So You Just Met a Bisexual: a Guide for Allies (and “Allies”)

Congratulations! You just met your very first bisexual! Isn’t it exciting? I’m sure you’re brimming with questions about everything from your new friend’s sex life to whether or not it’s true that they’re invisible. (They are. All bisexuals have the ability to disappear whenever they like.) Before you draw up a list and start the interrogation, however, let me preempt a few of the questions you’re most likely to ask – and explain to you why you probably ought not ask them.

Here are some things you don’t know about your new bisexual friend:

You don’t know how many sex partners they’ve had. They could have had one or a hundred and one (go them!) or none at all. They might have sex with multiple partners over a year long period, or they might be into long-term relationships. Bisexuals, much like what I’m going to call “non-magical folk” (that’s you), haven’t necessarily all slept with the entire football team and all the cheerleaders (though, again, if they have – damn, your new friend has got some game!). Bisexuality does not automatically correlate with promiscuity. (And if it does – so what? You’re not one of those terrible people who thinks that someone who sleeps with a lot of partners is immoral, are you? Are you?)

Speaking of which, you don’t know what their sex drive is like. Some bisexuals are like me and would have sex ten times a day if they could. Some like sex very rarely, some once every couple of days. Some like sex a lot with a particular partner but not at all with other people. Kill the myth that every bisexual is a sex addict. We’re human, you know. We can control our libidos just as well as you can (or better, if you’re a straight dude – YEAH, I SAID IT).

You don’t know if they’re polyamorous, monoamorous, in an open relationship or happily single. Some bisexuals are poly. I know lots of poly bisexuals! But I also know lots of monoamorous bisexuals (I don’t like the word “monogamous” because it refers specifically to the number of a person’s wives, which is kinda sexist and useless). For example, I’m married to just one other person. Truly, I am! He grows a fantastic beard and makes a cute giggling sound when I tickle him. Lots of people are surprised by this, because for some reason, they think all bisexuals are either poly or not in relationships at all. I guess I was single at some point in my life, and many of my bi friends are single now or in open relationships, but bisexuality does not somehow preclude monoamory or other kinds of long-term relationships.

On that note, you don’t know if they’ve ever cheated. No, shut up. You really and truly don’t. Thanks to television, people assume that bisexuals are incapable of forming commitments or keeping to them afterwards. The reasoning seems to be, “well, you’re attracted to everyone, so you’re bound to cheat sooner or later.”

Really? Let’s break that down.

You, the monosexual reader, are attracted to one gender, correct? It might be your own, or it might be another. I don’t know your life. Whatever. The point is that there is a group of people to whom you are attracted.

Are you attracted to every single member of that group?

No?

Neither are we. It really is that simple.

Which brings me to my next point…

You don’t know if they’re attracted to you. To be fair, this is something gay people get as well (holla, fellow queers!), but bisexual people seem to get it twice as bad, partly due to the fact that as I said above, everyone thinks we’re untrustworthy cheaters. Let me tell you right up-front: I am not attracted to people who aren’t attracted to women. I’m just not. Straight girls? Turn-off. Gay dudes? HUGE turn-off. Non-binary people who do not dig women? Sorry, but nope. If you’re not into me, I am most definitely not into you. So relax – you can be in the locker room together. They’re not checking you out. You’re probably not their type anyway, so don’t flatter yourself. If they were into you, you’d know.

Actually, while I’m on this topic, you don’t even know the genders to which they’re attracted. “Bisexual” means different things to different people. Sometimes it means “attracted to both men and women”. Sometimes it means “attracted to both cisgender men and cisgender women”. Sometimes it means “attracted to both my gender and other genders.” Some of the latter group identify as pansexual, but some don’t, and it’s absolutely zero percent your job to tell people which labels to use. If your bisexual friend is attracted to men and people-who-aren’t-men, that’s cool. If your bisexual friend is attracted to binary people and non-binary people, that’s also cool. If your bisexual friend is into both men and women but mostly likes women, that’s cool too. (Also, can I get her number? She sounds rad.) We choose how we identify – not you, not anyone else, but us.

