Bi-Visibility Week Conversations: ‘I Think Labels Are Important To Prevent Bisexual Erasure’

We continue with our series on bisexuality for bi-visibility week. Today, Gaysi speaks with Kavita Sarmah. We discuss coming out, bi-phobia, reconciliation, and the need for labels, and so, so much more. Read on.

When did you first realize you were bi?

I first realized that I was bisexual when I was 15, and I grew up suppressing my attraction towards the same sex — almost being repelled by it — mostly because of the judgment that it draws and my own lack of awareness. It was only when I started reading and was exposed to stories from the LGBT community, that I realized I identified with the term ‘bisexual’ more than any other.

Are you comfortable with the label?

I think in such cases, labels are important to validate our existence. As people attracted to more than one gender, we are already stuck in a never ending tug-of-war between ‘straight’ and ‘gay’. If you’re a masculine woman or a feminine man, you’re most probably gay; if you are a masculine man or a feminine woman – you’re straight. Nowhere in the narrative does ‘bisexual’ exist. If two men are in a relationship, one of whom is a bisexual man, they are still called “gay men” or “a gay couple” because he is either assumed to be gay or his orientation doesn’t matter now that he is partnered.

I think it is important to remind the world that all the people who identify as ‘bisexual’ cannot be erased, that bisexuality cannot be erased. It is as valid a sexual orientation as any other, and to prevent bisexual erasure, the label is necessary.

Would you say your sexual orientation is an important aspect of your identity?

I think my bisexuality is a very important part of me. I think love, in general, is beautiful and necessary in life and my love-life is, of course, dictated by my orientation. But apart from that, I don’t think my sexual orientation affects my identity in any other way. I don’t think people are as simple as black and white; we are complex beings made of several details — like tiles stuck together in mosaic art! My identity comprises of all the good and bad things that have happened over the years and bisexuality is as important as everything else in creating ‘Kavita’.

Do your friends and family know?

I came out to my sister a few years ago and she was the most supportive person anyone could be. Soon afterwards, I came out to everyone else in a Facebook post. I have been very open about my bisexuality ever since, and so everyone who is important to me knows about and accepts my orientation.

Have you experienced biphobia?

I often have been judged because of my bisexuality. “You’re not bisexual. You’re misinformed”, “You call yourself that because you’re rebellious”, “you’re doing it for the attention”, “you’re a slut”, “ah, so you’re into threesomes” …it bothers me a lot, but I remind myself that these judgments only underscore the problem we have in society, and that every such person is an opportunity for me to educate and try to diminish ignorance around the topic. Thankfully, the biphobia has not been life-threatening yet.

Do you think people assume you are gay or lesbian when you tell them that you’re a bisexual?

As a more feminine woman, I have often had people assume I am straight. And when I let them know that I am bisexual, I am often questioned about the number of men and women I have been with, to determine how “gay” I am, or how straight.

How did the journey begin?

Um, the journey of being a bisexual woman? I think it was when I finally started to openly identify as bisexual. A lot of things fell into place, and I finally could honestly be myself and that meant everything.

What have been the beautiful or memorable or exciting aspects of your sexuality?

I have met some people that I’d never have met if I hadn’t come out. I think the LGBT community is beautiful (or to be more accurate: fabulous! Haha!) and it’s exciting to have such open-minded people around you, and searching for joy with them despite the sadness, rejection and unfairness, and taking steps towards a more healthy, inclusive society.

How did you reconcile with this aspect of yourself?

I think biphobia is ingrained in all of us, and I often find it in myself. I am still learning to accept and not be too hard on myself. I have come a long way since hating this part of me. I now give myself a lot of hugs, and love and space to exist as I naturally happen to exist.

You want both. But what if you cannot have both all the time? How do you reconcile with your desires in a climate that considers monogamy ‘superior’ or ‘naturally desired’?

This is where a lot of people get bisexuality wrong. Bisexuality is not a synonym for polyamory. We don’t “want” both. A bisexual person feels attraction for different genders, the same way a straight woman would find two men cute at the mall. Would she want to get with them both? No. You don’t want to get with someone just because you are attracted to them, you get with them when you have a connection. Bisexuals can be monogamous. Bisexuality and polyamory are two different things.

Do you know other bi-folks?

I do know of plenty of Bi-folks. Some out, some not. Some open to talking about it and others are more private about their sexuality. Some have always been friends, some I dated, some reached out to me after reading my work online. It’s a big, Bi world!

Where does one meet bisexual persons?

I, being an introvert suffering from anxiety, have found connections from the LGBT community mostly online. I have found many interesting people through apps such as OkCupid, and Tinder even. In India, the LGBT community is so limited that it’s difficult to meet someone, or a person who doesn’t already know somebody you’ve dated before. Of course, there are LGBT events that one could go to, to socialize but I am yet to try them out.

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