 years. I knew I was bi/pan since as long as I can remember, but I don’t “feel queer enough” to affiliate with queer groups, or show up to queer events with my boyfriend in tow and be called out/questioned.
This is me, too.
Me too! I have spent a long time trying to figure out if I’m “queer” enough and how to deal with bi-erasure because I have been in a relationship with a man for 12 years. I have been told I’m not sexually free for not being poly. I’ve been told I’m not actually queer or even really bi because I’ve never been with a woman. Hell, I’ve thought that for myself and the self loathing is overwhelming.
I’m finally working through it so that I can proudly call myself a bisexual woman.
This means so much to me, I’m so glad I found this thread! Most of my life I’ve been dating men, I realised I was bi in my early twenties and this moment changed my life. I’m equally atracted to men and women… but I still ended up dating almost only guys. I dated a bi girl for a brief moment, we didn’t even have sex. I also had some crushes on girls. But I always feel like ‘it doesn’t count’ in terms of identifying as bi… I’m in a happy relationship with my man and I’m going to marry him – this is great, but somehow it makes me feel like I can’t really call myself bi or queer: I’ve never had a relationship with a girl, most people think I’m straight. I have this guilt about straight priviledge… and now I realised that some of my feelings are caused by bi erasure. I hope that I will learn to stop feeling like a fake.
Thank you all for your stories!
I relate so hard to this! I recently came out as bisexual, and because I’ve only had explicit relationships with men, some of my family are skeptical about it. My partner is a man and is super accepting about it, which has helped a ton in me feeling more comfortable about who I am and voicing my feelings. So I’m lucky in that I have a supportive partner, but some close family members don’t believe me, or are asking since I’m in a committed relationship with my partner, why it matters (why I had to say anything at all.) I’m still trying to wrap my head around it, and what I can say to these family members that will feel validating to me.
just being visible and flying your freak flag, regardless of your experience, you know who you are. wear it proudly.
Yay for this! I’m currently single, but part of the reason why it took me so long to come out as bisexual (I came out as a lesbian first) is because of how radically different people treated me based on who I was dating. And I’m in an LGBT choir (which only recently started calling themselves that, before it was called Gay-Affirmative) and one time I was dating a guy and he kissed me before a show, and one of the guys in my choir said,”Ugh, straight people!” And it made me really upset because I’m not straight. My choir members ignore my identity even though I talk about it often. I’m seriously considering wearing a bisexual flag button as a reminder. Also, I got freaked out the other day and didn’t go to my great aunt’s Catholic funeral because I didn’t know who all in my family knows I’m queer and if they would say something stupid. I guess my main problem is trying to combat bi-invisibility and bi-erasure.
yeeeepppp. bi-erasure is a huge problem, and I feel like a lot of times we got told that being erased is actually a privilege. Like, people think you’re straight! Stop bitching about it! But like…I’m not straight?
YES, THIS. This is so true and I never thought of it that way.
it took me a really long time to realize it, but once I did, it shattered my internalized biphobia.
“I feel like a lot of times we got told that being erased is actually a privilege”
YES. For pretty much any article that even mentions bisexuality, the comments devolve into this.
THIS EXPLAINS SO MUCH. It’s so confusing to be told it’s a privilege to be assumed to be straight, when inside me it hurts to be assumed something I’m not.
Do you think that’s how trans women feel? I can’t presume to know how they feel, but trans women get dismissed by feminists because they’ve experienced male privilege even though that’s not their gender identity.
“we got told that being erased is actually a privilege. Like, people think you’re straight! Stop bitching about it! But like…I’m not straight?”
This this this. So many times, this!
I don’t know, sometimes I am bothered by straight PDA in gay spaces so I can relate to the gay choir member. Though I’m by no means outspoken enough to make a remark. I have no ill will towards people in straight relationships either, I guess it’s just, I could see feeling upset about straight stuff being prominent in spaces trying to normalize gayness. I’m sorry.
i can understand that as a gut reaction, but i think we have to be careful because not all male/female relationships are straight relationships. If you’re talking specifically about a gay space or a lesbian space, that’s cool and I think there are places for that, but if you’re talking about an LGBT space, or a queer space, it’s not fair to assume a guy and a girl who are kissing are straight.
Or that because you read them as guy and girl that their gender identities are guy and girl.
The people might not be straight, but the relationship is. I’m a bisexual woman in a relationship with a man, and I would feel very presumptuous and uncomfortable kissing my boyfriend at an LGBT designated event. There’s no such thing as “straight-passing privilege” but our relationships are absolutely treated and perceived differently based upon who we’re dating. I never feel unsafe or disrespected when I’m out with my boyfriend; I can’t say the same of my past relationships with women. LGBT spaces are there to protect and validate same-gender attraction, and gender identity, and I don’t think there’s anything wrong with acknowledging that (cis) man/woman relationships get affirmed and validated literally everywhere else. LGBT people have a right to assert boundaries, they have a right to say, hey, maybe don’t make out with your boyfriend at pride? Even if you’re both bi? Because that kind of PDA is permitted everywhere and this isn’t about that?
Honestly I don’t get why that’s controversial, esp to people who experience homophobia/biphobia/microaggressions. I don’t like being misread as straight, I don’t like having people make those assumptions, but it would be disingenuous of me to demand that no one is ever assumed to be straight. That would actually be like, really dangerous for LGBT people! Making those kind of assumptions can actually be crucial to surviving around new people/new spaces.
Erasure hurts, but being perceived as gay has literally put me in danger.
A couple of years ago, two of my friends from Australia visited me in Georgia. They’re both bi cis women, and they’re married to one another. We had brunch, and then as we were leaving the restaurant to go wander around some shops, they asked me if it was going to be a problem if they held hands. As in, would they be in danger. It was so startling, and I think a sign of a certain level of privilege I have to be so startled. I have never felt like I was in danger holding my husband’s hand. It wouldn’t occur to me to do so. So even though all three of us shared the same sexual orientation, they were the two that were checking in to make sure they were safe. That’s a big deal. I don’t think anyone here is trying to say it isn’t.
Being in a relationship with an opposite sex person is obviously going to, in most circumstances, convey a certain level of public approval that loads of same sex couples do not enjoy. But can’t both of these things be valid? Can’t bi people who are erased have their feelings accepted as valid while at the same time acknowledging that presenting as a straight couple conveys with it protections that being in a same sex presenting couple does not?
Also, with what about gender fluid people? Or bigender people? The world is so huge. It makes me sad to think about policing the spaces we ought to be making safe for one another.
Also also, erasure doesn’t just hurt. Bisexual women have a rate of depression and substance abuse equal to, and in some cases, higher than that of lesbians. That’s danger too.
This so much.
I also have an invisible disability. I don’t have able privilege because I don’t rock a chair. I don’t have able privilege because I sometimes have really good days. I don’t have able privilege because I can take a medication that reduces the severity of my disability. I don’t have able privilege because the slurring assholes don’t know I’m disabled. So why would having other people demonstrate to you, in their acceptance of your heteronormative-looking relationship, that who you are is unacceptable and that you are not safe or allowed to exist be privilege? Sure, it is less severe than actively receiving violence. But the threat is present all the same, and the violence is just around the corner.
“LGBT spaces are there to protect and validate same-gender attraction, and gender identity”
I think LGBT spaces are there for a lot more than that. I don’t go back and forth between sometimes being a person who dates men and needs spaces where dating men is okay but dating women isn’t, and sometimes being a person who dates women and needs spaces where that is okay but dating men should be discrete. I am this whole person all of the time, I need a space where that’s all okay, and I deserve for LGBT spaces to be that for me.
I acknowledge that I don’t have a risk to my personal safety when I’m affectionate with a guy, and that’s an important difference between male-female and same-sex relationships. However, if my relationships with men are safer, and more supported, it’s because straight people are better than queer people, so it’s a negative experience for me. It’s a negative experience for me to be in any space, straight or queer, where some of my relationships are more supported than others because of the gender of my partner. I am a queer person, and LGBTQ spaces should have a healthy response to my entire relationship potential. Physical safety isn’t the only thing LGBT spaces are for.
I also think, for bi people who are struggling because they don’t understand the possibilities of their attraction, it’s valuable for male-female relationships to be visible in queer spaces. That perception that you can only be one way or the other, that part of your attraction is the real part and the rest isn’t, that if you’re a woman attracted to men you can’t be interested in women – I think it’s a big part of what leaves bi kids more confused, coming out later, higher risk for mental illness and all kinds of other problems, compared to lesbian and gay kids.
Not to mention, what about a straight trans person at LGBTQ events? “You can be here, we affirm your gender, that might be a huge relief for you, but remember not to be affectionate with your partner. That part of yourself doesn’t belong here.”
I’ll never forget the first time I saw a candid pic from an LGBT group that included some apparently male-female couples. That left me very optimistic despite my really discouraging experiences in so-called LGBT spaces until then, and the group did turn out to be the positive queer space I had so badly needed.
Saying that LGBT spaces are only about “same gender” attraction erases bi people and trans people who are not attracted to the “same gender.”
I mean, this is also going off of how someone presents. I’m way more nervous about holding hands with dudes than ladies in public as a safety concern because I am hella butch and am frequently assumed to be a dude. (I mean, if I hold hands with a lady, people assume that we’re dating pretty frequently as well, so I’m read as queer with someone else most of the time, which while convenient with my feels, doesn’t feel safe all the time), and I’ve definitely had more issues doing PDA with cis dudes than ladies.
Also, it’s incredibly disconcerting when the partner doesn’t notice the glares and the change in atmosphere because that’s something he’s literally never encountered before as a straight dude, but it’s something I’m literally always thinking about in public with a partner.
I hear you on not wanting to invade others’ spaces, but there is a B in LGBT, which means LGBT spaces are supposed to be for us too, no matter whom we’re dating.
PDA is a behavior and doesn’t have a sexual orientation. Relationships are not humans and don’t have a sexual orientation. “Straight” PDA and “straight” relationships don’t exist because the only way you can come to a conclusion about strangers or people who have not disclosed their sexuality to you is by assuming things about them! This assuming leads to a lot of erasure for bisexual people, because there are not a lot of ways of behaving bisexually that don’t look like behaving gay or straight.
I get that it’s easier to divide behavior into two categories, but humans and sexuality are infinitely more complex and often defy categorization.
This is so weird and ahistorical. It’s absolutely necessary that LGBT people be allowed to make those assumptions about people around them, so they can be safe. If you’re at a bar or walking down the street with your same sex partner, you need to be able to assess your environment to determine if it’s okay to hold your date’s hand, or kiss them. PDA ABSOLUTELY has an orientation. I’m treated a *lot* differently when I kiss a woman than when I kiss a man. What’s the point in ignoring that? I may not know if a man/woman couple is straight or bi or pan, but I’m not going to *assume* they’re bi and risk saying or doing something that could put me at risk. I say this as a bisexual woman.
The assessment you’re making isn’t necessarily “are all the people in my vicinity definitely gay or straight” it’s “what is the likelihood that one of the people around is a homophobe who might do X.” If you’re at a pride parade, you probably figure most of the homophobes are far away or would be easy to spot. At a hockey game, you might be more concerned.