So it turns out you don’t know much about your new bisexual friend, do you? All of your preconceptions are useless, and you’ll only embarrass yourself by blurting out questions like, “how are you married to a dude if you’re bi?” (I get this in bars a lot) or, “why don’t you have a girlfriend too?” (I also get this in bars a lot). Bisexual people vary as much as monosexual people do. We have sex a lot or not at all. We have a partner or three partners or a rotating roster of partners or no partner at all. We are attracted to men or women or non-binary people, and not always equally. Some of us cheat because people cheat sometimes, but most of us don’t because most people don’t. And don’t think you can pick us out of a crowd, either – in terms of appearance, we run the gamut from roller derby girls with pink spiked hair to belles with long, dark curls and killer red lipstick to gym-going dudes with buzzcuts to quiet, skinny guys in Zelda t-shirts to non-binary femmes or androgynes rocking suit jackets with their Converse. We’re not a monolith any more than any other group is.

So, what do you know about your new bisexual friend?

You know that they’re bisexual, and now you know not to irritate them with asinine and offensive questions. And most importantly, you know that they’re human, so treat them that way.

See? That was easy! Think of how much time I’ve saved you.

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A letter to the Muslim girl who found my blog by accident

My dear,

I don’t know you. I don’t think you know me either, because you found my blog by accident whilst Googling something that truly broke my heart:

search term: "i'm a bisexual muslim my mom took away my phone with messages between me and a girl what should i do"

a search term in my blog stats.

I cried when I saw this. I cried because it reminded me so strongly of a time in my life that was very painful and very bleak and during which I had nobody to talk to about the things that were hurting me. I don’t know if you stayed to read my blog or if you clicked the link and decided I didn’t have the answers you were looking for. I don’t know where you are now or what you’re doing or even if you’re safe. But I’m writing this anyway, because once upon a time I felt very lonely and very scared and I didn’t know what to do, and maybe you feel that way too and maybe you might see this and feel a little bit less alone.

I want to tell you a story.

I had my first boyfriend when I was nineteen. He was Christian. I met him in med school. My dad didn’t even let me have male friends, let alone a boyfriend, so I had to keep him a secret. We were engaged within two months (bad idea in hindsight, but I digress). I would talk to him on my mobile using credit the two of us bought with whatever spare cash we could scrounge up. When my dad wasn’t home, sometimes I’d dare to use our landline to call him. We would Skype whenever I was allowed to use the internet, which wasn’t often because my dad was very suspicious and thought I might be talking to boys online. (I guess he was right.)

Anyway, one night my dad found out, and he kicked me out.

It was one of the scariest things I’ve ever gone through in my life. I remember packing as many clothes as I could fit into canvas grocery bags. I remember that my brother tried taking my phone and laptop from me but I fought him until he left me alone (though he broke my glasses during the struggle). I remember thinking to myself, this can’t be happening. It was New Year’s Day, 2010. I was twenty years old. I had never lived away from home in my life. I remember my youngest sister accompanying me to the front gate and tearfully hugging me goodbye because neither of us knew what was going to happen next. I remember that my brother chased me down the pitch-black street in the middle of the night to demand that I give back my house keys so I couldn’t sneak back into my childhood home. I remember passing a family who were out celebrating because it was New Year’s Day and exchanging greetings and being glad it was dark because it meant they couldn’t see me crying. I remember thinking my life was over.

My mother’s house was two blocks away (she and my father divorced in 2008) so I walked there in the hope that even though she and I were somewhat estranged, she would take me in. She wasn’t home, but my grandmother was visiting, and after I tearfully beat at the door for five minutes, she woke up, saw it was me and let me in. I remember breaking down crying in my grandmother’s arms. I remember trying to explain to her what had happened to me. She was very confused because she didn’t speak much English and had trouble understanding me at the best of times, let alone when I was sobbing and incoherent and scared.

(Writing about this now, I feel a shadow of the paralysing terror I felt then, and my breath is catching in my throat. I was so young and scared and alone and I was sure it would never get better.)

