When I initially came to terms with being gay, I held no bias against any of the letters in ‘LGBTQ’. The obvious rationalisation was, “If I feel that I should not be judged for the way I am, then I must extend the same courtesy to those around me”.
As I was gradually initiated into the community, mostly by conversations with its other members I learnt of an internal stigmatisation of especially bisexual’ and transgender men and women. This bias was slowly creeping into my own world-view and I started echoing the voices of the people I had heard. When someone would identify themselves as bisexual, an internal dialogue of mockery would ensue –
“Oh you’re bisexual, yeah right!”
“Oh! Right it’s the confusing/confused”,
The more pedantic of these voices would say, “They are in denial, they claim to be bisexual, because it affords them a chance to be partly straight and hence allows them a chance to be partly “normal”.
But as I started coming across more and more people who were bisexual, I luckily started to question my views. I started looking for an answer, as to why this prejudice, this “transphobia” and “biphobia” existed.
The searches for this answer lead to a lot of stimulating conversations and I think the one that changed things in my mind was this one.
After apprehensively having disclosed to him that I was gay, I hesitantly asked, “What do you identify as? Are you gay?”
He replied, “I now CHOOSE to CALL myself gay” and I thought he was one of “those people”, who thought sexuality was a choice.
Several awkward pauses later…
He realized that his statement warranted an explanation and said, “I know it sounds weird when I say “I call myself gay”… The thing is I’m bisexual”
And he paused again, as if he was allowing time for the word “bisexual” to marinate amongst my prejudices.
I cautiously questioned, “You say it like being a bisexual is a bad thing? Is it?”
He chuckled at my naiveté and said, “You’re new, aren’t you?” and continued, “Most people, even gay people, don’t like the word “bisexual” and I feel uncomfortable telling them this. Their rejection pushes me back into a brand new closet, which brings the crushing sense of ‘not belonging’ all over again.”
I felt very bad for him but at that time but I had nothing to say and no words to comfort him with. As the days passed and experiences gathered, the answer slowly started to take shape.
The problem I see is with existing notions within the community itself.
The journey begins for all of us with the questioning of our sexuality, which is a turbulent ordeal and often takes a long time. Once the individual has acknowledged their sexuality to themselves but hasn’t told anyone else about it, they find themselves in the villainous CLOSET. Every moment in this closet is spent battling the harshness of the reality one has brought to the surface. The moment a queer individual realizes that the world around them isn’t built for them is a moment of profound loneliness. Until a certain degree of self-acceptance is developed, a possibility of regression and backslide into denial is always looming. In an attempt to be at least partly “normal” an individual who has recently acknowledged themselves to be gay/lesbian, might use the label ‘bisexual’ to dilute their sadness over being unable to meet the expectations of a grossly hetero-normative society; hence the term ‘pseudo-bisexual’.
But when someone discovers that they are truly bisexual they will feel that their sexuality is always a matter of choice i.e. they CAN CHOOSE whom they want to be with. BUT in the Gayland# we inhabit, the First Commandment is “THOU SHALL KNOW AND ACKNOWLEDGE THAT BEING QUEER IS NOT A CHOICE; ANY DISAGREEMENT SHALL BE TREATED AS TREASON.” Hence the bisexual may fail to understand the perspective of gay individuals who don’t have the choice they do; and the gay man or woman doesn’t completely want to agree with the fact that bisexuals indeed have a choice, which brings about an immediate conflict of the fundamental ideas they hold.
It is the existence of this real choice, which breaks the “The First Commandment” and makes the bisexual seem like a traitor and hence they are spoken about in a highly negative context. When one understands at least two sides of this many faceted construct of bisexuality, some form of harmony might exist.
This choice may seem like a privilege initially because of the benefits it seems to provide. But I have realized that when bisexuals truly learn the complexity of this choice they may have unintentionally hurt the people they love, and I cannot begin to understand this sadness. The same choice also pushes the bisexual to the margins of the community, which as in any other, is inhabited by “The Rebels”/”Non-conformists”. They find themselves in this leper colony of the LGBTQ community (alongside those that have difficulties conforming to gender duality i.e. The Transgender). The gay man at the vanguard of the battle, that he seems to be winning, pushes the bisexual away but he forgets that he himself inhabits the leper colony of the “mainstream” society. This insidious unfairness is creeping through our apparently progressive community and seems to be dragging it towards its own detriment.
What I meant by “Gayland” – There is an undeniable but rarely spoken of, domination of the LGBTQ community by gay men. This community that I thought stood in complete contrast to the society that I grown up in; was now turning into a reflection of the same patriarchal mess that the hetero-normative community is.
A few messages that followed this post, pointed out key facts that I didn’t take into account. Several people identify themselves outside the conventional LGBTQ spectrum as simply Queer, Pansexual etc. But I realize that as society evolves, the lines that have been drawn to divide the orientations will blur and gradually dissolve.
I hope I live to see a time when a ‘man in a relationship with a man’ will simply be a ‘man in a relationship with a man’ (all other combinations of the genders included); sexuality will then probably be recognized as the moving target that it seems to be, rather than a rigid construct.