I feel really uncomfortable when people describe my relationship as “straight.” I’m not a straight person, I’m queer. My partner’s straightness doesn’t get to determine the label on my relationship.
I’d like to share my thoughts on “spaces trying to normalize gayness” by normalizing same-sex relationships.
In so much of the world, male-female relationships are normalized, and my other relationships, also important to me, are second-class. That means my attractions, my relationships, my story, myself, are outside the norm. It sounds like you share my understanding of how important it is, for people outside that norm, to find a place that normalizes their attractions and relationships. We both deserve that, and we deserve to find it in LGBTQ spaces.
If LGBTQ groups try to normalize same-sex relationships, if male-female relationships are outside the norm and should be more discrete, I am outside the norm in that space as well. I spent my first year “out” searching for an accepting environment that I badly need, not finding it among queer people I knew. I finally found it in an LGBTQ group whose web page photo included some apparently male-female couples. That picture was the most encouraging thing I’d seen in a long time, and the group followed through with the best experience I’d had of LGBTQ spaces.
I agree that lifting up same-sex couples is important. Lifting up bisexual people’s experiences -wholly- is also important. That doesn’t mean I need male-female relationships to keep being at the forefront – that hurts me too. Rather, I need a place that celebrates queerness and doesn’t have norms for gender in relationships. I knew I needed that, I couldn’t imagine what it would look like – and then I found that one group, which is not perfect but is soooo close to being that group I dreamed of.
I’m still queer when I’m affectionate toward my boyfriend. Any place that normalizes queerness has to have room for this queer girl and all her romantic and sexual behavior within its norms.
It has taken me two decades to even understand that I am attracted to women, and I have suffered from that confusion. Maybe this process would have been faster if I had seen queer people in male-female relationships.
This is lovely, and I’m so glad you’ve found that space. I hope it continues to be a positive place for you, and for your relationship.
I agree so hard with everything you’re saying here, and what you were saying upthread as well. I wish I could give you a million high fives!
I’ve also had some people make comments about “straight people” that are intended to include me and I’m like noooo. It’s so frustrating that just because I’m dating a man instead of a woman right now, people act like I “picked a side” and now I’m straight. Nope, just met someone I like.
The bi-erasure thing really sucks. My family does not at all understand why I insist on still identifying as queer, despite being in a relationship with an amazing (and coincidentally queer) man. I also happen to identify as non-binary, so the neither-nor-ness of my identity really sucks. It’s not too much fun feeling invisible.
I feel and get so much of this. Whenever I am dating a man, my family or friends have been known to ask, so you’re straight then? Who I’m attracted to does not change based off of who I’m dating ATM. That’s like if I was dating someone with blue hair and my family was like, so you only like blue haired people now, right? It’s tough when we don’t fit neatly into the boxes people use to make sense of the world. It always feels to me like the brother or sister comment of “it’s just a phase.”
This is my number one issue too- I hate it when people just assume that I’m straight because I’m with a man! And I hate feeling like I constantly have to prove that I’m not straight to the lgbt community! The worst is when they accuse you of intentionally passing as straight and using that to your advantage. This is particularly bad when you’re dating a man/male identifying person. I can’t help it that strangers make assumptions about my sexuality when they see me, but I feel like accusing me of cherry picking when I expose my identity to my advantage is just as bad! I love all my lgbt+ brothers, sisters, and non-genger binary siblings, and feeling like they need me to prove to them that I’m worthy really hurts.
But it helps to know that others struggle with this- we’re all in this together, and I send hugs to all my bi-sisters!
Oh wow..I didn’t expect a place like that.
I came out, dated a woman for two years, broke up in March and now I’m dating a guy. He was kind of the reason I left my girlfriend which makes me feel like that bad bisexual everyone is afraid of and the one that ruins it for all the others.
My family has been super supportive of me when I came out, but recently my mom actually said that maybe me dating my girlfriend was a phase. She really said that.
I’m kind of worried I’ll lose touch with the community, I feel a little weird to go to pride even though I know I still belong there.
I realized recently that I feel safer in public, pda is much easier because I don’t worry that others might look at us. They just don’t.
It’s weird getting used to the privilege that comes with dating a guy but also to feel less of a member of the LGBT community.
I am sorry your mom said that.
I had really mixed feelings about coming out to my mom (for the second time) and telling her I was dating a man because I dreaded how relieved she would be. She takes my relationship with my boyfriend now so much more seriously than she ever took my relationships with women. That just hurts.
Also you are not a bad bisexual! Sometimes people leave people for other people. It sucks and it is what it is, but you can’t carry the burden of negative bi stigma on your shoulders. It existed way before you. And it’s way more about other people’s biphobia than it is about you or any of us anyway.
I have had the same type of experience. My parents think I’m “straight now”, they do not understand that even though I’m married to a man, I’m still a bisexual. A lot of people actually say to me, “when you used to be a lesbian…” and that is not true either. I was never a lesbian, I am not straight. I am a bisexual always.
When I got together with my now husband, I felt so much guilt about being able to “choose” an easier life. I felt like I was turning my back on the gay community because I fell in love with a man and not another woman. I certainly did not look for a man to date, but it happened that way. I hated people thinking that being with women was a phase, too. I hated making my parents happy when I told them I had a boyfriend.
The privilege is hard to deal with, but just remember that you are who you are. If you are not taking advantage of that privilege in a way that you shouldn’t, you are okay. Losing touch with the community is sad and scary. I hold on by staying in touch with friends that I had, not letting them go because I feel left out because of a husband. My husband is very supportive and an ally of the community. He is a feminist and has never made my life or my past relationships his own–he never made jokes or asked for details or made it pornographic for himself. Being with a really open and respectful guy will always help with staying true to your identity.
This is something I’ve struggled with for a long time, and it’s become even more amplified lately with my own impending marriage (to a cis-het-guy).
I feel like I’m conforming to hetero expectations by getting married to a man, even though my dating history has been mostly guys. I’m sure some of it is my own nervousness about getting hitched but… I definitely know that my bisexuality will be taken less seriously or outright dismissed because I’m committing the rest of my life to a man.
My partner and I had a discussion recently where he said he didn’t like being referred to as “partner” over husband, because he feels like when I say “my partner”, it’s assumed that I mean a same-sex partner. Except I don’t like the assumption that I’m straight that automatically comes with the mention of a husband.
Like others have said, I’m trying to figure out how to hold onto my queerness. I never participated in the community much where I am, because it was very biphobic and exclusive of those who weren’t clearly on either end of the butch/femme spectrum.
I get that “bad bisexual” thing. I left my ex-boyfriend for a girl and thereby went from a toxic in-person relationship to a long-distance one that was unfortunately polluted by the echoes of the toxic one and my own horrible mental state at the time, so it lasted less than two weeks. I was a shit and she broke up with me but was considering taking me back when I went on a road trip with my ex and somehow let him goad me into hooking up with him. What followed was the most self-destructive and horrible summer of my life, and while I do think that was a specifically terrible situation and I’d never cheat on anyone again, emotionally or physically, I still hate that I fulfill the stereotype.
Hi Taylor, My story is almost exactly the same as yours – it was so weird assimilating my new identity (I was so convinced I was gay until I met my bf) and a lot of the people who’d accepted me as gay seemed to struggle a bit with bi. Now that I’ve been with my bf a while they kind of just assume I’m ‘straight now’ and erase my bi-ness the whole time casually in a thousand ways/comments/assumptions.
I even had someone tell me I’d ‘lost my badge’ etc etc. I haven’t really found a way to stay in touch with the community tbh, (apart from the content I read online) but that could be cause I moved countries and I’m pretty shy. I know I should maybe join a club or something…anyway if you figure it out I would love to know what the answer is. :)
I’ve never had anyone actually say the ‘phase’ thing which is so hurtful.
This thread is such a good idea!! :)
Your story breaks my heart… mostly because I hate for bi women to feel invalidated in their bi-ness by thinking they’re a “bad bisexual” for dating men. You may have left your girlfriend for this guy, but it seems to me that you could have left her for anyone you felt attracted to. That is to say, it seems to me like you didn’t leave her because he was a man and she was a woman, but because you felt attraction towards someone new and–for whatever reason–your relationship with her was no longer fulfilling you in some way. Is this an accurate assessment?
Now, I don’t mean to speak for you, and I hope that’s not what I’ve communicated. I also felt badly for having sex/engaging romantically with men after I dated a woman for a short time, and I often have to remind myself that that’s what it means to be bi: to be attracted to genders similar and different. It seems obvious, but I often forget that because of what society teaches me about my identity, and it’s important to me to remind myself of that.
You will never be a bad bisexual simply based off of who you date and when. Anyone who tells you you are or makes you feel like you are is a jerk who doesn’t get it.
I know exactly what you mean: I’m very conscious of my privilege, and my ability to hold hands with my boyfriend without having to worry about slurs thrown my way.
My parents don’t say anything at all; they just don’t feel comfortable talking about it for some reason… the uncle we’re closest to is gay and has been living with his partner for 10+ years now, and there’s no discomfort with that, but it seems like my parents aren’t able to believe my bisexuality… but, of course, I don’t divulge to them my sexual habits, so who are they to judge the legitimacy of my orientation. I’m lucky to have a supportive partner (who thinks about other women FAR less than I do!), but often I feel utterly erased, like a part of who I am isn’t acknowledged by others. That part may not be important in casual interactions, but it is important for those who want to understand all of what I am.
I relate to this so much. I’ve been openly out as Bisexual for over 7 years (I’m 22) and have only felt accepted/part of the LGBT community when I’ve been with a woman.
How have others on this thread, as bisexual women, found a place in the gay and lesbian community?
Every time I have tried to reach out to the lesbian community I have experienced biphobia, and it has gotten to the point where I am afraid to come out as bi to gay women because every time I have I have heard them say things like they have “rules about not dating bisexuals” or that a queer woman who happens to fall in love with a man is no longer queer, or that “my phase will be done after college” (I’m 29).
I don’t feel welcome at pride, or at the lgbt groups in my community, because I feel like the second I enter into a relationship with a man, my friendships and my belonging to the community will be severed, because in my experience, they have been. It just feels like lesbians hate us, straight men fetishize us, and no one thinks that our feelings are real, even us.
Any advice for ways to find communities of queer women who are not hostile to bisexuals? Have you experienced this too?
Thank you for this thread, by the way, Autostraddle.
I have experienced this occasionally. I remember once at a queer women’s book club, the host expressed resentment that her college friend was dating men and could use her stories of past relationships with women to turn on the men she was dating. Other than that, it’s usually general comments such as “at least us LGBT folks never have to worry about accidental pregnancy!” rather than anyone telling me specifically that there’s something wrong with bisexuality. And for me it’s mostly been in organized LGBT spaces and events, rather than social groups.
Regarding social groups of queer women, I have found that the ones that are friendly to trans women are also friendly to bi folks.
