“Passing as straight is a real privilege”
Many bisexual people feel that the B in LGBTQIA represents an identity that is often overlooked or dismissed as a ‘phase’. In the 2014 census, a quarter of a million people defined themselves as homosexual, and another quarter of a million defined themselves as bisexual, and these numbers are continuing to grow each year. Even though these groups are equal in size, many bisexual people feel out of place in both the straight and queer worlds.
“There’s a stereotype that bisexual people are selfish, indecisive, and you just want it all” – Sarah, 24 year old Social Work student
Having struggled throughout her teens with feelings of being attracted to both men and women, she recently acknowledged that this was a permanent and important part of her life.
“When I was younger and I was questioning my identity, my male partners were threatened by it and they would pretty much shut it down. They would say, how can that be when you and I are together? But this is me for life. I can’t imagine being different. Even if I dated a man for years and years it still means I’m bisexual. I’m still attracted to women. It’s not about who I’m currently with, it’s about who I am”.
Sarah says she hasn’t come out to many people, and that most people’s reactions were underwhelming. “It seems like it doesn’t change that much, but it’s actually a really big thing for me. I didn’t get a lot of support”. She hasn’t come out to her family, “because my mum’s really catholic”, or to anyone at her workplace, “because you just never know”.
She says she’s also received a surprising lack of support from the queer community. “When I hang out with queer friends there’s a sense I’m not able to participate in certain conversations. And sometimes that’s really valid because passing as straight is a real privilege. And rightly so I can’t speak to the level of discrimination that they face. But the queer world can also feel very exclusive, and I often feel like a fraud, like a visitor rather than a member.”
“Maybe it’s my own internalised bi-phobia, but there’s this sense that you’re not truly queer because you have this portal to another world, to the straight world, a way that you could escape from all the discrimination”.
Reflecting a growing movement amongst millennials, Sarah says that she prefers to describe herself as ‘queer’ rather than bisexual. “Bisexual solidifies the binary gender dynamic while queer is more all-encompassing of diverse relationships and non-normative arrangements like polyamory“.
Sarah says that defining your identity is extremely hard for people who don’t fit neatly into a category. “I felt really stuck. I knew I was still interested in men, so it’s almost like because I wasn’t stepping out of society’s norms entirely, I couldn’t be queer, and I couldn’t explore any of that world. The lack of acceptance in the queer community repressed that even more.”
“You have to try hard to believe in yourself that you do have a place in that community. You have to be strong in yourself to know that you belong there”