My mother got home and I explained things to her and of course she let me stay, because she’s a good woman who loves her children more than she loves following rules. I slept on her couch for the next six months. My father sent me angry text messages, then got my younger siblings to call me and try to guilt me into breaking up with my boyfriend and coming home. Eventually, I wrote him a letter telling him to leave me alone. The phone calls and text messages stopped and that was the last I saw of many of my siblings for months. I remember having nightmares that they had all died and I hadn’t been able to say goodbye. I woke up crying over and over again and I couldn’t tell anyone or call anyone or do anything at all but wait for the terror to pass.

I’m telling you all of this because I know a little bit of what you’re feeling right now. When I came out to my mother as bisexual, she was initially not thrilled. We fought about it. She yelled at me. She cried. She asked if it was a phase. She outed me to people without asking my permission, which infuriated me. Those were a hard few months. I felt even more alone, like I was being rejected by both of my parents, not just the one who’d kicked me out. I wondered if my mother even wanted me, if she wasn’t secretly sick of having me in her house. Over time, we came to an understanding and now we’re very close, but those were hard times for both of us.

I don’t know how old you are or where you live or what your situation is like. Perhaps some of what I’ve written here is resonating with you or perhaps it isn’t. But I wanted you to know – if you’re still here, still reading – that you are not alone. You are not unloved. Being Muslim and bisexual can be so hard and you can feel like the world hates you and I want you to know that I understand that and I’ve been through it and you do not have to be ashamed if you feel scared or lost or like nobody wants you around. I know all of those feelings. But you need to hear this: none of that is true. The world doesn’t hate you. Not even all Muslims hate you. I love you. People like my mother who are loving and kind and accepting love you. People like my Twitter followers who asked me if there was a way we could reach out to you and support you love you.

You are so very loved, my dear. You are so very, very loved. And I know you feel like you’re alone, but you aren’t. We’re here for you – the other misfits, the other people who were told they didn’t belong. We’ve formed our own friendships and our own families and we are so, so ready to be here for you if you would like us to be.

It’s very likely that you will never read this. I don’t know where you are or what you’re doing or if when you found my blog, you decided to stay. But if you did, know that you are amongst friends here. You are amongst people who will not ask you to feel bad about yourself because of the way Allah made you. You are amongst people who will love you and support you and hold you while you cry just like my grandmother held me and who will be your friends when you need friends, just like my friends were there for me when I spent days on my mother’s couch staring at the wall wondering if my life would ever be the same again. (It was never the same, but you want to know a secret? It got better. Things get better, sometimes. Hold onto that. They might very well get better for you, too.)

If you’re still here, my dear, then know that we are here for you. You have people on your team if you want them. Your mother can take your phone – and, if she’s like my father, do all manner of other nasty things to you – but you are not alone and she cannot stop us from loving you and wanting to support you even if she chooses not to support you herself. If you need someone to talk to, if you need people to tell you that everything will be okay, if you need help finding a safe place to stay or a new phone or really anything at all: write to me. Leave a comment or email me from a computer at school (jaythenerdkid @ inbox dot com) or tweet me or send me an ask.fm question anonymously or whatever you like. I’m here. Lots of people are here.

We love you. You are loved. You are not alone. It will get better. I promise.

May Allah protect you and guide you, my dear. You are in my prayers.

With love,

Jay

Ten bisexuality myths that need to die

When I first came out publicly as bisexual in 2010, I was prepared for the onslaught of biphobia that I knew would follow. What I wasn’t prepared for was the mind-boggling things some people believe about bisexuals. I’ve been asked questions and had accusations levelled at me that truly beggar belief. What follows is a list of ten myths about bisexuality that I have, at some point in my life, had presented to me as though they were actual fact.

1. Bisexuals can’t be monogamous

I have yet to have someone properly explain to me why this is supposedly the case. As far as I understand it, the logic is that bisexuals are attracted to both men and women, ergo they must want to be in relationships with both men and women at the same time.