Seconding the comment about trans friendly LGBT spaces being bi friendly too – partly because surprise, a lot of trans people are also bi (liike hey, Marsha P. Johnson or Sylvia Rivera for famous examples!) and so those spaces can’t actually be created as trans friendly if they force trans people to conform to other people’s expectations of sexuality, so yeah. I’m in Melbourne which has a huge queer scene and I don’t really interact with the Gay or Lesbian scenes specifically, but even when I do there’s a lot more acceptance for bisexual people here I think due to the fact that the rest of the +BTQA side of the umbrella has such a big cultural presence.
I think. To be honest I still really feel a lot of the time like the Gay and Lesbian side of the community is seriously cut off from us. Their events are often all about drinking and partying in bars and connecting to drag culture, and a lot of queer people here have mixed levels of comfort with the drag scene partly due to the fact that it is weirdly tied into trans narratives while also full of transphobia/transmisogyny/misogyny from gay men. It’s got baggage basicallyy. Some people love it, some people hate it but we can still acknowledge the important part it’s played. Nonetheless, most of my friends avoid that scene.
Anyway though I find that there’s a weird amount of crossover between bi-friendly spaces and geek culture or creative scenes. I often find my community either at gaming conventions or roleplaying events or at events like the Melbourne Writer’s Festival.
Oh yeah, geek or hobby spaces are great! I also find good community outside of specifically queer spaces. Being open about my interest in multiple genders, I’ve discovered that a lot of my straight friends are not actually straight. I’ve also found that among queer women, we each assume that everyone is a lesbian except us! Likewise, we might all be assuming everyone else is straight unless we see them in a same-sex relationship. I definitely did.
Turns out quite a few of my friends are bi and have a history of only/mostly same-sex relationships. And bi folks are less connected to the queer scene than gay/lesbian people. So just talking openly about all your relationships, crushes, whatever, can be a great way to find your community in any space.
Hey guys! I have a train to catch, two weeks (almost) without internet in front of me and no time to add anything relevant to the discussion right now, BUT I just wanted to say how grateful I am for this post. It made my day. To me, and to all the others bisexual straddlers I think, it really means a lot. Can’t wait to read what everyone has to say.
you mean a lot alice! thank you! <3
I, too, am elated at even the acknowledgement by this thread being here on Autostraddle. I’ve identified as queer and bisexual for more than a decade and I’m in a relationship with a cis man. I am not as involved with queer community as I’d like (mostly due to traumatic experiences outside of my relationship with this guy). I’m not really out to him (other than my having told him once that lesbian erotica turns me on) and it’s all a struggle.
thank you for sharing! it’s tough not being out in your relationship, and i hope you get a lot of support and affirmation in your relationship in general. i hope also that you can get support and affirmation from this online community and this open thread, for all the struggles you’re feeling!
Thanks so much, Rachel. :-)
The links to queer community can be a tough one and I’m so sorry you’re not getting that support Victoria. Throughout a 7-yr relationship with a man, my involvement with the queer community was a keep part of reminding myself that I was still queer, I was still me. When that all blew up and I lost the partner and the community, I started another relationship with a man, but this time I didn’t have those queer links, and it really hurt. Suddenly I felt a lot straighter than I did before.
I hope you can get support and community here on Autostraddle and on other online queer spaces, and maybe IRL too, in different spaces (though the queer universe is so damn small that’s hard, I know…) xxxx
Thank you, Beth. It helps to read all the responses and know I’m not the only one. :-)
Hey, you don’t know how much you sound like me from a few years ago. I was so sure in myself about who I was, but I struggled to not feel shame in telling my male partner (he’s a sweet, patient and compassionate dude).
I saw liking girls as this almost hedonistic side of me, like everyone liked women to some extent and I was just making a big deal of it in my head.
He found out I was writing lesbian erotica and was excited but I was too embarrassed. Then he found out my porn preferences and I was still mortified. Maybe I wasn’t a very good partner, I thought.
But, we worked through it. He allowed me space to talk and over time, I started to feel more confident. I could be my full sexual self with him, liking women and all. When people say communication matters, they aren’t lying.
Anyway, sorry for the ramble. I hope for healthy relationships for you and the ability to feel like your full self, no matter who you’re with.
Thanks, ladyknightofcydonia. :-)
I understand completely and have had the same conversation with my guy. I have related my interests in women I have always had them just never went forth with it
Thank you a million times for making space for this much needed conversation! I am bisexual/queer and poly. I am finding some gender bias in unexpected places. A year ago I had a casual “sex-friends” situation going on with a woman who IDs as queer and poly. I wanted to start seeing a man we both knew. My ladyfriend still wanted to continue our relationship, and was willing to talk about my new relationship at first, but then she started making a lot of snide comments about men and maleness and eventually I stopped wanting to spend time with her. I hope this was an isolated incident, and I’ve considered that maybe her problem was about the specific man I was seeing. I just want bi/poly friends who respect each other’s healthy relationships with people of any or no gender! Is that too much to ask? That might be too much to ask…
I’m bi and poly, too!
Same here! Been forever since I’ve been able to date a woman though, bi+poly+married to a man seems to severely limit options on that front so far. :(
Likewise! Although since I’m a) single, and b) not looking for anything serious, I wouldn’t mind experimenting with a more casual relationship that was monogamous (I’ve only been in poly ones before).
Yay!! I came here to talk about being bi and poly, too! I have only dated men but have had experiences with women, and I feel extremely disconnected from the queer community. Not sure how to meet other women, and generally have the idea (clearly misinformed) that most gay/bi women are not interested in poly relationships.
Hi Jo! I also feel disconnected from the queer community in my current town because it seems like all the queer women I’ve have life partners and babies (or dog children!). But sometimes people surprise me! I may be judging these folks before I have all the information – they could have an open marriage or another poly-situation. And I do love my monogamous married queer friends, but that’s not much help when it comes to dating.
Sounds like there are many of us who feel disconnected! I joined a Facebook group for poly people in my area, and many of the members are bi. I haven’t met any of them in person yet, and I’m not sure whether they frown on developing relationships from the group (maybe it’s just for support, and not to be used as a “dating app”), but it’s a place to start! Maybe there’s a similar thing for your community?
Not too much to ask. A million times not too much to ask.
I’m bi/poly too! That sucks that she had to be gross about the gender of your other partner. There are definitely queer poly people out there who are much more mature, respectful, and encouraging to each other.
I swear, we should get shirts.
“YES I’m married to a man
NO he is not my only partner
NO it does not make me straight
YES you should come hit on me, you gorgeous femme you”
I’ve wanted a girlfriend forever and aside from a couple of awkward dates and a quasi-relationship with a friend, I’ve had no luck. -_- It’s like the minute you touch a penis you’re anathema.
Hey girl, hey ;)
Yeah. We need t-shirts. And safe cities to wear them in.
I’ve legit thought of this t-shirt concept before. Lol. It would attract the attention of queer women, and also deter the insecure ones from hitting on you.
AH! As a fellow bi/poly lady, yes. All things yes. Except, it’s super not too much to ask! My current girlfriend (!) is a gold-star (which is a term I have a lot of feelings about), but is pretty cool with my pre-existing partner who is male-bodied. Men are problematic, and she may be making points about him as a quality person who deserves to date your awesome self? But that’s one of the sticking points with compersion: if you think the person your partner is dating is legitimately bad for them, how do you do? They’re happy, yay, but this person kinda sucks, boo? Anyway. Acknowledging others viewpoints! But also expecting those who identify as poly to check their (unfounded) prejudices! Expecting better things!
I’m bi and poly too! I was rather keen on not dating men for a bit, because I need people who have shared experiences with me, not just sympathy. But my current boyfriend is bi and poly too so we’re really on the same page with identity, it definitely feels like a bi relationship, not a straight one. My girlfriend is a powerhouse of emotional intelligence and super poly and queer herself. Don’t know hoow I got so lucky! Bumbled into it a fair bit. I’m really hoping both relationships continue working for a long time. Thought I was commitment shy and the worst bi stereotype ever, but now I am so ready to be serious about both of them.,
This is so great! I came out as bisexual about 6 months ago, after identifying as lesbian and exclusively dating women from ages 15-20. It’s been a hard transition for me. I think there’s something so empowering and important about the lesbian community, so I feel like a traitor for mostly dating guys the last few months. But, it is so hard to find queer women to date, whereas there’s seemingly attractive guys everywhere. I’m also really kinky, and I’ve found that it’s much easier to get a guy to spank or hit me, or even just to have casual sex. So in a way I feel like I’m settling, just dating men because it’s easier, but I’m trying not to guilt myself too much since I am having fulfilling sexual relationships with these guys, I might just prefer that they were women.
Anyway thanks for making this thread! It’ll be interesting to read about other bi women’s experiences.
that’s really interesting about how dating men intersects with your kinky identity — i had never thought about that! i also ID’d as exclusively dating women for a while, and it definitely made the time when i started dating men/my current male partner feel intense; i think i felt a lot more guilt and shame than in retrospect i needed to. congrats on being true to yourself w/r/t your relationships!
Oh man this thread is super relevant to me. I’m not bisexual but I am super kinky (even though I never found anybody that made me feel safe enough to “act up” on it) and could we PLEASE have an open thread for kink intersecting with queer identity ?
I sometimes feel like the “born this way” narrative fits to my kink but not to my queer identity: I can remember being probably seven and fascinated by people being tied up in stories and on tv, and being 13 and watching a documentary on BDSM and realising “ooooh THAT’S why!”. And I think maybe that’s part of why it took me 25 years to understand I was a lesbian: I just thought I wasn’t enjoying sex with men because it wasn’t kinky enough :(.
Sorry sorry for hijacking this wonderful thread where I’m learning so much <3 but I would just love to have conversations about this topic. I understand this isn't the proper space so could we please make one of those ? :D
I feel the exact same way with the “born this way narrative” – it’s gross to think about, but I remember masturbating at age 4 and thinking about being helpless or used by someone. I had no idea what sex was, or any sense of attraction to anyone, and I was already having orgasms to vague ideas of BDSMy stuff. For me I’ve found that kink is more important than the sex of the person I date, though that’s still not something I love admitting. I’d love a column on the intersection between kink and queer identities, it’d be interesting to see if anyone else feels the same way.
I felt a lot of guilt when I started dating men, too: I think that’s a really common experience. At the time I felt like I was being forced to sever ties with a really biphobic queer community, but now, years later, I think a lot of that was built out of my own feelings of shame and confusion. Even now when I consider going to queer events in my city, and no one is telling me I can’t, or shouldn’t, I still have these nagging thoughts that I’m not really welcome. It means a lot to me that Autostraddle makes a space for bi/otherwise-non-monosexual folks.
This is only tangentially related to your comment, but someone should do a study on whether women who like women are less interested in casual sex, because I am, and I sometimes feel very alone in that desire.
I remember a study not precisely on interest in casual sex, but on sex drive, which probably is vaguely related, and it actually suggested that queer women have greater sex drive than straight women (and on average bisexual women had stronger sex drive than lesbians, but interestingly it varied by ethnicity – in the subgroup of Asian women lesbians had weaker sex drive than straights or bisexuals, while among Hispanic women – lesbians had the strongest sex drive, which means you probably should take those results with a grain of salt).
