Bisexual Visibility Day for a moot bisexual
September 12, 2017 11:26 PM   Subscribe

I am bisexual in a way that kinda doesn't matter and very few people know. Would it be appropriate to make it more widely known?

(Arguably) pertinent facts:
1. I am a cis man
2. I have been in a monogamous relationship with a cis woman for over a decade and expect to remain so for the rest of our lives
3. I am bisexual, and have known so since puberty (other than a mandatory period of conservative-hometown denial)
4. I do not have sexual experience with men, and given #2 it seems likely to stay that way

I've been thinking for a while about whether to come out more generally on Bi Visibility Day as it would seem to be in that spirit. However, I'm concerned that I'd be appropriating a burden that I don't think I've borne, nor am I likely to bear, given my relationship status/history and life circumstances (generally comfortable, very progressive family and friends, etc.).

I'd very much appreciate advice!
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (21 answers total) 19 users marked this as a favorite
I don't think this is moot at all. There are plenty of bisexual people who aren't yet in stable monogamous relationships who have had to deal with people who don't believe that bisexual people can actually engage in stable monogamous relationships, or that if they do so they stop identifying as bisexual. When a lot of the messaging is that a particular often-invisible group is unstable/unhappy/etc, coming out just to identify that it is possible to be a functional, happy adult member of that group is valuable. And it helps as far as getting people to stop assuming heterosexuality unless otherwise specified, which is good for everybody who isn't.
posted by Sequence at 11:53 PM on September 12, 2017 [20 favorites]

I was in a similar situation and may end up not dating a same gender person again. I try to be open about being queer at church, with my family and friends, where I feel knowing someone queer personally who "passes" matters a lot. People say daft to hurtful things in front of or to me, as a presumed straight person, and I take a breath and say actually... Not always, it's hard. It means coming out over and over, but I did have someone say they felt more welcome at our church because they knew I went there, and I have kids open up to me about stuff, and it matters. Knowing your neighbor is queer, especially a very overlooked variation, the bisexual in a hetero relationship, that changes minds.
posted by dorothyisunderwood at 12:09 AM on September 13, 2017 [6 favorites]

I'm a low-visibility bisexual person and I say go for it! It's ridiculous how much bullshit we have to go through to prove we exist. You're not appropriating anything at all - that idea is probably coming from some internalized biphobia - and bisexual folks shouldn't have to have been burdened to be visible anyway.

You might be surprised how many of your progressive family and friends have really never sat down and thought about their sexuality because they haven't had to. For ages I thought my experience in that respect was a lot more normal than it has turned out to be. The more we remind other people we exist and are part of their lives, the more people will bother to examine their own sexuality (and gender!) and be more thoughtful about others as a result. If you're thinking of being out to some young adults to whom you are a stabilizing influence this can be even more effective.
posted by Mizu at 12:17 AM on September 13, 2017 [5 favorites]

You share these kinds of questions and experiences with many other bi people -- it's really common for us to have questions along the lines of "am I bi enough to count as bi? am I queer enough to count as queer?" The thing is that bi experience is a queer experience that overlaps to varying degrees with straight and gay experiences but is also its own thing, and you have this thing.

When I try to analyze whether I'm appropriating something, it helps me a lot to look up the history and community around it. I don't have a deep background in this event, but reading Wikipedia for Celebrate Bisexuality Day, the quote from the creators of the event focuses on invisibility as a problem to solve. The references include this article by a co-creator that says: "We were looking for a way to unite with a positive message. 'We are wonderful just as we are!'"

