I’d like to talk about erasure. Now I know that this is a very broad topic which covers a wide variety of different experiences, and I can’t talk about things which I haven’t experienced. I just want to note first that I know that women, racial minorities, transgender people, and genderqueer individuals all face erasure of their own. Yet I try to keep my blog posts based as purely on my own experience as I can, so I’m going to only talk about the sort of erasure that I have experienced as a bisexual.
Essentially what bisexual erasure boils down to is how we as a society tend to explain away and ignore evidence for sexual orientations which fall outside of the typical gay/straight binary. When a person exhibits behaviors that we determine by whatever metric to be queer, we automatically assume that this person is gay. I’ve yet to hear anyone examine a person’s behavior and mannerisms and come to the conclusion that they were bisexual, pansexual, or any other orientation that isn’t gay or straight. I really do understand why these orientations aren’t recognized, and it’s because they’re complicated. A gay person can come out to a group by dropping easily recognized contextual hints about a man or woman that they like, find attractive, or are dating. If a person who is somewhere else along the spectrum of sexualities, they (we) cannot simply talk about who we are dating and have people understand. I have had many experiences at the center where I’ve started to talk about my girlfriend and had people give me funny looks, as if what I was saying was terribly confusing. Indeed, I’ve even had people cautiously ask me if I was “just an ally” because I brought up my girlfriend. No, just because I’m in a “heterosexual relationship” doesn’t automatically make me heterosexual.
Now to be fair, I have also had great experiences at the center with people who want to learn more about my sexuality and show an understanding that I can’t be defined in typical straight/gay terms. Yet the overwhelming tendency people have to associate LGBT with “gay” has been a bit of a bother for me. (Yeah, I’m prone to understatement.) When I hang a rainbow flag out of my window, to most that means that I support gay rights. But I don’t. I support LGBTQQIA (the A in this case being Asexual) rights and equality. I feel that too often when I am in the LGBT Center, it is assumed that I will only talk about my “gay side” and that my “straight side” is a taboo which unsuitable for conversation in such close proximity to rainbows. Well, I don’t have a straight side and a gay side, I am a bisexual. And I, and any other member of this community who doesn’t identify as gay or straight, shouldn’t have to try to figure out how to define my sexuality in terms that are compatible with the typical binary notion.
Just some food for thought. Maybe that boy/girl you’re totally sure is gay is actually bisexual. Or pansexual. Or demisexual. You just don’t know, so please try not to assume for your own convenience.