Um, can we talk about this “it’s easier to date guys than it is to date girls” thing? I live in a really liberal city and I still find it hard to find women that I am interested in AND can get to actually meet up with me (I date almost exclusively through the internet). Maybe I’m not trying hard enough, and the fact that I am in an open relationship with a man is probably not working in my favor, but it’s so nice to hear someone else saying that it’s harder to find women to date!
Yes! I live in a small, conservative college town (doesn’t that seem like an oxymoron? shouldn’t all college towns be liberal?) and I’ve already dated all the queer women I know and am attracted to. Even though I’m not attracted to most men, it’s still easier to find a man than a woman that I am attracted to just because there so few queer women.
SAME. (If your liberal city is in the Pacific Northwest, we should talk! >.>)
Pacific NW here! :)
I agree with pretty much all this re: kink/”born this way”/easier to find guys to date.
Woo! I’m in Seattle myself. :D
Yes. I’ve been bi forever, and more or less out for about a decade, but I am so not used to chatting up ladies. And there just aren’t as many women interested in women as there are men. And, yes, I think being in an open relationship changes things. I think women are more likely to be put off by it, for a variety of reasons. But I’ve had good luck with other women in open relationships, and with not minding being the unicorn for some couple.
Yes! I’m in exactly the same situation. I get probably less than 50 OKC results when I search for other bi poly women in relationships, and I’ve already dated a good percentage of the ones I’m attracted to. I’m about to start hitting up ex girlfriends and trying to work things out, haha.
I definitely date guys more often just because they’re everywhere. Straight men are all over the damn place, and they come up and ask you out. It’s much harder to meet women, and I am a lazy dater :-/
I had the strange experience of switching my identity on OKCupid from lesbian, no straight people, to bisexual, straight people allowed.
When I ID’d as a lesbian, I got maybe 10 to 15 views every couple of days. Literally ten minutes after I had made my profile viewable to straight men and changed it to bisexual, I had 10 profile views. By the end of the night I had 20 messages.
I did not expect that level of difference. I was open to dating both men and women at the time, but it was just so much easier to find men willing to meet up and talk. Women took days, sometimes weeks of messages before they were willing to meet up. By the time that happened, I had dates with multiple men.
Oh wow I relate to this so much. I found myself distancing myself from a lesbian who would constantly put down bisexuals, even in front of me. I’ve also noticed that men are more willing to have casual sex and work with kinks. However I find more attractive ladies and fewer men! Hahah, guess it’s just prefrences ;)
+1 re: kink, easier to find to date. So lovely to hear so many voices on this.
Aghhh it is SO hard to find queer women to date or hook up with. :(
I was in your position, only dated women from 17-21 then got into a relationship with a guy for two years immediately followed by a relationship with the man I am with now. I’m now 26. I had the same feeling, as though I was a traitor. It’s taken me a long time to be ok with the fact I am bisexual, and for a long time used to tell people that I ‘still identified as a lesbian, and I just happen to be currently dating a guy’.
I know I wont be the most popular of commentators here, but you should take some time to think about “sleeping with men because it is easier to convince them to hit you”. I understand kink and dabble in it but if that is a reason to sleep with men, it doesnt sound very healthy. Also you should think about why men are more eager to hit you. Im not tryna shame Im just concerned bc I have definitely used sex as self harm before (tho this may not be your experience you couldve just worded it in a way that made me think that)
I just know so many bi girls (myself included) who have espoused this rhetoric of “well its just easier to find men” and “it’s my only option” and “its just easier to find men to sleep with”, then just sleep w shitty men they arent as enthusiastic about.
and this isnt something i see from straight women a lot and I know bi girls experience much heavier effects of misogyny so i am worried about it.
I’m not exactly identified as a bi woman, but I “grew up” in the queer community as one. Even though I’m very out as nonbinary/kind-of-a-transman and primarily woman-/femme-attracted, I still find myself playing primarily with non-woman AMAB people and (trans)masculine FAAB people. I kind of refuse to do anything with straight men and make homoerotic jokes to ward them off, even though they’re most of who’s interested… And when they’re not straight, the queer/bi men still outnumber the women/femmes that seem to be interested. I guess because I seem femme to people? Or because femmes are taught not to approach people or be active, and I’m way too shy to approach people I’m super attracted to? Facepalm. So yeah, it really just is so much more convenient to be with men, even in spaces as queer as most of the kink scenes I’ve been part of.
But, problem: I deeply internalized the icky patriarchal expectations for women in relationships with men as a bi-identified youth trying to do the “queer girl dating a heteronormative straight dude” thing. So I’m very rarely able to play with AMAB non-women in any role but a dominant one. Any vague notion that I’m submitting to a man continues to be triggering to me, both of dysphoria and internalized misogynistic self-hatred, even if they’re super radical/queer/feminist/trans-positive/switchy/poly … And when interactions with non-women AMABs aren’t triggering, it still makes my pre-T, pre-op queer ass feel so fucking invisible. So I bro it up with them as hard as I can, which makes for an honestly pretty confusing environment where I feel like none of us know if I’m the most dudeish bro in the room (cringe – yeah, me, the once femme bi girl, experiencing fragile masculinity? Around a bunch of other queer men? Who would have ever imagined?!?!) or if I’m just That Pretty Girl hanging out in a circle of boys.
I have a hard time understanding why my brain insists that it’s an attractive idea to engage with them – even to seek them out. Is it really just because there’s such an abundance of men everywhere looking for sex/kink? Is it because of some messed up masculinity thing where I need to prove my masculinity by being more butch than a bunch of queer feminist guys (facepalm)? Or is it because I never got rid of that persistent internalized queer-phobic notion I deceloped as a bi girl that I don’t deserve relationships with women and would just have to settle for a man?
sigh. Are there any other formerly bi-girl-identified trans folk that have issues with this kind of shit?
Wow, I’m really happy that a space like this is getting an airing on the site! I really go back and forth as to whether I identify as bi. During the years when I was kind of figuring out and forming my identity, I was definitely scared away by the biphobia I saw online.
Just when I thought it was simple — I came out as queer, kissed my first woman, saw fireworks, and thought “wow, I’m never going back to guys!” — I fell in love with a trans guy and had to eat my words. :-) We just broke up after six months that were mostly wonderful. Now I’m going forward with the knowledge that I may never be able to settle on any one gender definitively. People are too complex and varied and gorgeous for that!
But I do find myself referring to my ex in genderless terms when I’m in lesbian spaces. It’s easier and shorter than explaining all the nuances of my ex’s gender that made it a the relationship fairly queer.*
Anyway, I am really excited about this forum!
*I realize there are a lot of straight trans guys whose relationships with women are not queer at all, that just wasn’t me and my ex :-)
Oy, the typos
such a good thought, thank you for articulating it! as someone who also had to at one point say “whoops, i thought i was [identity] but i guess not!” i wish there was less pressure to get it Exactly Right the instant you come out, something i suspect can be traced back to heteronormative pressure to make your identity very accessible and easily explained to others around you in order to make them more comfortable.
I have kind of internalized that kind of process anyway, in all aspects of my life — first I get all my ducks in a row, then I act.
I think that’s a huge part of why it took me until I was 30 to come out and start dating people other than just cis men, because I just had to figure out **what I WAS** first.
Turns out I was a human who likes other humans. And true, some people are never going to be comfortable with that, but at least I can work on being comfortable with it!!
Thank you, Rachel! I didn’t get it EXACTLY RIGHT either, since I first came out as lesbian, and I’m now very happy as a bisexual/queer woman. Unfortunately, , this has meant that some of the shitty stuff my parents said when I came out, like “this is just part time thing, right?” and “are you sure? you’re in college, it might just be a phase” seems to have come true in their eyes. Now they’re busy pretending I’m straight and waiting for me to ‘grow up and vote republican.’ (Never gonna fucking happen.)
I came out as a lesbian a couple years ago, but I’ve been dating a trans guy for the past year or so, and since then I’ve really come to own the word “queer”, but I still do not identify as bi because I’m not attracted to cis men (I don’t want to hijack this thread either, but I wanted to share a little bit). I tend to use gender neutral pronouns when referring to my partner primarily in straight spaces and less in gay spaces because my partner tends to actually, physically accompany me to queer spaces so there’s less explaining to do. Also, even though he’s been on t for over half a year, he tends not to pass, which means he easily gets read as queer in queer spaces, and when we’re out and about we get read as a lesbian couple (two days ago a homeless man kept leering at us and asking us if we “suck each other’s clitorises” and I’ve been feeling skeeved out and unsafe walking around my neighborhood a lot this past week because of this and other encounters just this week… this was not the visibility I was looking for!). So, what I mean to say is I have queer passing privilege when my partner is physically present, but when I’m on my own people tend to assume I’m straight regardless of my hairstyle, especially if I drop a “he” pronoun. The pronoun game can become quite a circus, and I try to navigate it in a way that respects both of our identities as much as possible. I do tend to use gender neutral pronouns when talking with straight company that I don’t want to give a quick spiel about my sexuality to because I don’t like automatically being presumed straight. I like leaving some wiggle room in there I can come back to in case I feel like having a conversation about gender and sexuality later. When I don’t leave that wiggle room, people who read me as straight from the getgo and then later have to revise their vision of me never seem to fully catch on, strangely. I worked at a company where I came out to everyone after about two months of working there, and still everyone would refer to the one gay man in our office as the only gay in the office, and try to ask me about boys/completely forget about my identity as a queer woman. It felt pretty invalidating, like I was constantly being overlooked or forgotten, or like it was too much trouble to remember to see me as I was. Sigh.
Something that I also struggle with is some of my queer friends’ attitudes towards men. I have friends who are very outspoken about their hatred of men, some of them are bi themselves, and it always makes me uncomfortable to sit there, oftentimes with my boyfriend sitting next to me, while someone goes off on an “I hate men” diatribe. Like, what? Do you hate my boyfriend to? Or do you not hate him because he’s not a “real” man? Wtf is that about? It’s not a conversation I bother getting into with other women because it makes me uncomfortable, especially when they later insist their misandry is a joke and that they don’t REALLY hate all men. I think my approach next time that happens is to take some advice I once got from a preschool teacher and just say, “hey, that hurts my feelings.”
Hello I am in the same type of queer relationship situation. I think a lot of bi folks (or at least a lot that I know of) end up dating queer/bi men (cis or trans). My spouse identifies as queer, but in more of a community/political sense. Based on attraction and behavior only, he’d probably be in the straight box, but that just feels wrong to him. Sometimes it is frustrating to me that we get more credibility in queer spaces because we pass as lesbians, though neither of us are and my spouse is genderfluid/transmasculine. It doesn’t necessarily bother him or us as a couple because we are honestly more comfortable in queer spaces and identifying as a queer couple, but it does make shit complicated and a bit problematic.