I wish someone had told me this two and a half years ago. I could have had a boyfriend AND a girlfriend for ages now! (Alison Brie, call me!)

Seriously, though, while monogamy isn’t for everyone, bisexuals are just as likely to be monogamous as monosexual people are. I mean, think about it – are you in a relationship with everyone you find attractive? No? Then why would I be?

2. Bisexuals are more likely to cheat

Brought to prominence by poorly-scripted television and bitter men’s rights activists, the idea that bisexuals are all cheaters is an annoyingly pervasive one. Again, I have to ask – if you don’t cheat on your partner with everyone you find attractive, why would you assume that I would?

If anything, being openly bisexual has made it easier to have honest conversations with my partner about my attractions to other people. I’d say there’s a good deal more transparency in my relationship than in many other people’s. Turns out bisexuals can be open, honest communicators too! Cheating has nothing to do with sexual preference and everything to do with making the decision to cheat, and it turns out that that’s one particular decision that monosexuals are just as capable of making.

3. Bi girls will make out with other girls for your pleasure

A bi girl is every boy’s dream girlfriend, am I right, fellas? Not only do you get to have sex with her, but you also get to watch her have sex with other ladies! Bonus!

Yeah…not so much.

Some bi girls are into group sex. Some aren’t. Some enjoy making out with girls at parties (with their partners’ blessings, if they have partners), some don’t. Some bi girls have girlfriends and aren’t really interested in inviting male voyeurs along for the ride. And, you know, some bi girls just don’t think about sex all that much at all, which leads me to the next myth…

4. Bisexuals have really intense libidos

All right, all right. Guilty as charged. I think about sex approximately a million times per second (yeah, my brain works that fast), and I rarely ever turn it down when it’s offered. But not all bisexuals are that way. Our libidos run the gamut from always-on to totally absent. (Yes, there are asexual biromantics, that’s a thing!) While TV tends to present us as sex-crazed fiends who will do anything to get laid, in reality, we have standards just like pretty much everyone else does, and if you’re the creepy guy at the bar winking at me when I mention that I’m bi, you probably don’t meet them.

5. Every girl’s a “little bit bi”

Thanks, exploitative creators of Girls Gone Wild! Because what women really needed was even more assumptions about their sexualities.

Some girls are bi. Some girls are gay. Some girls are straight. Well…most girls are straight, actually. I’ve met straight girls who’ve identified as bicurious, but they’re not nearly as common as you think. Stop pouring drinks for college girls in the hope that if you get them drunk enough, they’ll suddenly realise they’re into ladies too. Almost 100% of the time, that’s not how it works.

Interestingly, nobody claims that every boy’s a little bit bi, probably because the straight dudes who come up with this stuff aren’t all that excited by the idea of two drunk guys making out. Pity, huh?

6. Bi people just can’t pick a side

Yes we can. We “picked” bisexuality.

This one is particularly hurtful because it comes from both straight and gay people. I’ve had straight people tell me I’m “only doing it for the attention” (only doing what, flirting with girls while in a long-term committed relationship with my partner? you got me!) and gay people tell me I’m “bi now, gay later” and that I need to come out of the closet (despite my deep and abiding love for sex with attractive and interesting men). To monosexuals, the idea that someone might be attracted to more than one gender is apparently so foreign that they have to rationalise it by assigning some kind of motive to us – we’re attention-seekers, we’re scared of coming out, we just don’t know ourselves well enough yet.

Personally, it’s straight people I don’t get. Straight dudes, how can you not want to sleep with Idris Elba? That man is sex on a stick. You are missing. out.

7. You can’t know you’re bi until you’ve dated both men and women

The weird thing about this one is that nobody says this to straight people.

Take a straight virgin. They’ve never had sex with anyone. So how do they know they’re only attracted to people of different genders? Surely they should have to get empirical proof of their attraction, or how else can they know for sure that they’re straight?

