By Rhammel Afflick. Original post on HuffPost.
When we think about the issues faced by lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people we rarely separate out the issues that they face as separate entities in the mainstream media. Why would we? Collectively as a group we still have lots to fight for. Most of those fights centred on humanities inability to see that gender roles in society needn’t be so stringent. The truth is though; despite various compelling reasons to stick together; like the idea walking down a street anywhere in the world can still be a daunting task; we can’t forget the fact that being a white lesbian woman isn’t the same as being a black bisexual woman and so on.
Now I’m not talking about the need for a separate campaign focusing on bisexuals or any other group they exist already and play their roles. I’m simply talking about collective individuality, a concept we’re yet to grasp. The idea that we can all work together but realise that even amongst the community we identify with most we still have a lot to learn, develop and progress on. Now so far this might seem like a simple concept. Nothing new I hear you say? Well sadly this way of thinking isn’t as mainstream as we think it is. The idea that intersectionality is brushed to the side seems odd when we’re talking about people at the frontline of fighting. It seems odd when on the surface we appear to be collectively at ease when the time is right.
As a bisexual young man living in London; somewhere I believe to be progressive on LGBT rights compared to the many other places in the world where people can be imprisoned for their sexuality; I find it increasingly hard to be open about my sexuality without explaining it in detail. Now you might be imagining a conversation with my straight friend from Uxbridge, or even a conversation with a stranger I’ve just met but actually it applies to conversations I’ll have in G-A-Y with my gay friend from Westminster. I’ll be sat having a drink (or two) with mates and it won’t be long before I’m quizzed on the last girl I dated or jokes are dropped about how greedy or confused I am. Imagine having lots of friends and family but still feeling lonely? Doesn’t quite sound right, does it?
Whenever I reveal my sexuality, I’m always ready for the generic reactions like ‘Oh I would have never known’ or ‘I’ve always known’ which are usually meant as a compliment or comfort but instead lead me to think about the fact those outside of the LGBT community are constantly pushed to believe that any man who is not straight is an extremely camp glitter fairy waiting for Mean Girls 3 to be released.
I am however never ready for the question that follows, which usually includes scaling my attraction to women over my attraction to men. I’m left feeling puzzled, like I should have asked my doctor when he measured my height and weight. My friends probably don’t realise but this moment always sends me off into a deep thought about whether bisexuality is even the right tag, is it that simple? What really constitutes my feelings towards people? How can I explain that in a world where we are driven to label everything? Because after all a label it makes us feel better. We can then begin to understand it and acknowledge it even exists.
Being bisexual leads to other issues that straights, gays and lesbians don’t have to deal with too often (in this format). The idea that on a weekly basis you get mistaken for being straight or gay, and you’re forced to decide whether it’s worth clarifying for the fifth time that week. Do I leave this lovely lady with the belief I’m straight, and therefore feel as if I’m once again hiding in a closet? Do I leave this young man to believe I’m gay or do I face looking defensive or ashamed of gay people by clarifying I’m bisexual? That’s all just before being faced with a colleague slandering gay people because despite the fact he knows my ex-girlfriend, he doesn’t know that I also have ex-boyfriends and hasn’t realised his comments weren’t only offensive they were directed at me.
This all becomes even more complicated when you reveal your bisexuality to a partner or date. Whether it’s with a straight women or a gay man, both present their own challenges. With straight women they are often left wondering whether my attraction to them is real and a linger of mistrust lies throughout the relationship. With gay men it’s a question of loyalty because they dislike the idea that I can make my sexuality invisible and just exit the harder life for a life with kids and widespread acceptance. I’ve even once been told by female friends they’d never date a guy that had been with another man, just before being told by a gay friend they’d be worried about having twice the competition, as if being bisexual makes you disloyal and or void of preference. Now this hasn’t applied to all of my past relationships, but the fact I and other friends have even considered entering another closet, by saying ‘I’m gay’ on top of ‘I’m straight’ to get through things isn’t great.
All these issues to think about while still coming to terms with the fact that being accused of being gay is still considered an insult. You may read this and distance yourself from my experiences but it’s still evident to me that amongst some of the more poignant issues like employment or marriage we still have a long journey to lead before sexuality is a problem of the past. Even in countries where acceptance of sexuality has advanced dramatically. Things might be getting better on paper but in practice the struggle continues.