To B Or Not To B, The B In The LGBT

On different forums, time and again we have posts stereotyping bisexuals. Not much has changed.

2I went to school in a remote town in Goa where talking about feelings, attractions, bodies and sexual chemistry was unthinkable. I realized I have feelings towards a particular boy in my class when I was in my 6th standard. Let’s call him A. I realized I have feelings towards a particular girl in my class when I was in the 7th standard. Let’s call her S. I thought I will tell A but I didn’t. I thought I will tell S but I didn’t. Both made it into my diary entries though. That was largely the story of my life till my college. Dropping hints but never saying it out aloud. Having a problem with talking about any attraction not just a same sex one.

In college I finally broke the cycle when an incredible man asked me out. I said I loved him out aloud because it was acceptable in the culture of my college and the rush was intoxicating. Meanwhile, attractions towards the same sex would come up but I brushed them under the carpet. Women who were perceptive dropped hints but no one said anything out aloud. I pushed these feelings in some dark sensual corner of my mind proclaiming them bad and evil. I didn’t think I was missing anything major till some classmates decided to announce my sexual orientation on social media with the intention of having fun, ridiculing it and shaming me even before I had accepted it myself. It propelled me to accept myself as I was.

Towards the end of the last year, a senior asked me about the rumors around my same sex attraction in a very random conversation. I had never spoken about it to someone older but decided to speak the truth. She told me that I needed to kiss her to prove I was bisexual. I was startled and disgusted. The suggestion was if I didn’t I wasn’t. I didn’t. Kink was attached to me. Men fantasized me using carrots and cucumbers on women. My boyfriend did not want to address my attractions towards other people or my past. Needless to say all the pressure led to the devastation of our relationship.

I decided to find the ‘community’. From fearing to type the word ‘lesbian’ I started chatting in same sex chatrooms in an attempt to find likeminded people. It soon dawned upon me that the community didn’t want to be friends with ‘bisexuals’. Most users blocked me. Others felt they did their duty of sanitizing the space by hurling accusations such as promiscuity, confusion, experimenting, lying, using and selfishness at me. Hence I stopped publicly identifying as bisexual and started using the word ‘queer’. It felt like a small sacrifice to make in exchange of a ‘safe’ space. How wrong was I! It got me women but it wasn’t difficult to miss the rampant bi-invisiblization in this bubble.

My partner and I were always referred as a lesbian couple not a same sex one. I mostly got introduced as lesbian unless I had met the introducer earlier. Any issues around the community were discussed as ‘gay’ issues or ‘lesbian’ issues. There was no room to discuss attractions towards men or my past around them. Whenever I did, it always brought about a studied silence. After two break ups, I decided on sticking to men because I did find wonderfully accepting ones. But I soon realized that the LG’B’T safe space completely out casted me when I did that. It was ‘confirmed’ that I was just experimenting and would only marry a man. It was cheating of a kind to the community if you moved on to a man. However, had it been a woman it was okay. Around this time, I met the bisexual youth activist Apphia who was unabashed of the phobia hurled at her. We became friends with me and I started identifying as bisexual again.

In the course of my journey I joined an LGBT rights organization; The Humsafar Trust which gave me the strength and support to come out without any fear or anxiety. But interestingly it is here that I had a colleague who would insist on catcalling me a ‘lesbian’, irrespective of my correcting him multiple times assertively. His reasoning was that I did not look like one sans make up and that I hadn’t had a boyfriend in front of him to prove otherwise. I called him out on this blatant gay washing over many years but his stance didn’t change. It wasn’t a management issue but a base level one. The others felt the same way about the bisexual community. Prior to me, many gay men who posed as bisexuals to get married had accepted that they were homosexual. This colleague did engage in understanding my sexual behavior but was closed to the idea of actual bisexuals. The more I debated with him without losing my cool the more the others got sensitized. And the more they stood up against bi bashing. On my last day with the organization, he agreed I was bisexual.

On different forums, time and again we have posts stereotyping bisexuals. Not much has changed. They keep asking for bisexuals in long term same sex monogamous relationships to justify their inherent biphobia. If only they substituted the word bisexual with homosexual, they would understand what bullies they are. I know that the bigger demon is not outside. It is at home within the LGBT ‘communities’ and that’s where it has to be dealt with first. This will only happen when we remain proud and be honest to who we are. My proudest moment in this coming out journey has been standing on the stage at the 2012 Mumbai pride with the bisexual pride flag around me affirming that we exist and will not be invisibilized any more. Just to B.


About the guest author

Sonal Giani

Proud out bisexual activist, Sonal is better known for featuring on Zee TVs prime time show 'Connected Hum Tum', Bollywood film 'W' and Documentary 'Purple Skies'.