- In my experience, bisexual people can be seen as both not “gay enough” and not “straight enough.”
- I experience straight-passing privilege in my relationship and have questioned my right to queer spaces.
- However, I have learned that my sexuality does not depend on my partner’s gender.
Exploring and understanding my bisexuality has been a lifelong journey; one that came to life in the European gay bars when I lived abroad in 2019.
As I made new friends, danced to Beyoncé songs, and watched drag queens take over the stage every Tuesday night, I felt free. I was unapologetically myself, and the sweaty strangers around me loved and accepted me for it.
After returning to the US, I wanted to find my first girlfriend. I didn’t expect that a few months later I would start a long-term relationship with a straight man.
With my newfound happiness came a slew of questions. Will I still be accepted in queer spaces? How will I deal with people assuming that I’m straight, simply because of my partner’s gender?
Bisexual people often exist in a gray area, simultaneously ostracized by the LGBTQ+ community as not “gay enough” and heterosexual people as not “straight enough.” That may explain why, according to one recent study, most bisexual people say their friends and family don’t know their sexuality.
However, my “gay side” and my “straight side” do not compete. They coexist, regardless of my partner’s gender.
I have learned to embrace the complexities of my identity within my relationship. Here are the lessons I’ve picked up along the way.
It’s OK to feel uncomfortable with my sexuality
I experience straight-passing privilege. This means that most people assume I am a straight woman in a heterosexual relationship.
But that also means the erasure of my bisexuality. Several friends and family members have asked me if I’m no longer bisexual since I’m dating a man. I know they don’t mean to hurt me, but these misconceptions force me to constantly prove my sexuality.
With the help of my therapist, I have learned that my discomfort about being in a straight-passing relationship doesn’t invalidate the strength it took to come out or the joy I’ve found in queer spaces. It’s normal to not always feel confident in your identity. After all, sexuality is a spectrum that changes as we evolve with it.
So, don’t hide your discomfort. Use it to spark conversations with your partner. Find a solution that helps you feel secure in your identity, whether that’s watching “RuPaul’s Drag Race” together or going to a Pride parade.
Why I prefer ‘partner’ over ‘boyfriend’
When I started my relationship, I felt uncomfortable with the term “boyfriend.” It refers to my love for my significant other, but not my love for my sexuality and how it shaped me into who I am.
For me, “partner” leaves room for ambiguity. If I mention my partner to someone I just met, they might ask what “his or her” name is or what “their” name is. It provides space to explain my relationship in my own words.
A language change is simple, but its impacts are broad. Using “partner” instead of “boyfriend” helped to ease the internal battle between my queer identity and the man that I love. It may not solve everything, but it helps me feel connected to the queer community and secure in my sexuality.
I have the right to queer spaces like any member of the LGBTQ+ community
In June, I went to a gay bar for the first time since before the COVID-19 pandemic. My past experiences in LGBTQ+ bars involved dancing, drinking, and, if I was lucky, meeting a woman who felt as attracted to me as I felt towards her. This time was different.
I entered the bar as a bisexual woman in a straight relationship, unsure if I would be accepted in the same spaces that taught me to love myself and my sexuality.
Thankfully, I was wrong. I hopped between three bars in Chicago’s LGBTQ+ neighborhood with my friends, one bisexual woman and two straight men. At the third bar, we chatted with a drag queen who pointed to my guy friends and joked, “These are the straight ones, right?” I realized that if my straight male friends can be welcomed in these spaces, then there’s no reason why I shouldn’t be.
After reflecting on that night, I discovered the internalized biphobia that hid in the corners of my mind. I believed I needed to prove my sexuality to belong in queer spaces. I was so scared of my identity being erased that I had convinced myself it already was.
But after many brain dumps in my journal and conversations with my partner, I no longer allow these fears to drag me down.
My sexuality does not depend on my partner’s gender
This is the most important lesson, but also the most difficult one to accept.
Dating a man has not diminished my queerness. It has helped me understand it in a different light. I am a strong bisexual woman, and being in a straight relationship with a man I love does not change that.