If that sounded ridiculous to you, that’s because it is. And yet, it’s something people say to me all the time. I’ve only ever been in relationships with men, so how can I know that I’m attracted to women and would be interested in having sex with them? What if I just find women aesthetically attractive but wouldn’t actually sleep with one given the chance?

I’m gonna let you in on a little secret. You know that warm fuzzy feeling you get when you see someone you think is hot – that little rush of blood that’s your body’s way of telling you that you would definitely be interested in seeing that person with fewer clothes on?

Yeah, I get that when I see a woman I like. That’s how I know, genius.

8. Bisexuals are attracted to everyone

I love my mother to bits, I really do, but she’s a bit clueless about things sometimes. A while back, she confided in me that she didn’t know if a bi classmate of hers was inviting her out for lunch as a friend, or because she found my mother attractive.

“Are you attracted to every male friend of yours?” I asked, to which she answered that of course she wasn’t, because that would be preposterous. No straight person is attracted to everyone of the opposite sex.

“So why would you assume that just because she’s attracted to women, she’d be attracted to you?”

Oh. Yeah. Guess that’s kinda silly, right?

Like everyone, bisexuals have taste preferences. I personally love tall, dark-haired girls with a wicked sense of humour and a sultry voice like something out of a classic noir film. If you’re a petite blonde who sounds like Reese Witherspoon, I’m sure you’re swell, but you’re just not my type.

Don’t take it personally. I’m notoriously picky.

9. Bisexuals are greedy

“Best of both worlds, eh? Couldn’t just settle for one or the other!”

Yes, because that’s absolutely how sexuality works.

Bisexuality isn’t about greed – it’s about being able to feel sexual attraction to people of both your own and other genders. I didn’t choose to be bisexual – I was born like this. When I like someone, I just don’t care that much about their gender. Call it greed if you want – I call it the way I was made.

10. Bisexuals will never be ready to “settle down”

Ah, the roving bisexual – always hunting for something better, something their current partner can’t give them. A bisexual will never settle down because whether they’re with a girl or a guy (or someone of another gender entirely), there will always be something they want that they can’t get from the person they’re with.

Some day, I will meet this mythical insatiable bisexual and ask them how they do it. It sounds exhausting.

Like most people, bisexuals are perfectly capable of making a commitment to one partner (or multiple partners, if they’re poly) and sticking with it. Ask yourself – would you leave your partner of a different gender every single time you came across someone who could offer you something they couldn’t? Probably not, right? After all, you presumably love the person you’re with for who they are and are willing to accept, like all rational beings, that no one person can ever be completely perfect.

No, my partner doesn’t have the things I like in women. But he’s got a lot of the things I love in a man, and that’s more than enough for me. Might there presumably be a girl out there who would satisfy me in ways my current partner doesn’t? Sure. Would she be able to satisfy me in all the ways my current partner does? Probably not. Am I so tormented by “what I’m missing” that I’ll some day leave my partner to in search of someone who can satisfy me in different ways?

Let me just say that you wouldn’t be asking that if you knew how great this boy was in bed. (Love you, baby!)

When it comes down to it, bisexuals are just…people. They tend to like what most people like, dislike what most people dislike and want the same things most people want. Our sexualities don’t make us special – they’re just a part of who we are, the same way your sexuality is. Yes, there are bisexuals who are poly, bisexuals who cheat, bisexuals who will do anything for great sex, bisexuals who will never settle down, bisexuals who will later come out as either gay or straight – but there are monosexual people who do all of those things as well. These aren’t sexuality-exclusive behaviours – they’re just human ones, both positive and negative and in between. That’s because at the end of the day, bisexuals are human. And the funny thing about that is that it means we tend to act like other humans do.

Strange, huh?

(You’re right about one thing, though – we are way more fabulous than you.)

The invisible girl – bisexuality in a biphobic society

I’m a bisexual woman in a relationship with a straight man. That means I don’t exist.

You see, in order for society to accept me as bi, they need to see evidence. If I’m not neck-deep in a threesome with an attractive woman on one side and a strapping man on the other, how can they be expected to tell that I’m not monosexual? If I’m dating a woman, I must be lesbian. If I’m dating a man, I must be straight. Unless I’m dating both at the same time, I can’t be bisexual.