When I’ve dated cis guys, I have experience bi erasure in ways that I don’t in my marriage to my boi. But I also find myself sometimes using gender neutral language and allowing people to think we are queer lesbians, which is another kind of erasure for my partner that is really not cool for me to be complicit in (even if he is totally ok with it). Like, I never went around announcing that my cis boyfriend was cis. I don’t see why I should do it with my trans spouse, either, because it is ultimately disrespectful to trans people to assume their being trans makes them somehow more queer-passing. Even if the world sees it that way and even if my partner feels queer. I’ve started not talking about it in that way, but it’s complicated. Because let’s face it, men, in general, don’t really make any space for trans guy’s experiences and many stick to the lesbian communities that do make space for them (whether that is right or not). I could go on.
Suffice it to say, I feel you! And I’m leaning towards not outing my partner as trans unless it is absolutely necessary (which is rare) or I have his explicit permission. Even if it means people ID me as straight, initially. I focus on my sexual orientation, the same as I would if I was married to a cis man, and correct people about myself, as necessary. But I’m also true to the fact that we sometimes see ourselves as aligned with lesbian culture and that is OK, too, for us as a queer couple.
Thank you for this, Kaelyn. I am dating a cis dude, but I also struggle with terms when describing our relationship. My struggles:
1) I don’t want to use gendered terms for our relationship, like “boyfriend” or “husband” because that is not who we are. So we use partner.
2) “Partner” has the result, in queer spaces, of making people think I’m dating a female-identified person. When I disclose that my partner is male-identified, I am faced with chagrin, hostility, and erasure.
3) I can’t say I’m in a “mixed-orientation relationship,” because that’s clumsy and horrible, so I say “queer” when applicable and it has the same problems as “partner.”
Everything adds up to me having to come out as queer/bi to clarify as misunderstanding and then dealing with the shit that comes with being an out bi* person in a queer space. It sucks.
Thank you both for sharing your experiences! It’s been an interesting journey, continuing to do work on my own identity while dating my ex-boyfriend. He “passes” (although I hate that term) easily in straight spaces (in queer spaces he is very out, as he runs local support groups etc.).
And in some environments, that was honestly kind of nice — it felt safer to be presumed straight — whereas in others, it was frustrating that my queer experience wasn’t visible, especially since he was my first long-term partner after coming out. (I never shared his trans status even when I had permission, because it felt really weird to do so, but he very often shares it himself.)
When we split up a couple of weeks ago, I was surprised by the fear I experienced when I thought of dating women again and being read as queer in the general public, something I haven’t done since I dated my first girlfriend last summer. I honestly thought I had put that apprehension behind me. While I ABSOLUTELY wasn’t dating him because of this (I was dating him because he’s a lovely, kind, wonderful, sexy person who I’m still kinda hung up on TBH), it’s felt very safe to be “straight” at gas stations when we were traveling and, well, whenever we wanted…
And then there were places it was really frustrating too. We were outside a bar after a drag show once and one of the drag queens (one of the ones we didn’t know personally) rolled their eyes in disgust and said “omg, get a room.” We were too straight for them! And there were lesbian spaces in which we didn’t feel comfortable even with my ex’s previous history of identifying as a lesbian, which I get, but it was still a bummer.
Anyway. I’m not sure what my point is! I think you guys are getting a bit of my end-of-relationship processing. ;-)
One thing is, I guess that since I haven’t been out that long, and since I’m still not out to a few people, it’s easy to let people see my identity in terms of the person I’m dating. Kaelyn, like you say above, the more I can focus my identity around, well, my identity, and not just let people assume whatever they want based on who my partner is, the closer I’ll be to living the way I want to!
I relate to this whole comment thread so much, as a queer-identified woman who’d only dated cis men until my current relationship with a genderqueer/transmasculine-identified person. I have too many feelings so here are a few:
1. Feelin’ @kaelynrich on the erasure of partner’s identity. I’d wanted to be in a queer relationship most of my life and really struggled with feeling invisible and fraudulent in my relationships with cismen so when I started seeing my partner I at first was so excited, felt so seen and validated, and it was so much better than my experiences with cismen that felt I needed to clarify to people that this person was not assigned male at birth, even though I knew it was awful of me to do that. It’s been a steep learning curve that I didn’t know I’d have to climb, humbling to say the least.
2. So many things I’m experiencing for the first time that make real for me the heterosexual privilege I had on previous relationships. Basic things like feeling safe walking down the street, not worrying if we stop at a rural gas station on a road trip, not being stared at, etc. I mean intellectually I knew these things were real but DAMN do they exist for me in a hard and true way now.
3. Figuring out how to honor/not discount my previous relationships when I know people read me as a lesbian now, and I identify as a queer mostly cis androgynous femme woman…no matter what I seem to always feel like I have to downplay or hide my previous relationships with cismen.
4. Amen @queergirl on your comment about people identifying you based on your partner. I’ve always hated that. Even now when people ask me who I’m dating and I refer to my partner using “they/them,” which are my partner’s preferred pronouns, I still get this feeling like people are waiting for me to clarify…and sometimes they’ll even ask if they’re “a boy or a girl,” and when I say that my partner is genderqueer, or trans-identified, they’ll either assume a trans identity of woman or man or even ask me what gender my partner was assigned at birth! Because what they really want to know is what they think is my partner’s “real” gender, which will then help them categorize us and our sexualities. I’m challenging myself more and more to let them (and myself) rest in the uncertainty, so @kaelynrich your comment about focusing on your own identity is really helpful.
5. I (and my partner) both wish there was more AS content for nonbinary/AFAB/trans masculine folks.
I feel you so much on a lot of this. My partner is also genderfluid-ish. Like…there is just really no word to describe who he is, but he goes with trans and boi and sometimes genderfluid (but not man and not genderqueer and definitely transmasculine). And if we open that can of worms, it feels like I have to explain to people. But somewhere along the way (We’ve been together for a decade.), I realized that I don’t have to. He doesn’t need my protection and he can choose to out himself (which he does) whenever he wants. Or not. And using him for queer cred is really shitty. So I am back to focusing on me and my identity. Like you, I’ve never had a long-term relationship with a woman. My partner came out as trans shortly after we started dating and self-ID’s with lesbian culture, but that is not the same as dating a woman. At all.
In response to 5: I am a lowly contributing editor (I just write for the site. I don’t make decisions.), but I think the reason we don’t have more stuff for trans masculine folks is that we are primarily a website for women who love women. And we intentionally mean that to include all women, explicitly including trans women who are bi/queer/lesbian. Historically, women’s sites and communities haven’t been all that welcoming to trans women. But they have been welcoming to trans men a lot of the time because they didn’t see trans men as “real men” because they were FAAB. Which is super fucked up, in my personal opinion. Aaaanyway, some of our contributors and family and some of our writers have been trans men or transmasculine folks, but it’s not a regular feature because we are primarily a website for women. And it would be kind of not cool to consider trans men “queer women.”
Yes! I wish there were more Autostraddle content for genderqueer folks, both AFAB and AMAB (because dividing the enby community by assignment feels shitty and uninclusive). I have frequently been shy to engage with content here as a trans person, and I know AMAB femmes (partners, my sibling) that would benefit so much from inclusion/visibility in queer femme space.
100% feeling this as a queer cis person whose most recent partner is trans. I love your advice on focusing on yourself and not using your partner for queer cred.
For what it’s worth… As a nonbinary/bigender transmasculine person, I am super into the idea of my partners’ full disclosure of my trans identity. I’m probably more uncomfortable being thought of as straight than any of my partners have been, and highly value my queer identity. Whether people want to be used for queer cred or not probably depends on the person :P
Hi Adriaan, thanks for saying this! It’s good to hear. In my relationship with my ex I kind of always felt like I was at this intersection where he was saying “tell so-and-so, I really don’t mind, I’m out everywhere and it will help them make sense of the situation” and then the internet was screaming at me NEVER OUT A TRANS PERSON EVER and I would end up kind of paralyzed.
Hopefully there’s a difference between being “used for queer cred” and just, well, being open about the queerness of your relationship?
‘But I do find myself referring to my ex in genderless terms when I’m in lesbian spaces.’
THIS. I have a lot of queer friends and a lot of lesbian friends. When I’m queer spaces, I can be open and refer to my partner as a he. When I’m in lesbian spaces, I use ‘they’. I do it out of fear of being profiled and straight and an ‘enemy’. (i.e. NOT lesbian)
Totally! This is one reason why a friend of mine formed a social/support group for queer/bi/fluid/questioning/etc. people at our local LGBT center to compliment the other groups (where most people identified as gay or lesbian). All sorts of really interesting people have come to the group, and it feels like a really safe space to be open about the complexity of gender and attraction.
Hi I’m here listening until I have time to read though/comment! So just hi for now :)
good to have you here!
Well, I’ve dated nothing but men up this point but its only recently I’ve come to grips with my bisexuality when before I used to compartmentalize it or deem it “unimportant” (“Well, I’m still attracted to men so I don’t need to think about this or make it a BIG DEAL.”) and now I’m coming to grips with gender fluidity (yay for making it public, kinda) where I never really felt fully feminine or fully masculine. I’ve talked to my bf about it and we’re both kind of going through the same thing. Oddly, the first sexual talk we had was about pegging and cross-dressing, which he admitted he’d be into and I said pegging was always something I wanted to do but I was scared because of what that meant and its a matter of finding a guy who won’t think being pegged is ‘gay’ :/
I still don’t know what to do about the gender fluidity but realizing I am bisexual (or at the very least, bicurious, since I’ve never been with a woman) just gave me some solace and peace of mind and I’m not running around fretting all the time when I find a woman attractive.
i’m a big proponent of not assigning yourself a label if you don’t feel like one is exactly right, and i think it’s awesome your bf is on the same page!
Wow Amanda! Congratulations on your little public announcement!
On the topic of pegging, this was a big part of one of my relationships with a guy (and a small part of another one). I’m not sure we talked about it before we did it the first time, it just felt like the time was right, and it happened really naturally. After that, because it was awesome and those physical feelings spoke for themselves, I don’t think there was much worry about whether it was ‘too gay’ (this partner was pretty damn straight).
Yeaaah, once I typed those words out, I realized it was the first time I admitted that to anybody but my bf so yeah, it is a bit of a public announcement. ^_^;
RE: pegging, I haven’t been in too many sexual relationships anyway and the last one I was in, I was acting like a Cool Girl so much, I couldn’t admit that I had these bisexual feelings or I wanted to *experiment* a little. He would probably be one of those guys that if I did say I was attracted to women (or might be) he’d say that would be “hot” and to offer to watch me make out with a girl -_-
Yes!! This. I spent years categorizing my feelings for women as *some other thing* that had less value or was less authentic than my attraction to men. It was hard to overcome that but really freeing when I finally let myself name my feelings as valid and awesome. It sounds like you are finding ways to queer-ify your current relationship, so I hope that continues to be fulfilling and exploratory for you!
