I’m a Bisexual Girl Dating a Guy— And No, I Haven’t “Picked a Side”

“It’s just a phase.” “Are you sure you’re not just gay, dude?” “It’s okay that you want to experiment.” “So…are you down for a three-way?”  

Unfortunately for a lot of bisexual people, these microaggressions (as well as many others) are not unfamiliar. Bisexuality is heavily stigmatized both by people within the queer community and outside of it. To many straight people, we’re greedy, promiscuous, looking for attention, or making some “wild” college memories. And to many gay people, we’re struggling with internalized homophobia, using the label bi as a stepping stone until we figure ourselves out. Regardless of who is trying to invalidate us at any given moment, these people claim to know more about our identities, about who we love, and what language we use to convey that, than we do. They claim to be the masters of these intimate parts of our lives, and whether they are reacting based on their own internalized homophobia, negative controlling images presented of bi people by the media, or other personal experiences, no one understands bisexuality better than…bi people (duh!). Unfortunately, this presumption that others have that bi people are “just confused” can make bisexuality a lonely label. When I first came out, I sometimes felt like I was constantly toeing a line between two communities that I would never fully belong to. I felt “too gay” to be comfortable in straight spaces, and “too straight” to be comfortable in queer ones. I distinctly remember joining a group chat after being accepted to BU that was for queer incoming freshman, excited to break out of my small Pennsylvania town and finally meet people like me, and then immediately unadding myself from the chat. I was in a straight-passing relationship at the time, and besides, I wasn’t “really gay.” Did a bi girl with a boyfriend really deserve a place in that community? I didn’t think I did at the time. In all honesty, I had no idea where I belonged. I felt like an imposter in my own community.  Photo Credit: Jules Bulafka

Taken at a Hayley Kiyoko concert in August 2018, just before my freshman year of college

It’s crazy to me to think back on that memory of that scared college freshman who had just cut off her long hair and bought her first men’s tee shirt, desperately trying to feel comfortable in her unfamiliar skin. I remember how scared I was that I’d get to college and still feel my bisexuality was like a puzzle piece with too many edges, never quite snapping into place amongst my peers. I did find my place though. Maybe it was a product of settling into myself as I grew older, or being exposed to new and validating forms of queer media that introduced me to a whole community of people who felt like I did, or who didn’t but understood what it was to have an identity that others falsely presume to understand. Likely, it was the incredible friends I made once I got to campus, many of whom identify as bi themselves and who made me feel safe and accepted unconditionally. I stopped feeling like I had to explain myself, or like I had to perform some version of queerness that other people could easily understand. The more I came to understand myself, the less it mattered when other people didn’t. 

Photo Credit: Jules Bulafka

Unfortunately, getting over my own internalized biphobia didn’t stop others from being biphobic towards me (a shocker, I know). I’ve found that a lot of the microaggressions I’ve experienced have come from close friends in the form of jokes, which only make them that much harder to shut down. Whether it was a straight friend in high school quipping, “Don’t sit next to Jules today, she’s wearing her ‘lesbian flannel’ and might go after you,” or a queer friend in college and her constant comments about how I “don’t dress gay enough,” I still find myself toeing that line between straight and queer spaces, and feeling a little too far removed from both of them. However, I no longer let that stop me from taking pride in my queer identity. It seems a little absurd to have to defend my right to exist within the LGBTQ community when the initial of my identity literally comprises its name, but the stigma surrounding bisexuality continues to push bi people out of queer spaces. I’ve found this to be especially true since I started dating my current boyfriend. Being in a straight-passing relationship opens the door for a thousand clever comments, again, many coming from friends, that invalidate my identity in the context of my new relationship. “Oh, I forgot you’re not gay anymore, you’ve clearly picked boys.” “Bisexual…where? I only see a straight couple.” I wish I could say that these comments leave me unfazed, my own pride giving me rose-colored (or pink, purple, and blue-colored, if you will) glasses to block out the biphobia— but more often than not, they call up images of that nervous high schooler, struggling with these confusing labels of “straight” and “gay,” wishing for a comfortable space to exist in between them. But when biphobia comes in the form of jokes from people you care about, it becomes harder to stand up to. When the people policing your gender expression and your sexuality are your friends, biphobia isn’t this big evil concept that manifests in high school bullies or strangers on the street–it’s a quip about your clothing here, a joke about your relationship there, comments that are usually without malicious intent, but that are internalized anyway. This nuanced way of looking at biphobic microaggressions makes it a lot easier to understand why they’re not okay. They may be your friend, and they may have laughed along with the group when you said it, but that doesn’t mean you’re allowed to make jokes at the expense of their identity.  

So yes, I am bisexual, and yes, I am dating a man. But that doesn’t mean I’ve “picked a side.” I wasn’t kidding myself before when I said I liked girls, and my identity was never an experiment. I am not in a “straight relationship” because I am not straight, and although the joke has certainly been made, my bisexuality doesn’t “cancel out” because of my partner.

But most importantly— I don’t need to explain these things, because regardless of what you might think you know about bisexuality, no one understands my identity better than I do.

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