The first person to tell me I wasn’t “really” bi was a gay friend of mine. I believe I’ve told the story before, so I won’t retread old ground, but suffice to say that while he was the first, he certainly wasn’t the last. I’ve heard it all – it’s just a phase, I’m fence-sitting so I don’t have to pick a side, I’m greedy, I’ll cheat on my partner, I’m just doing it for the attention, I just don’t want to come out of the closet. It seems everyone has a theory about my sexuality that they’re just dying to share with me, as though they’re the first people ever to think of it. (Yeah, I’ve never heard the one about how I can’t be bi because I’m not poly before. You’re so original!) You’d think I’d know my sexuality better than a stranger, but in a world where anything perceived as differing from the norm instantly becomes fair game for public discussion and dissection, it seems the only person who isn’t a self-proclaimed expert on my sexuality is…me.

See, the truth is, I haven’t got myself 100% figured out yet. Oh, sure, I know I’m into dudes and ladies. I’ve even been attracted to the odd non-binary or GNC friend. I’m pretty sure I’m built for monogamy, but that doesn’t mean I don’t fantasise about threesomes. I’m interested in sex with women, but seem to prefer the idea of relationships with men. Sexuality isn’t about ticking a bunch of boxes and calling it a day – as with every facet of a human being, it’s a complex thing, subject to change.

Here’s what I do know about myself, presented in a convenient list format (because it was only a matter of time before I sold out and became like Buzzfeed):

Jay’s Guide to Jay’s Sexuality [a work in progress]

1. I’m attracted to men, women and people who identify as both, neither or somewhere in between.

I guess this makes me pansexual, but “bi” is the term I’ve always used and the one I’m the most comfortable with. Truth be told, I just don’t spend all that much time obsessing about people’s genitals. If I’m into someone, it’s because I think they’re cute or funny or witty or sexy or alluring, and what kind of equipment they’re carrying or how they identify isn’t really a big deal to me.  People are attracted to other people for lots of reasons. Sometimes one of those reasons is gender – for me, it just…isn’t. I really don’t care what you are – I care about who you are.

2. Yeah, yeah, I’ve only ever fucked dudes. I’m still bi.

It’s funny – nobody ever tells a straight person they’re not “really” straight because they haven’t had sex with someone of the opposite binary gender yet. A straight virgin is still hetero, right? And yet, I’ve been told time and time again that I can’t “really” be bi because I’ve never so much as kissed a girl. Seriously? The fantasies, the awkward high school crushes, the endless flirting with cute British redheads – that means nothing just because my bits have never touched another girl’s bits? Please. I know what I like, and what I like includes both dudes and ladies. I know it like I know my own name. That tingly feeling I get when I see a dude I like? Yeah, there are ladies who make me feel that way too. I don’t need to have sex with everyone I’m attracted to in order to know I’m attracted to them. That’s really not how that works.

3. I’m monogamous. Lots of bi people are; lots of bi people aren’t.

The threesome talk might have thrown you off, but let me clarify – yes, I’m monogamous. I’m in a long-term, committed relationship with a single partner and I plan to stay that way. I’m not throwing shade at my poly friends – we all have different wants, needs and desires when it comes to relationships, and there’s no one kind of relationship that can make everyone happy. Me? I love my one partner set-up. Just because I’m bi, doesn’t mean I need to have both a boyfriend and a girlfriend at the same time – in fact, I’m not sure I’d know what to do with more than one partner, regardless of their genders. One boy or one girl (or one GNC person) at a time is just fine with me.

That said, if my partner and I met a cute girl at a bar and she wanted to come home with us for a night…well, we’ll see.

4. My sexuality isn’t something for you to fetishise.

This harkens back to the “you’re just doing it for attention” thing. Apparently, I’m only bi because I know dudes find it hot when two girls make out in front of them. Yeah…not so much. Leaving aside the fact that plenty of dudes aren’t into that at all – I’m bi because it’s how I am, not because I want attention. Trust me, if I wanted to get your attention, I could do it without exploiting my sexuality for your pleasure. I mean, have you met me? I’m the face that launched a thousand flamewars.

