Last week was Bi Visibility Week; a glorious time in which the purple unicorns become visible to the non-purple, non-unicorn masses. I am one of those purple unicorns. And no matter how hard I prance, and flick my horn, and toss my mane, sometimes it still feels as though the only thing I’m visible to are my fellow unicorns and a brick wall.
I first began identifying as bisexual when I was seventeen, and, no matter how many times the ‘this is a phase’ and ‘one day you will pick a side’ assertions were drilled against me, I am still here eight years later proclaiming the same thing.
The only difference is that these days I am more likely to use ‘queer’ to refer to myself than ‘bisexual’ (hello, title of the blog!). I don’t know when that particular transition happened – maybe it’s because, having never had a relationship, I felt somehow unworthy of taking ‘bisexual’ as my moniker; or maybe its because the very essence of the word ‘queer’, difference and weirdness, just sums me up a little better than ‘bisexual’. For whatever reason, it was a natural progression, and I’m comfortable draping myself in both terms with pride.
But the sad fact is that, no matter how hard I tried to wave my flag, there has always been someone looking to tear it down. Whether it be straight family members laughing it off, or asking whether I really had to come out, or whether it be gay people I meet in the community making me feel unwelcome, unwanted, and treacherous, someone has always been there trying to put out my purple-hued flame.
Hell, the president of my university’s LGBT+ Association once told me I shouldn’t try and talk to my newly out friend about what he was going through; his rationale being that I didn’t understand because a) it’s easier to come out as a woman and b) I only came out as bisexual which just ‘isn’t the same’.
Holy misogyny and biphobia, Batman!
For queer people who don’t fall into a neat pocket of the Kinsey scale, life can be full of rejection, belittlement and a sense of not belonging – often at the most vulnerable times of their lives, when they need the loving supporting hand of a community who truly cares, there isn’t anyone in either direction they can reach out to. And it’s heartbreaking.
I’ve heard it said, very much more than once, that bisexuality (or any orientation that includes more than one gender identity) is some sort of ‘gay lite’ – that, okay, we get some of the shit, but we don’t go the whole hog and draw full societal oppression down upon us.
It makes me wonder, as I hover my keyboard or stand with my mouth open in irritated disbelief, how these people would react to the response that, as a group, bisexual people are more likely to the victims of intimate partner abuse, more likely to suffer from mental illness, and more likely to live in poverty*. There don’t seem to be any definitive answers on why exactly that is, but I would place money on the fact that it is to do with the double-rejection we often face: from straight society, because straight society has always been pretty damning to anyone even marginally straying from the heterosexual ideal, and then again from the gay community we turn to as our own.
Invisibility and erasure are their own very special kinds of hell. And I’ve been there.
I’ve already talked about my mixed feelings regarding Pride, and the love-hate relationship I have with what should be a time for me to honour the struggles of those who came before me and celebrate my own victory over personal struggle. This reaction is tied to my bisexuality. It’s also tied to my neurodiversity.
You can imagine the awkwardness of being a not-altogether-neurotypical queer on top of a not-altogether-gay queer.
I often hold my queerness hand in hand with my autism. They are two intrinsic, overlapping parts of me. Maybe I embraced a queer, bisexual identity because I never understood or cared to understand the strict rules that society tried desperately to impose. Maybe the fences that divide up my world are simply different from those of mainstream neurotypical society.
Whatever the connecting points, the two are undeniably linked. They are what make me beautiful and unique. They are also what paints a target on my head. They are the reason I keep going and try to make a positive mark in this world; they are also the reason I am at fair greater risk of abuse, violence, poverty and an early death.
Sometimes, in both the straight world and the queer world, I feel like a double anomaly. I stand out because I’m bi. I stand out because I’m autistic. The two beams join together to make a single spotlight.
And there are times when that has been really difficult for me. There are times when it is still really difficult for me.
But I’ve also learnt to love it. To sing in it. To dance in it. And to celebrate.