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Q: I am a person who dates both ladies and non-lady persons, and my person of choice right now is a young man who I met through a girl I used to date. As in, we went on 4-5 dates. And then fell comfortably into acquaintances. We have dated multiple people since each other, and she is dating a young woman who is friendly with me and my partner. So lady person a (that I used to date) and girlfriend were invited over to the apartment where I live with my partner. Lady person A is a lesbian identified person, but she has a lot of opinions on bisexuality. Cliff notes: “Make up your mind. “Queer” as an identity is a copout. People who alternate between men and women are just bored.” Any perceived pattern in my dating life is because bisexual persons are skanky. Or slutty. She liked both those words.
So I tried to brush that shit under the rug — it happened a long time ago and she was drunk. But while in my home, Lady person A made disparaging comments about me. I am not ashamed of my choices — I have had amazing experiences with wonderful people. I do resent feeling like a joke because of bisexuality hate. I reject the idea of sluttiness as a character flaw, but I can’t help feel the sting when it’s used as an insult against me. Even if I don’t think it’s wrong, it sucks for someone to pass judgment like that. I still consider her my friend, so I’m having difficulty understanding why she would say something meant to be hurtful like that. How do I react next time I hear something like that? What do I say to her next time she says something like that? I spoke to my partner and he was supportive, but didn’t have much input. Why must I defend my sexuality?
A: Well this person seems like a real charmer! Very fun at parties. I’m so sorry you had this experience! Let’s figure out how you can try to not have it again.
Okay, so: this girl you dated clearly has issues. If she’s dating people whose identity she fundamentally objects to, it either means she is the kind of person who enjoys dating people she feels superior to and/or she has lots of issues with self-loathing, both of which are her own problem. Either way, she has something going on: having weird opinions about bisexuality is one thing, needing to share them with you when you’re in your home points to something else, a desire to specifically needle you because it makes her feel better about something, somehow. Does this have to do with somehow resenting you for dating a dude after having dated her? I don’t know! That is also ultimately her own problem, not yours. I know it’s tempting to try to reverse engineer her thinking and try to find out why on earth she would be like this, but the job of figuring out why someone is biphobic and feels the need to rub your face in it shouldn’t be yours; it should be hers.
So we’ve established it’s her problem, but it seems like she’s trying to make it your problem by bringing it up constantly. What are your options?
First of all, I think it would be helpful to really and truly ask yourself this question: how much do you really want this person in your life? Is there anything about spending time with her that’s positive or redemptive, outside of the fact that you consider her a friend and have mutual friends? If you know deep down that you don’t really get much out of this friendship, or that its positives are outweighed by having to listen to her be incredibly rude to you, I fully recommend just letting her go, like a goldfish into the sea. You don’t have to invite her places, make a point of saying hi to her if you see her, respond to her facebook events, anything. If she asks, you can either play dumb — “Ohmigod I totally miss you too! Let’s definitely get coffee sometime soon!” — or be honest and say “Hanging out with you wasn’t really fun anymore because you kept calling me slutty and making fun of me. If you’re done doing that, let me know and we can hang out again.” I realize the social universe you and this girl inhabit may be small, and it may feel impossible to really avoid anyone, but have faith! I went to a very small MFA program of about a dozen people, and by the end of it I had managed to completely stop talking to the one person who turned every conversation into an explanation of why you didn’t know as much about Marxism and/or RuPaul’s Drag Race as them. The key is to engage as little as possible, and to politely deploy monosyllables until you can exit the situation. Eventually they’ll take the hint.
Okay, that’s all fine, but what if you actually want to be friends with this person? Maybe she is somehow pretty stellar when she’s not telling you that you’re a slutty greedy jerk who is both bored too easily and incapable of choosing a side, I don’t know. If that’s the case, and you want to salvage this relationship and turn it into something that doesn’t make you want to flee civilization and join a family of voles, then you’ll have to change the dynamic of this interaction.
Right now, this girl is making you feel like you have to defend your sexuality — I can tell because you asked “Why must I defend my sexuality?”. The key here is to remember that you don’t have anything to be defensive about; your sexuality is totally normal and fine. The only person who should be on the defensive is her, because her attitudes are ridiculous and poisonous. So with that established, that’s the dynamic to push for: don’t let the conversation center around your identity and choices, but hers. Put the spotlight on her behavior, and push her to be the one providing explanations. Next time she says something like that, here are some possibilities to respond with:
“Wow, so you’re just super uncomfortable with bisexual people, huh?”
“So you just really can’t get over who I’ve slept with? Like, you’re still thinking about it?”
“You sure talk about this a lot. It’s like a really big deal to you, isn’t it?”
“Do you ever worry about how you sound when you just go on and on about bisexuality like this?”
“Why do you think you can’t let go of this stuff for even just one evening while we all hang out? What’s going on there?”
“Do you do this to other bisexual people, or just me?”
“Do you ever feel like you should have warned me about how you feel about bisexual girls before we dated?”
If these things sound uncomfortable to say out loud, especially in front of other people, I get that, but I also promise the moment will be way more uncomfortable for her. (If actually asking her a question or opening up a conversation is too scary, you can also use my other tried and true line: “Wow, this seems really hard for you, that you have to [be in the same room as a bisexual person].” This has pretty successful rates of shutting the person up and ending the conversation for the time being.)
To employ some playground psychology for a second, the reason this person is pulling this shit to your face and in front of other people, instead of behind your back like a normal jerk, is because it makes her feel good in some way. She feels powerful, or like a Better Queer Person, or in control of the situation. If your response instead puts her in the hot seat and makes her feel uncomfortable, she won’t get that emotional payoff anymore. Harassing you will become way less appealing, and she will likely find another hobby, like taxidermy. Will this successfully educate her about the validity of bisexual identity? Probably not, but you know the old adage about the lightbulb wanting to be changed. Also it sounds like educating this girl would be a full-time job, and you have a life to live — if she really wants to learn about why she’s wrong, there are plenty of free resources she can turn to on her own time.
The bottom line is there are so many great people on earth you could be spending time with — or at least people who can sit through a single episode of Adventure Time with you without having to spout vile accusations about your character and sexual orientation. You deserve that experience; having your social interactions not make you feel actively shitty should not be too much to ask. Next time somebody wants to goad you into providing an explanation of your entire sexual orientation, make it clear that you’ll be happy to, right after they explain why they’re such an asshole.
In order to make sure that the comments section on this article is a healthy and welcoming place for our bisexual readers, please note that any comments that question the validity of bisexuality or sexual fluidity as a sexual orientation, question Autostraddle’s decision to publish pieces discussing bisexuality, or make essentialist claims about bisexual people (ex. bisexuals are cheaters, bisexuals turn out to be gay) will be swiftly deleted.