In any case, guys who think bisexuality is a performance for their enjoyment are a major ladyboner-killer. I’ll take a guy who loves me without fetishising me, thanks. (Joke’s on you, chasers – he gets the good stuff because he’s a great guy, and he didn’t even have to be a creep about it!)

5. My sexuality and gender are linked, but separate.

There are still people who think that being cis or trans* is a sexual orientation, not a gender identity. These people have apparently been living under a rock for the past infinity years. I’m a cis queer bisexual chick. The “cis” bit is separate from the “bi” bit (though in my case, the “queer” bit indicates that there’s a link between them – but that’s another story, to be told another time). You can be cishet, cis and gay, trans* and het, trans* and gay, cis/trans* and bi, cis/trans* and asexual…basically, you can be any combination of gender, sexual and romantic orientation. A cis person is not automatically monosexual. A trans* person is not automatically gay or bi. You know what they say about people who assume.

6. I’m not going to cheat just because I’m bi. Geez.

Yes, I am capable of maintaining a monogamous relationship with someone of one gender without feeling an irresistible urge to cheat on my partner with someone of another gender. Do I flirt with cute girls sometimes? Sure. Am I going to cheat on my boyfriend with one? Nope. Relationships – both mono and poly – are about commitment to your partner or partners. Are you compelled to cheat on your partner with every attractive person of [gender you like]? No? Then why would you assume I feel compelled to cheat just because I happen not to be monosexual?

There are lots of reasons people cheat. Being bi isn’t one of them.

7. I exist. Deal with it.

Bi erasure is a problem in both straight and queer circles – that’s why things like Bi Visibility Day are so important. Yeah, we’re around. No, we’re not figments of our own imaginations. Just because you can’t see physical evidence of our sexual orientation, doesn’t make it any less real. I don’t have to date a girl to prove to you that I’m attracted to women, just like I wouldn’t have to date a guy to prove to you that I’m attracted to men. I just am. I’m here, I’m visible and I’m not going to let you erase me just because I don’t fit into the categories you’ve created to neatly sort people based on sexual orientation.

That’s the thing about people – they’re not neat. Actually, we’re pretty damn messy. We’re contradictory and ever-changing. We grow, we learn, we develop from the people we were into the people we’re becoming. Trying to sort us into categories is always going to be a square peg/round hole exercise, because not only are there various shapes of peg, we don’t even always stay the same shape! I thought I was straight when I was younger. I know that I’m bi now. Who knows what I’ll learn about myself in the future?

It’s amazing how many things become visible when you learn to open your eyes.

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.

Labels on my soul: “Intersectionalist”

Okay, so I lied. “Writer” isn’t the only label on my soul. For the rest of this week, I’ll be talking about some of the other things I’m very passionate about, how they define me and the place they have in my life. And the best place to start is with intersectionality, because it’s a theory that has totally shifted the way I view identity politics, social justice and the world around me.

This will be the first in a series of 101-style posts – introductory things that you can share around with your friends who ask you what a term means, or things you can bookmark in case you want to refer to them later. That said, I am not the definitive authority on any subject except Jaythenerdkid, Adult Prodigy and Writer For Hire (Seriously, Call Me!), so take everything I write with a grain of salt. I do make mistakes just like regular human beings, and to paraphrase the great Albus Dumbledore, given that I am considerably more intelligent than most people, my mistakes tend to be correspondingly huger.

(“Modest” has never been a label on any part of my being.)

Enough waffle. Let’s talk about this label and what it means.

Intersectionality is the theory that people exist at different points along various intersecting axes of oppression/privilege, and that a person’s place in society can’t be completely understood without taking into account all of these axes, how they intersect and how each person’s unique combination of privileges and deficits thereof positions them within a society. Basically: it’s not as simple as being black or being female or being gay or being trans or being disabled or being poor, etc. We don’t exist only on one axis – we coexist on several, and in order to truly unpack the ways in which we’re privileged or oppressed, we need to understand that all of these factors are constantly at play, and almost never in isolation.

