Op-ed: Why 'Bi' Is So Tough to Say
I have trouble saying I’m bisexual.
No, it’s not because I’m actually straight or because I’m actually gay but because of the inevitable “bi now, gay later” response or dramatic eye roll that happens when I come out. The truth is, I do identify as bisexual and I have for as long as I could remember.
When I was in elementary school I was called “gay” or “faggot,” but all my crushes at that time were on girls. It wasn’t until high school that I realized guys were also smokin’ hot (I attribute this to the fact girls hit puberty before guys, but who knows!) and that I was attracted to them too.
I was 13 years old and I thought everyone just chose between being gay or straight. After Google-searching about sexuality, I found the term bisexual, and I’m pretty sure the heavens opened up and the angels sang. That word made sense to me. I was sexually and romantically attracted to both men and women. Up until then I thought I was a freak. When I came out as bisexual at 13, everyone apparently still thought I was a freak.
It didn’t get much easier when I finally understood my sexuality. If anything, it got harder. A lot harder. Bullies would call me “gay” and I would defiantly respond, “No, I’m not. I’m bisexual,” only to have a confused teenage bully looking at me as if the word bisexual was some foreign language. Thirty seconds later I would get a “Whatever, faggot,” and the same scenario would repeat the next day.
As I got older, so did the bullies. Except this time it was both straight and gay people who decided to have a go at me for my sexuality. I didn’t feel quite accepted by straight people, who continually mislabeled me as gay, and gay people thought it was weird that I dated girls. Talk about no-man’s-land.
I would avoid saying I'm bisexual, but somehow it would always come up. I would be talking about my ex-girlfriend to a group of my gay friends, purposefully avoiding any pronoun hints, until they misgendered her and I would have to correct them. They would assume that was, you know, before coming out of the closet. When they found out it wasn’t, it was like they found a real live unicorn.
Well, call me a unicorn, because I’m bisexual.
The first piece I wrote for The Advocate was an op-ed on being Christian and a part of the LGBT population. Knowing that religion was a controversial topic to be discussing with people who has been villianized by religion; I decided to say queer over bi.
Yes, I titled my piece “Christian and Queer,” knowing that I would receive harsh comments about my religious beliefs and that I didn’t want the added biphobic comments. Don’t get me wrong, I’m a queer man. But I’m a bisexual man. Bisexuality better communicates my sexual identity. I opted for a more socially accepted term for the LGBT community. Although “queer” is technically accurate, it’s not how I identify from day to day.
You would think that the place I felt most comfortable sharing my sexual identity would be on an LGBT platform. But just from my few first posts as The Advocate’s bisexual correspondent, I’ve seen the exact comments I feared in the Facebook posts and article comments.
We’ve fought so hard to break free and be accepted outside of the heteronormative binary boxes only to create our own homonormative binary boxes.
But not all of us fit into those boxes. I would say most of us don’t. And boxes are only good for containment, and that goes against what we as a community fight for: the right to expression, self-identification, and acceptance.
I have trouble saying I’m bi, not because I don’t think I’m bi but because of the things members from my own community will say and do in reaction. I realize this may sound like a soapbox, and you know what — maybe it is. Because within our entire community, each of us has been fighting for validation since the day we realized we were queer. We’ve been fighting for the right to be heard and to be seen for who we truly are. I’ve been fighting for that too, except some of my main opponents have been people I should be able to call my brothers and sisters.
ELIEL CRUZ is a writer on issues related to bisexuality. In addition to The Advocate, Eliel frequently writes on the topics of sexuality, religion, pop culture, and media at The Huffington Post, Believe Out Loud, and Policymic. He is currently seeking a dual degree in international business and French studies at Andrews University. You can find Eliel at Facebook.com/elielcruzwrites