Awww, thank you! That really makes me feel happy. I started to realize I may be genderfluid (while looking it up to make sure I had the right term for it) only a couple days ago and it has been kind of an epiphany. It has been the same kind of feeling as when I FINALLY admitted I am bisexual, I was relieved but also feeling “…what do I do now?” Whatever I want to, I guess XD
I am SO GLAD you have a relationship you can have those kinds of discussions in. That is so wonderful. And if you don’t feel like assigning yourself a label, or if you’re too fluid for any one thing, don’t even feel pressured to claim one. You do you, babe.
Jesus Christ, I know how you feel. I’ve been dealing with same-sex attraction since I was 11,but I was still attracted to men and I was in a relationship with a guy for nearly 8 years.
I’ve just come to grips in accepting my bisexuality and now I feel like I’m dealing with a belated girl-crazy phase. (Repression??)
I’m still equally attracted to both,but in the last few months of coming out,I’m noticing women more and how nervous they make me. Not to mention a few weeks ago, i finally made out with a girl for the first time (So…freaking..awesome).
I don’t think it’s a phase (Phases don’t last for 15 years) but this is all new,thrilling and scary at the same time.
Ah, Amanda and Audrey, I feel so much! What you said about compartmentalising or ignoring attraction to women, and seeing it as less valid or important. This was exactly me my whole life until this year. I remember when I first told someone I had a crush on a girl in grade 7, they asked me if I was a lesbian and I said definitively no, but when they asked me if I was bi, I said I didn’t know. And I talked myself out of thinking about it by rationalising that the girl I was crushing on was really a tomboy anyway so didn’t count.
I used to struggle with calling myself bi because I realized I was while I was married to a man and thus had also never dated a lady (we had a monogamous marriage). I knew it was right, but I kept surfacing doubt because anyone I would float the idea to would say “well it doesn’t matter if you’re bi if your married to a guy” or “have you ever been with a woman? So how do you know for sure?” When I got divorced (for unrelated reasons) I came out for reals and began overcompensating by talking about things I saw as evidence of my bi-ness constantly. I even would exaggerate just to “prove” to people I was bi. It felt terrible. But I was so right; I am bi and I was even when with my ex-husband, and that skeptical response from everyone made my journey unnecessarily painful
Oh absolutely! I’ve only recently openly accepted my bi-identity. I look back in hindsight and remember the 6th grade crush I immediately mentally shut down (‘no, I’m not attracted to her, its just…friendship), the way I kept coming back mentally to the label of ‘questioning’, the girls in high school I insisted i was only aesthetically attracted to, and I think to myself “how could I believe I was straight all of these years?”
I definitely felt weird about calling myself bi before I had actually hooked up with a woman. In hindsight, I knew I was bi and if I hadn’t ever been involved with a woman romantically or sexually that would still be true. My identity is not dependent on some act to confirm it. You may be struggling with the label for many reasons or not struggling at all, but I wanted to say, know that you don’t have to prove anything or earn some bi sexuality merit badge. You can define or not define however you want (:
I’m bi/pan/queer and married to a woman, but would definetly have really needed this space during my last relationship, so just wanted to voice my appreciation!
Oh man! this thread suddenly perked me up and made me feel validated. I’ve been in a relationship with a guy for 5 years and came to terms with my queerness after about two of them. He’s a sweetheart and so understands but I definitely have no idea how to exist as a queer person when to all outside people, I’m straight. I’m so not, but none of my behaviors would show otherwise.
Feels lonely and like I’m making it up, when honestly I’m insanely sure it’s who I am and what I feel.
you’re not alone and you’re not invalid and you’re not invisible. you’re a wonderful unicorn, and you are lovely just as you are.
Oh man. I absentmindendly forgot I made this post and when I opened it back up to replies like this I am getting choked up on the bus. I am feeling happy and queer and legitimized and I want to hug everyone
I can totally relate. I’ve been with my fiance since I was 19 so even though I’m attracted to women I’ve never had the opportunity to actually be with one (aside from kissing and light petting). It can be very difficult to go through a world where everyone assumes you are straight.
You are not alone and please don’t let anyone make you feel like you are “making it up.” <3
It is so incredibly validating to hear all of your stories. I finally figured out that I was bi at 19, and came out to most of my community at 21. Although in hindsight I see a bunch of female friendships, intimate moments, and sexual experiences now as bisexual experiences before I knew what that meant, I’ve only ever had one or two sexual “we’re queer and we know it” experiences with other queer ladies. Everything else has been with men, and mostly straight men at that. I’ve never dated a woman.
Right after these fledgling relationships I moved from my predominantly queer community to a rural state containing like three queer people total… and fell in love with a straight cis man. We’ve been together for three years and are crazy about each other.
I often feel like I don’t count in queer spaces because I’m straight passing- I present very femme- and I’m with a midwestern Catholic-raised straight dude. A close friend who is queer validated my initial feelings of confusion and exclusion a couple years ago by telling me that my relationship (between a cis woman and a cis man) IS queer- because I’m queer. Now my boyfriend and I both consider our relationship to be a queer relationship. Still, I have all these feelings of privilege and taking up undeserved space in queer spaces because it’s easy to assume that we are both straight, and so it’s safer for me than for many other queer people, and this is also paired with indignation for being left out of the bi-erasive queer community.
We’ve since moved to an even more conservative small town, and sometimes I feel so invisible, like I finally figured out this beautiful part of me and now it doesn’t “apply” anymore because I hope to be with my boyfriend forever. Every now and again it surfaces when I realize that my boyfriend’s Catholic family doesn’t know that I’m bi, or when some members of my family seem to treat my bisexuality as this “college phase” that thank goodness I’ve grown out of. It’s so invalidating and isolating.
I didn’t realize how much I needed to get these things off my chest. Thanks, Autostraddle, for hosting this thread.
“Still, I have all these feelings of privilege and taking up undeserved space in queer spaces because it’s easy to assume that we are both straight, and so it’s safer for me than for many other queer people, and this is also paired with indignation for being left out of the bi-erasive queer community.”
I feel the same way! On one hand, I feel like I don’t belong in queer spaces because I haven’t faced any prejudice personally. But sometimes I think other people assuming I’m straight is their problem, not something I ever wanted or asked for.
I often feel the same way!! Like in my head I’ll catch myself thinking “you’re not actually bi, are you?” even though it’s an identity I’ve felt very comfortable in for years. Bisexuality is constantly being scrutinized on the basis of sexual and relationship behavior, and it definitely shows up in my internalized biphobia too. You’re not alone!
I was involved a little bit in college with a LGBT student society, but for outside reasons stopped being involved with their programming in my later college years. Right out of college I started dating my boyfriend, and we’ve been together for 7 years. I recently realized that I need to start being more open with my pansexuality, because the erasure is too painful. My boyfriend is totally supportive, but I also have no idea how to really start with it. I completely relate to your feelings of loneliness and not knowing how to exist as a queer person, since I appear to people as straight.
i totally feel this! i’ve been dating my boyfriend since early high school, and while he’s totally supportive of my identity, i got a lot of shit from one of my close friends (who, weirdly enough, was bi and dating a guy also?). She would say things like, “you’re not enough of a lesbian to be queer”, which on one level is just like ???? but it was also pretty hurtful, and it’s made me really nervous about going to queer events and things.
It’s kind of hard, because while you can feel really secure in your identity, people trying to invalidate you and question your presence and ‘sincerity’ can make you feel like an intruder?
I came out as bi in high school, and switched to using the word queer in college. When I was in college, I was dating a trans person with a masculine name and he/him/his pronouns. I spent a summer in another country, and one of the people on my program there just couldn’t deal with me. She went around telling everyone that I was obviously a lesbian, and really confused, and that my poor “boyfriend” back home was going to have a rough time when I figured it out, but how did he not know already because I had such short hair? I confronted her about it and told her that I was perfectly aware that I was queer, that the person I was dating was also aware of this, and that he was also queer, not that it was any of her business. She was completely shocked, but backed down.
That’s one of the most annoying pieces of bi-phobia, I think: the idea that other people can look at you and know what’s up better than you do. This woman saw alternative lifestyle haircut + hiking boots + cargo pants + male-pronouned partner and thought that added up to confused lesbian, instead of happy queer person or, really, none of her business.
yes, definitely! i’m sorry you had that experience! it’s fascinating to me how people code anything that seems queer to “lesbian;” it ties in, i guess, to the idea that bi women either don’t exist or are “basically straight.” i frequently have lesbian/queer friends tell me “you’re SUCH a lesbian” even though they know my male partner when i express any queer thoughts or feelings. and while they mean it as a gesture of inclusivity, which i appreciate, it’s interesting to me that there isn’t an acknowledgement that nonstraight isn’t the same as lesbian, even though i know they know better.
I’ve even had bisexual people say this to me. Bisexual women who had seen me in committed hetero relationships, and then when I started dating a woman they asked “so you’re a lesbian now?”
I don’t blame them because that’s some internalized ish, but my point is, it’s a deeply rooted issue.
yes, this, so much! I came out to my family when I met my first girlfriend. I told them that I fall for a woman – that I was serious, it was serious, and it made me insanely happy, even if scared a bit, too. They had to process at first but then became super supportive. I never actually told them what my identity was, we just never had this discussion really. I was, and still am, struggling with the whole idea of putting labels. Anyway – I just recently realized that they assumed (and still do think so) that I was a lesbian. As if there were only two choices, as if bi people didn’t really exist at all.
I never really had a ‘coming out’ story, I have always known and accepted that I didn’t just like one gender. I recently looked through a book I had when I was a pre-teen where I wrote that my sexual preference was ‘humans’. I’m not sure where this self-awareness or self-acceptance came from, as I grew up knowing absolutely NO queer people outside of Ellen on TV.
When I got to college, I decided I needed to start meeting other like minded people. I formed a very close friendship with a gay man, and we started going out to the gay bars in our city. These bars (like a lot of cities) are all next to each other on one rainbow painted strip. I was so excited to finally be with ‘my people’. I also wanted to finally seriously date a woman. (Every woman I had experiences with up til this point was a result of the other woman experimenting, not interested in a romantic relationship with a woman.) Boy, was I in for a surprise.
Turned out lesbians hated me. They reduced me down to either A) a “fag hag” (I FUCKING HATE THAT TERM) or B) one of those aforementioned women who didn’t want a same-sex romantic relationship. After a very small amount of time, I realized I was better off not telling people my sexuality at all and would just let them think what they want. Over a period of time, I was finally accepted as a lesbian, even though I never told anyone I was a lesbian. I had a group of friends at the bars, a girlfriend and I felt SO included. But was I really?
Eventually, the girlfriend and I broke up. I started dating a man who I had been friends with for some time. I kinda stopped going out to the gay bars (I was wrapped up in a new relationship, and also I felt neither of us would feel accepted). I’ll never forget the voicemail I got one night from one of my ‘friends’ from the bar when she found out I was bisexual and dating a man. It was not nice.
There are so many privileges you can assume when you are a cis gendered woman dating a cis gendered straight man. I never wanted to feel like I was losing part of my identity. The world saw me as a perfectly “normal” hetero woman dating a man who would probably get married and have babies and the whole lot. Even friends and family would see me this way. Years went by and we continued dating. Started a business, bought a house together. I am not one much for the term ‘soul mates’ or the institution of marriage but I knew very early on that I wanted him to be my life partner.