I’m a Muslim cisgender bipolar bisexual female from an upper-middle-class family, university educated (though without a degree), living in one of the wealthiest nations in the world and currently employed part-time. That’s a whole lot to unpack, and if you try to see me as just a woman, or just cis, or just Muslim or whatever, you won’t even come close to understanding how I interact with society and how societal prejudices affect me (positively or negatively). It’s not as simple as, “I’m female, so I’m oppressed,” nor is it as simple as, “I’m cisgender, so I’m privileged.” Sure, both of those statements are factually accurate, but they have to be understood in context or they’re practically useless.

Overall, I would consider myself a relatively privileged person. The things for which society oppresses me (my gender, my skin colour, my faith [due to where I live, not because Muslims in general are persecuted], my sexuality) are balanced out by the privileges I enjoy (I’m cis, I’m well-educated, I’ve never had serious financial troubles, I’m in relatively good health, I’m in a relationship that “passes” for straight). This doesn’t mean, however, that the ways in which I’m oppressed aren’t important – I still have a one in five chance of being raped (or a one in four chance of being sexually assaulted in some way), I still deal with street harassment, I suffer from a mental illness that comes with pretty heavy stigma, my identity as a queer person is often erased by both GSM and non-GSM people, I still weather a fair amount of racist abuse and vitriol, and so on. Those things are pretty serious and it’s important to fight so that I and people like me don’t have to suffer any more. I shouldn’t have to worry about walking home alone after sunset. I shouldn’t have to endure being called a sand-n****r or a towelhead. I shouldn’t have to deal with men becoming angry or aggressive when I don’t feel like talking to them at the bus stop. A lot of things do need to change.

However, I’m not blind to my privileges. My parents paid for an education that plenty of people, even people from double income families, can’t afford. I have four years of university under my belt. I’ve never been homeless, starving or deprived of food and water. People tend to listen to me when I speak because I’m eloquent, and they read what I write because I write like an educated person. Folks afford me a little more respect just because I’ve read more of the dictionary than some people have. That’s a pretty big privilege right there – knowing you’ll be taken more seriously because your communication skills have been polished by years of high school debating, patient history taking and public presentations. A lot of people I know have similar privileges, and many of them don’t realise how lucky they are at all.

See, here’s the thing about privilege – it’s not a zero sum game. It’s not that you either have it or you don’t. Almost everyone is privileged in some way, shape or form, and it’s possible to oppress people along one axis even if you yourself are oppressed along another. I can still be classist or transphobic. People can still be sexist, racist and biphobic towards me. People can and do mock me due to my mental illness, and I can and have mocked people for being unable to match me intellectually in debates. It’s not black and white – in fact, it’s an entire spectrum of grey.

As an intersectionalist, this is something I think about – how feminism oppresses women of colour, how the gay rights movement has marginalised trans* people, how I as a relatively wealthy person have been party to the denigration of those who weren’t fortunate enough to be born into well-off families. I think it’s something we should all think about, not only because self-awareness is important, but because until we truly understand the complex ways in which society positions people above or below each other relative to various axes of privilege and oppression, we’ll never truly advance the cause of true social justice and equality for everyone.

“Intersectionalist” is one of the labels on my soul. It is a philosophy that defines me as an activist – to paraphrase the folks at Tiger Beatdown, my activism will be intersectional or it will be bullshit. It is a philosophy that has led me to reconsider my place in society and my interactions with others. It has led to a greater awareness of the ways in which I’ve contributed to the oppression of other people, and the ways in which I can actively work to ensure I don’t hurt people who are already fighting oppression. It has led to new friends, new paths, new ways of thinking, seeing and being. I see the world, now, as a complex web of societal interactions, none of them ever completely black and white. It has opened my eyes.

I am Jay. I am a writer and an intersectionalist.