I was sitting with a friend in a coffee shop. I had just come out to him. He was taking it pretty well. But then he said to me, “What if you get attracted to a guy? I don’t think any guy would be okay with this unless he has a fetish for this kind of thing” I looked at him like a wide-eyed deer and felt a chill run throughout my body. Was it possible for my identity to be a fetish for a straight guy? I was 16, and I didn’t know any better, so I believed him. This internalized fear kept getting stronger thanks to the several unwanted threesome requests that I received whenever I came out to a potential love interest. The mainstream media showing cis-men being aroused by girls kissing didn’t help either. I stayed away from guys for as long as I could. Over time, I dealt with it and found out that it was irrational.
I am a pansexual woman and I am in a relationship with a straight cis-man for the past two years. He is an amazing person, and he accepts and embraces my identity. However, people no longer see me as a queer person anymore, I have become another straight woman to them. That in itself is a privilege that I do recognize. I can freely talk about my partner without having to come out to people. I used to be extremely careful whenever I mentioned any of my exes to my friends. I would always be on edge and make sure that I don’t mention them to someone I or my partner haven’t come out to. It felt scary that I or my partner could be outed in a casual conversation by a slip of the tongue. I no longer have to face any of the struggles that I would have faced had I not been in a “straight” relationship. But being in it also makes me feel that my queerness isn’t valid enough anymore. It makes me feel invisible as a queer person.
I remember when I told a friend who I had formerly come out to about him. She said to me, “well, you don’t have to worry about coming out anymore.” She looked at my identity like it was a thing in the past, some bad scary part of my life that I was now over. She associated my queerness with my past relationships. According to her, I was straight now. Just because I am not in a queer relationship doesn’t mean that I am not queer. I want to come out to people because it is still an important part of who I am. My identity is separate from the relationship I am in. Bisexuality and Pansexuality is a celebration of people being attracted to whoever they want regardless of gender. So I deserve to celebrate my queerness even though I am in a straight presenting relationship.
I feel so alienated in queer spaces. I am treated more like an ally than a member of the community. I feel like I don’t belong there like I am pretending to be someone I am not. If I happen to bring my partner along to any queer event, I am immediately assumed to be straight. But are our identities only important if we are in a queer relationship? Am I somehow less queer if I date a straight man? Why does the relationship I am in get to define my identity? There is still a lot of internalized biphobia in the queer community because of which I am no longer seen as a queer person in these spaces. Self-acceptance for me was a long and difficult journey. After coming so far on that journey and finally accepting who I am, when people just ignore my identity, it is quite disappointing.
Whenever a queer person comes out, they usually get a follow-up question which is somewhat on the lines of, “do you have a partner?” This question arises from the need for evidence. If you say you are gay, they want to know if you are sure about it or if you have a fact that proves it. Being in a queer relationship seals the deal for them. This concept has sadly crawled its way into queer spaces and it is still here living in the shadows. Every single day we have to unlearn things. We have to rewire our brains in so many ways to get rid of the preconceived notions that the society we grew up in has taught us. Let’s try separating the idea of relationships from queerness. Queerness isn’t the gender composition of the relationship you are in, it is who you are, and it is who you have fought to be seen as for years. We are more than the relationships we are in.