A few years into our relationship, I met and developed feelings for a person who identified as gender fluid. This was so confusing to me – not because this person was gender fluid but because I had such deep feelings for them and at the same time maintained my feelings for my partner and did not want to loose him either. This is when I discovered polyamory and began fervently studying and reading as much as I could on the topic.
I don’t want to turn this into a post about polyamory so I won’t – but I will say that as a polyamorous polysexual (I identify as polysexual meaning multiple genders VS bisexual which implies two genders)I have a whole new set of prejudices and hate stacked against me. I have recently realized (after attending this year’s PRIDE) that the mainstream LGBT community is not my family. There are queer folks though who are intersectional and supportive and amazing – they just aren’t at corporate sponsored Pride events.
Yo girl. I get you. I totally get the “never had a coming out story,” thing. I didn’t really “come out” until I was in a long-term relationship with a man! Which is just to say I just never really made it known. I didn’t talk about it. I just fucked who i wanted to, and loved who I wanted to and avoided the queer community like the plague because I was afraid they’d out me as not-so-queer.
Autostraddle is actually the first place that made me feel like there is a real queer community that loves and acknowledges bisexual/polysexual people in all their iterations.
which isn’t to say biphobia doesn’t crop up in our comments sections! But there is always somebody who is there to shut that shit down.
I get so frustrated when I think about mainstream LGBT communities and their lack of acceptance. I’ve seen poly people bashed by members of this community because they were scared we were a slippery slope argument for ‘gay’ marriage. I feel like lately I’ve noticed the the same treatment towards transgender people.
This is my first time posting here. I need to make an account and explore!
Yay, do, explore, welcome! x
I’m with both of you ladies. It is hard to get in touch with your queer self because of the prejudice in both the heterosexual world and in the queer community. I have come to know some really amazing queer women in the past few years though that have totally accepted, loved, and supported my queer self and that has made a huge difference. This thread is making a huge difference. I think that if we keep being honest, keep putting our feelings out there, the feminist and queer communities will make space with less judgment and misunderstanding for heteropracticing bi/pan women.
Can we please step away from the “bi means two genders” shenanigans?
I ID as bi because, to me, it means “same and different” which is also two but does not reinforce the gender binary.
Yes, I totally hear that and agree. However, until mainstream society catches up I will continue to identify as polysexual because it opens the dialogue about multiple genders.
I ID as bi because I don’t want to contribute to bi erasure. I would date male identified persons, female identified persons, or gender fluid/queer/bigender persons.
I get that in the greater queer community, that might be called pansexual or polysexual. But I really want to reclaim the term bisexual and be proud of it instead of embarrassed by it.
I love that! I am definitely not ashamed of the term BI, just prefer to use poly. Acutally, I almost exclusively just say queer.
One quick note — the coverphoto, with photos of the AS writers who identify as bi, seems really brave to me.
Which is weird! Should it really have to feel like a “brave act” to reveal you’re bi on a website like this?! This is supposed to be a totally safe space!
So, I heart this.
You know what? It felt brave! When I volunteered to do this I didn’t think about a pic, but when the post went live and there it was I felt quite ‘whoa – wow – there it is, this feels like a big thing’. Which was a surprise.
Me too! I’ve already had several friends see it and ask me about it and I don’t even know why, but I got nervous about it. Everyone has been so supportive and earnest about their questions, though, and all the commenters here have been so great, I feel more excitement and pride than anything else.
Being in the cover photo for this open thread just makes me feel like I am part of the hottest squad in the world tbh. **brushes shoulders off**
I was struck by the picture too– like not only OMG I have wanted discussion of this, but also by the number of Autostraddle writers who felt this was relevant to them. I’m not sure how many of the people pictured are currently involved with men, but I guess I had figured that if this thread were relevant to that many staff then I would have seen more content in the past about how queerness affects relationships with men. <3 Thank you all for being awesome!
thank you too abbie!
this is a good point/question, and something we think about a lot! it gets into (for me at least) complicated questions of how to present oneself online/vulnerability/visibility/the constant process of coming out. i think one thing that occurs is that the bisexual people on staff don’t have a ton of overlap with people on staff who do a lot of personal writing — i’ve been with my male partner for the last four years, much of my time at AS, but i also don’t write a lot of personal essays, and when i do i don’t like to make them too revealing of the details of my life because it makes me feel very exposed. but then i also struggle with questions of bi visibility — is it my responsibility to be open about my current and past relationships to try to combat how prevalent bi invisibility is? is that my responsibility even if it’s contrary to my nature? where do we draw lines between responsibilities to community and boundaries for ourselves? it’s always hard!
it’s frustrating for me sometimes that i feel like i have to make an extra effort to make my bi identity clear; even though bi women make up a more significant portion of the population, i’m still assumed to be a lesbian in lgbt online media unless i explicitly come out as bi. hopefully someday we’ll move past that!
@abibelle as a bi writer on the site who is currently single af but very aware of how my past and future? relationships with men interlace with my queerness I really feel you. I always try to be open about my dude-dating when it’s relevant (e.g. http://www.autostraddle.com/a-guide-to-great-first-dates-for-gals-seeking-pals-293380/) but our content and mission are so focused on girl-on-girl culture that it sometimes feels like it doesn’t really fit — like, I would never write an essay specifically about my ex boyfriend on AS. But, I hope this open thread situation creates a springboard to talk more about dating men + queer identity and community!! I am really grateful to see the powerful, beautiful realness of everyone in this thread.
“I would never write an essay specifically about my ex-boyfriend on AS.” But the thing is it’s all part of the queer or bi experience right? Like your girlfriend might have thoughts on your ex-boyfriend, or that relationship might color your next relationship in some way, there are so many ways that our relationships with men and guys and transmasc. people affect and intersect with our relationships with women, so when we explicitly steer clear of writing about a major part of our experience, we should definitely look at why we’re doing that, ya know?
You know what is interesting is that I wrote a really personal essay about my partner and our sex life, but I guess I probably let everything think my partner is a woman, though I never said that. I have an A+ piece where I joke about “lesbian bed death” in the title (which is not real and which is also a joke that my partner and I would make about our relationship–both kind of IDing with lez culture). But my partner uses male pronouns and I dunno if that came through in the piece or not. I’d have to go back and look. But I imagine a lot of people assumed I was writing about a woman, though I never said that outright.
That reminds me of the giant sex survey you guys did I chose to interpret the “girl on girl sex” y’all were asking about as “queer vagina on vagina sex” because that was what my transmasculine partner and I had and I really wanted to be included in the survey ;-) But I remember there being a little bit of blowback around that, and the question of whether that was appropriate etc. But I was having the best sex I’d ever had and I wanted to be included!
KaeLyn, I actually assumed based on the ‘lesbian bed death’ joke that your partner was a woman! I know better now, but I’m curious about why you wrote the piece in the way you did and why I assumed, as a bi woman, that your partner must be a woman.
um. i definitely thought that this was a weird thing. i know like. one bisexual woman who is sort of dating a man but mostly not?? i live with a man and it is such a lonely feeling. does it have to be a personal essay, or can we make mention of a man/boy/whatever identified parter? or “my parter, whatstheirname”? idk. it feels good to feel like others are like you, or you are like others.
I also want to say that this is me, making myself available to talk! Hit me up on Autostraddle Social, tweet me, write me a letter, email, facebook, whatever! I want to be here for this amazing emerging community! (Where have you babes BEEN?!)
Love this. Something I’ve been thinking a lot about recently as someone who (at 24), hasn’t been in a serious relationship with anyone of any gender is how my desire to be taken “seriously” as someone who is bi/queer affects my decisions. On one hand, I tend to feel like I need to date more women to somehow prove that I’m not straight. On the other hand, I feel like when I’m talking about my sexuality, I’m constantly second guessing because I don’t want to be seen as someone who is trying ~too hard.~ Unsurprisingly, neither of these things are helping with my ability to feel comfortable dating anyone! Anyone have experience with this?
THIS IS ME. This is exactly how I feel!
I think this is so very common and you are definitely not alone. Thanks for voicing this here because I imagine a lot of people can relate.
If you took a peek at my sexual history, you’d see that I have dated almost exclusively men. There’s some variety within that word — straight men, bi men, poly men, gay men, cis men, trans men. But mostly men. At one point, I felt like I had something to prove because I haven’t been with that many women. I felt like I had to forcefully reorient myself towards women.
But if you looked at a chart of my attraction, it has been primarily to women and to people who are not on the gender binary. The fact that I’ve been with more men has more to do with heteronormative culture and how much easier it was to find and socially acceptable it has been to be with men. But I’m attracted to men, like 10% of the time or less. Most days, I’m 50% attracted to women, 10% attracted to men, and like 40% attracted to people who are gender non-conforming / non-binary / does not fit on the binary at all.
The fact that I don’t have a lot of experience with women doesn’t change who I am or how I feel about my queerness. Once I started taking my queerness seriously and stopped questioning it, everything else kind of fell into place. I don’t want to date anyone who doesn’t take my sexual orientation seriously, regardless of their gender. Why would I want to date someone like that? It can be a little harder to find folks who are not biphobic to date, but setting my standard firmly makes it so much easier to get out there.
I see myself in your story Kaelyn, and I have often felt like I had to ‘reorient’ myself to date more women. Internally I am more commonly attracted to women or non-binary and gender non-conforming folks, but my dating history is biased towards men, exactly because of the hetero-normative culture issue you describe. It was really validating to read your comment just now, and I’m all choked up, so thank you! :)
Yes, this soooo much! I only have experience with men, but that is not representative of my attraction at all.
@kaelynrich This is amazing. x
I so agree with this. It’s so hard to feel like you have to “prove” yourself in public (and to yourself, even) every single day.
Oh, my heart. I’m still trying to name and own my sexuality. For a long, long time I haven’t called myself bi, partly because I felt like I wasn’t “bi enough” – never having dated women – and partly out of my own internalized bi stigma. Queer politics has always been a cornerstone of my feminism and I’m very sex positive/sexually adventurous, but I stress over my sexual / romantic attractions not being perfectly equal in all realms. Like unless I was completely equal in my attraction and dating experience among all genders I couldn’t be bi.
I usually self describe as equal opportunity these days. I’m also super femme and because I’ve only had romantic relationships with men, it’s hard to convince people that I also like ladies. Even my dearest friend / lifemate, who could be described as rigidly straight, was really dismissive of me saying “but I WOULD date a lady.” She was just kind of like, vaginas gross. I was telling her about A Camp and she was like, but that’s for real lesbians. Even the smooching and fooling around I’d done with other girls in the past didn’t count in her opinion (probably because they were other “straight” friends of ours.)
