Labels on my soul: “bisexual/queer”

Truth be told, I don’t know what to tell you about this. It’s all more or less in the title – I’m bisexual, and I identify as queer.

The first person I ever came out to was my mother. She was shocked, but I think she’s come to terms with it over time. Of course, I’ve never had a girlfriend or even so much as kissed a girl, so maybe that’s why she’s been able to take it in stride with such admirable aplomb – but I like to think that such a caring, loving and compassionate woman as my mother would support me no matter what.

Not everyone is so lucky. I could quote you statistics about the suicide rates amongst queer youth, but you’ve probably already heard all the numbers. As it stands, young queer people, particularly those in rural or conservative areas, face incredible societal and familial pressures that drive them to depression, self-harm and sometimes even suicide in an attempt to escape the bullying and ostracism they experience. In that sense, I’ve been blessed – no matter what, I’ve always had at least one family member who’s loved me and accepted me as I am, no caveats. I wish I could say the same for many friends of mine, and it hurts me that I can’t.

Being bisexual comes with its own set of damaging stereotypes. We’re serial cheaters; we’re unable to commit to monogamous relationships; we’re gay people who don’t want to come out of the closet or straight people looking for attention; we’re greedy; we can’t control our promiscuity; we’re sex-addicts who want the best of both worlds. Leaving aside the stigmatisation of poly relationships and casual sex implicit in biphobic stereotypes, the portrayals of bisexual in popular media and within society paint us as little more than sex-crazed sociopaths. When people find out I’m bisexual, they want to know how many partners I’ve had (two, both men), if I’m doing it for the attention (yeah, I just love it when creepy old guys tell me they see me as a fetish object), whether I’m “secretly gay” (my love of sex with men would suggest otherwise, but maybe I’m just in denial?). They’ll tell me I “have the best of both worlds” with a nudge and a wink, as though I made the choice to broaden my sexual prospects by deciding to become attracted to women – as though that’s a choice I could make. They imply that I’m selfish, ask me if my boyfriend “minds” (because as the owner of my sexuality, it’s ultimately up to him, right?), act as though I’ll attempt to molest them at any moment. Yes, there are a surprising number of things people believe about bisexual people, and as with many of the stereotypes surrounding queer folks, almost none of them are true.

Here is the truth about me:

I am attracted to men and women. I’m interested in both sex and relationships with men and women. It does not particularly matter to me whether said people are cis, binary trans* or gender-non-conforming – attraction is not, in my case, contingent on the gender of the person to whom I’m attracted. I am monogamous and uninterested in poly relationships, though I’m not unopposed to exploring sex with other women as long as my partner is involved. No, I’m not “greedy”. No, I’m not a sex addict. (Well…okay. I’m a bit of a sex addict, but no more than plenty of heterosexual women are!) No, I didn’t choose this so that I could have the “best of both worlds”. This is just how I am. It doesn’t make me better than anyone, but it doesn’t make me worse, either. And while I will probably flirt with you, rest assured that I’m not going to force my queerness on you. Bisexual people are just as capable of respecting your limits and boundaries as anyone else.

I like the term “queer” because it’s a word that can have many meanings. I identify as queer because my sexuality is not as simple as being attracted solely to cisgender binary men and women. I am cisgender myself, but I don’t see the big deal about it – I’m just as happy to call myself “femme”, use she/her pronouns and forget about the rest. I’m often asked if I’m trans* solely because I’m a proponent of trans* rights. This does not bother me, because I don’t see anything wrong with states of being other than being cisgender. I am what I am, and others are what they are. “Queer” to me means that my identity is not as simple as ticking a series of boxes and calling it a day. It’s complex, ever-changing. Ten years ago, I didn’t even know I was attracted to women. Ten years from now, I might find myself shunning the trappings of femmehood and expressing my gender in other ways. People change. I might change. I might not. I don’t mind either way.

I am Jay, a queer bisexual cis femme. This label on my soul is freeing – it is a licence to be myself, unashamedly, whatever that self may be. It is a licence to love, to be loved, to feel the entire range of complex human emotions that are a part of our relationships and interactions with others. With the support of my loving partner, my wonderful mother and my amazing friends, I am able to simply be myself. And that’s the best label of all.

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