After feeling like an old hand(job) at dating/boning men, dating ladies feels so intimidating. I wish I had some irl queer lady friends to dish with, but I’m also embarrassed at being 25 and a rookie. I know I should just own where I am but it’s still a process.
i feel this so, so hard (and i use “equal opportunity” also).
also just want to go on record saying that at a-camp we make sure to have a bisexuality workshop on the very first day to prove how many people who don’t identify strictly as homosexual we have (i’ve rewritten this sentence about ten times and i’m just leaving it like this).
i struggled with this for a REALLY LONG TIME and still struggle with it almost ten years after beginning to confront it. i don’t feel like i need to label myself or explain myself to anyone really anymore – you’re into who you’re into and that can change over time or not change at all and it really isn’t anyone else’s decision or business!
i did lol at old handjob. you’re gonna be fine.
Hi, I must say that I find a lot of myself in what you wrote.
I have a long history of dating only men, and people have always been dismissive when I talked about having had crushes on women as well. Even one of my best friends, who identifies as bi, made comments like “maybe it was just a phase” and “maybe you liked them only in a platonic way”. I made the mistake of never bringing up the topic again, as I somehow didn’t feel “entitled” to talk about my sexual orientation.
I must say that getting to know a queer friend who understands sexuality as fluid has given me a chance to open up, and I wish it for you as well. I also really understand the “25 and a rookie” feeling :) Anyway, this is my first comment ever and I hope it was helpful!
Heh, I’m 27 and a total rookie at dating women. *high five*
Woo! *high five*
31 and a rookie! No worries, you have plenty of time.
Gods, that makes me feel okay with myself, too.
Yeah, there’s this feeling that you kinda have to ‘prove you’re bi’ somehow, which is ridiculous.
Also 25 and a rookie! I vacillate between being embarrassed and mad at myself for taking to long to deal with my shit and come out, which is the worst because I beat myself up about beating myself up?? Brains are so dumb. It’s OK, we are all OK!
I’ve been on a few first dates with both men and women, never had any seconds (I’mma keep tryin’ tho). My question is, does the horrible awful feeling that you really don’t like women ever go away? Because I’ll be like “Who am I kidding I’m not bi lol I’m a joke” and then I’ll see a pretty girl and go “OH WOW HEY U SINGLE?” and then five minutes later its back to “Lol nah I’m straight right who am I kidding hahahaha” :(
It took me awhile, and sometimes I still get that feeling, like ” hey, you are just doing this to punish your parents, or probably everyone is attracted to women a little bit and you are being silly by making it a major part of your identity.” Honestly the thing that helped me, personally, the most get over that, was actually going to queer events and flirting with girls who I knew also liked girls. It felt validating to be realize that I was into women outside of my imagination.
Thank you for your reply! I would really like to go to more queer events but I feel like many involve alcohol/bars/loud music (I don’t drink but w/e if others do) and many are also in SF which is a 2+ hour drive from me. I DID go to SF PRIDE tho and that was fun, but I didn’t do much talking to other queer people. I’ll be on the lookout for queer events tho.
That is just your internalized bi repression etc etc talking! Sadly for me it still hasn’t gone away fully but I think gradually you will learn to love yourself and that will help you know who you are, which is an awesome queer/bi/whatever labels you prefer/no labels if you want/person who doesn’t have to define herself, even to herself!
I’m cheering you on for that second date!!
Thank you for your comment! It’s so hard to fight the inernalized biphobia but I will keep trying! And thank you I hope I get that second date too…I wanna kiss a girl! And a boy! I mean not at the same time but…you get it!
LOL you could do it at the same time, that would be one hell of a first date!
lmao if I was poly, sure!
It also took me a while. The main thing that’s helped is remembering every time I felt a “meh” reaction in response to a romantic or sexual interaction with a dude–I’ve had tons of those, and they never made me feel like maybe I didn’t really like men as a whole, and that’s largely because I was taught from day one that I was a girl and that meant I liked boys. I expect to like men, whether I happen to like individual men or not. An individual man not giving me All The Feels doesn’t call into question my entire capacity for attraction to men or to masculinity. I didn’t get that same conditioning around women or more feminine people, and for me that’s a lot of where the second-guessing comes from, I think.
Whoa I absolutely feel you on this.
Oh, wow. THIS. I question it ALL the time, and for me it stems from an insecurity about how much I may be affected by the media. Like, women are sexualized SO much… how do I know whether I’m actually attracted to women, or whether I just have this sick internalized subconscious need to sexualize women because it’s been so ingrained?
But then I remember I’ve had all the feels for a few women, as well as sexual attraction, and I know my sexuality is real. It’s real, dammit! :)
Huge +1. Thank you so much for voicing this. I struggle with this all the time.
That is a thing I have wondered/worried about too!
This is so real. And related to how people sometimes dismiss (or try to support) bisexuality by saying something like, “Everyone is a little bit bi.” But ya’ know what? Everyone is not. A LOT of people are. We’re the biggest sexual orientation statistically in the LGBQ rainbow, but there are people (I married such a person) who are only attracted to one gender. And for me, that drives home that I really am bi/queer, because I’m definitely attracted to many many genders.
Thank you KaeLyn! Remember the fact that there are people who are only attracted to one gender helps so much. This is who I am, and my feelings/attractions are real and valid.
Dang, seeing that so many people feel like this too feels soooo weird. Even after all this time… I kinda thought it was just me? Thank you all so much for speaking up.
This is great to have as a thread! One of my favorite Autostraddle-y spaces is actually The Speakeasy facebook group, the private space for Queer/Trans People of Color to share with each other on an on-going basis. Maybe we can also have a facebook group for this fine group of folks… it clearly looks like we’re hungry for it! I know I would love to know that I have the space to go to when the ish hits the fan and this thread is lost in time.
That would be amazing
there are at least one or two in existence! but man i love commenting on this website
I would love that too!
It exists already. Search for Autostraddle & A-Camp Bisexuals. But I would love if we could continue the convo on the website, too, because not everyone is on Facebook.
I agree – let’s make this more of a thing here on Autostraddle, this is the queerest and most bi-positive online space I know :)
Yass ❤️❤️ please
100% agree Penney! I so, so need a group like that and judging from the hundreds of comments in this thread we are not alone!
LOVE this idea. I can’t read all these comments to find out, but if you or anyone creates this, please let me know.
I am in the middle of cleaning my apartment for a big stressful move across the country, and I dropped everything when I saw this thread come up on my phone. I felt like crying when I saw the title “We See You.” I love Autostraddle so much, and it was a big part of me coming out as bi/queer, but so often I feel like because my life partner is a man I somehow am not allowed to be on here. I even skipped my town’s Autostraddle meetups because I felt like too much of a fraud to go. I feel like I have a big secret and any time I comment or try to participate actively as a member of the queer scene, including on here, I am scared someone is going to “call me out,” like say, “Hey! You’re not a lesbian! You’re dating a guy! You mostly present as femme! If someone just saw you on the street they’d think you were straight. You don’t know what it’s like. You’re a fake.”
Logically, I am sure this is just my internalized bi-invisibility talking, but it’s something I think about a lot and that hurts me. Being queer is a big part of my identity but it’s hard when I constantly feel like a fake for that part of me.
Side note: my partner is very supportive and accepting of all aspects of my personality, including my queerness, so that isn’t the issue I imagine it is for some people.
THANK YOU THANK YOU THANK YOU for the shout-out, and for making me feel “seen,” at least for a minute!!!
Gah this is so great. Real talk, when I first started writing here, I spent a lot of time referring to my “partner” and policing my pronouns because I wanted to be one of the cool kids. But I slowly began to realize that we have a hefty amount of bisexual or otherwise not exactly totally lez readers who are doing the same thing! And that’s not cool! We try not to talk about men a lot on this site because, well, men take up a lot of internet space already and this is a site for women who love women. But still! I think it’s so important to recognize that a lot of those women are also having sex with men which brings along with it a whole host of topics specific to bisexuals that need to be discussed: sexual health, mental health, visibility issues, love life advice etc! I’m really proud that we’re trying to make that happen here.
I still use the term ‘partner’, and I definitely started doing this to be accepted during conversations in lesbian spaces. Now I just like it. It feels official to me and maybe even implies a nuanced sexuality.
AKA KEEP ‘EM GUESSIN
Me too. I wrote a comment about it in reply to someone else, but for me using “partner” is a way of hanging onto my queerness because of what third parties immediately assume about you when they hear the word boyfriend or husband.
I love keeping them guessing! I’m just starting to think about joining queer groups, thanks to a poster I need to find and thank (when I saw her post, the site was down, bah!), but meanwhile at work and with people I’m getting to know, he’s my partner and while part of it is that we are partnered and I’m not in a rush to get married, part of it is also about challenging people.
Yeah, I totally relate. When I meet people (queer or not) I always use “partner” until it becomes awkward, because I have a NEED to be read as queer since it’s very (perhaps too) central to my identity. I’m almost always read as lesbian/queer, so I try to let people solidify that idea in their heads by using the word “partner” and then shocking them by clarifying his gender at some point. That way I don’t get read as straight but also don’t have to have a big conversation about which genders I’m attracted to and how I identify unless I want to.
Oh man, I definitely identify with the “feeling fake” thing. I felt like a “fraud” for so many years! And I felt guilty for passing as straight.
I wish so much there was some sort of magical potion I could give you to stop feeling that way! Because you’re not a fraud and you don’t need to feel guilty. You have every right to be here, and at the AS meetups, and everywhere. You deserve happiness and also to feel a sense of connection with your bi and queer community! You do!
this feeling is so present for so many people! i’m sorry you’re struggling with it! there’s obviously a lot to unpack here, which i think we’re all working on, but to start i think it’s so important to remember that none of us are alone, none of us are the only one. when you do eventually feel ready to go to that AS meetup, you’ll find other bi women there too, some of whom are also with men! we’re everywhere, i promise, there are more of us than you think, and we are ready to support each other!
I’m also in the middle of packing for a big move on Saturday and dropped everything to participate in this thread!
Me too! It’s especially appropriate, because I’m moving in with a man. And I definitely refer to him as my partner to keep ’em guessing.
Me too me too to literally everything you said (including the cleaning my apartment for impending move across the country part)!
Also, I am really happy that I am (and you are) not alone in feeling like a “fake queer” sometimes. Internalized biphobia sucks. *internet hug*
Wow, are you in my brain? <3
This post made me cry. I identify with all of this. I still have not come out to my family or friends. Aside from 2 very dear close friends, my partner who is male, and my co-worker (who idententifies as lesbian), no one else knows.
I feel almost in a way that I can’t? That no one will take me seriously. I don’t know if I ever will tell my family to be honest. They are super Catholic and would never understand. Especially since outwardly I appear straight.
I do not ever intend to leave my fiance….so there’s also this part of me that sees women I am attracted to and aches for that experience. I have never been with a woman before but the past few years I’ve come to know this side of myself and am struggling with how to identify myself as both bi and poly seem to fit the way I feel.
I don’t have anything specific to add, but I’m pumped to see that this thread exists. I’m a (gender)queer afab person who is engaged to a queer cis man. Yay AS for creating safe spaces for queers of all shades!
yay for YOU katherine! <3
Also, congratulations! <3
One thing about being bisexual is that it’s such a double-edged sword. If you’re bi and with