From that lens, it sounds like making your identity more visible would contribute nicely to the goals of this day. No requirement to feel you have borne a heavy burden related to being bi. You could take this as an opportunity to share a positive message about being bi, or to share a link to a favorite nonprofit that supports queer and trans people. Maybe an unexpected friend will reach out to you and tell you that they are also a bi person in a hetero relationship, and you'll get to chat about it together.
posted by dreamyshade at 12:19 AM on September 13, 2017 [2 favorites]

You're as bi as any bi person in a same-sex relationship. You're as bi as a person in a poly relationship, or who is single but dating around. You're not moot. You're valid.
posted by Braeburn at 1:05 AM on September 13, 2017 [28 favorites]

I wish you would, all my bi mates complain about the lack of visibility and then never mention they are bi or post anything on bi visibility day! My feed looks a bit weird with all the homos posting about bi-visibility and nothing from actual, otherwise openly, bi folk (I do understand that not everyone can or wants to post about it, or indeed feels as you do that maybe they aughtn't). But yes, yes, yes, you are queer if you want to. You are enough. You are family to me.
posted by Iteki at 1:25 AM on September 13, 2017 [3 favorites]

I'm a bi cis woman in a monogamous relationship with a man (15 years ago today, actually) and I came out two years ago on bisexuality visibility day. I'm glad I did. It helped me connect with the queer community. I also thought I was fairly protected from potential homophobia, but surprise! My mother-in-law is fixated on my sexuality and has made a bunch of gross comments to me. So be aware that you might be disappointed in the reactions of others, but what I've gotten out of the experience i terms of self-love, acceptance, and frankly relief is worth it.

People act like the closet is a huge privilege for bi people but it's objectively a pretty sad place. Please come out of it!
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 3:19 AM on September 13, 2017 [4 favorites]

Make sure your partner understands that this is not you putting yourself back on the market.
posted by Segundus at 4:42 AM on September 13, 2017 [3 favorites]

I'm a cis lesbian in a relationship with another cis bi woman. In a world where bi erasure runs rampant and cultural heterosexism defines us all by our relationships, it matters so much for us to push back against that and be visible.

If you can safely be out, please do. It means so much less isolation and so much more community for other LGBT+ folks, and one of the things that truly matters for us as a larger movement and community is showing that we're diverse - the whole queer community isn't just gender non-conforming dykes who can't pass like me, it's a lot of different people with different lives and histories.

Your relationship defines some things about your life, but not this part of your identity. It is not moot. You are valid.
posted by bile and syntax at 5:46 AM on September 13, 2017 [1 favorite]

Hey there, fellow cis-bi-monogamous person! That post you just made? Right there?

That is like, the classic set of bi-invisibility feelings that so, so many of us have. I'm not really joking when I sometimes joke that wondering if you're bi enough is basically the defining feature of being "bi enough." Whatever that means. Worrying that you don't bear enough of the burden to be allowed to tell others the truth of your life is itself part of the burden, for a lot of us.

Which is to say you are not under any obligation to be more visible about your bisexuality, but if you want to, it is absolutely appropriate to do so. It's a piece of who you are, and it's fine to share that with the world. If your spouse is not one of the "very few" people who already know, I would certainly have the chat with her first, but then blow those closet doors off if you want to. Or stick a foot out and test the waters. That's cool too.

One thing I will caution you about: Sometimes when bi folks come out, what ends up kicking us in the gut is not the biphobia we were already kind of expecting from the straight folks in our lives - it's the stuff that comes at us from the gay folks. The dream of being welcomed with open arms into the embrace of the queer community sometimes happens, and it's the most wonderful thing, but sometimes it doesn't. Which can hurt a lot more, at least for me, than hearing similar things from straight people, because you somehow expect queer folks to know better or be better, and it doesn't always happen that way.

If that happens, please remember: the problem is them, not you, and other people will embrace you for exactly who you are.
posted by Stacey at 6:03 AM on September 13, 2017 [11 favorites]

Make sure your partner understands that this is not you putting yourself back on the market.

You haven't mentioned whether your partner even knows about this at all. I hope she does, but if not, this is not the way for her to find out. Please have a conversation with her beforehand.
posted by ubiquity at 6:44 AM on September 13, 2017 [2 favorites]

Expect to have to do some educating of straight people in your life, even fairly liberal straight people, whose response may well be "Why are you insisting on telling us this? If you're never going to date/marry a man, we don't need to know what you're into in bed." Depending on your social circle, you might also get it from gay friends, or even from fellow bi people who've swallowed the idea that "discretion" is required of us in order to be respectable.

The thing is, those people need to be educated, and being close to them puts you in a good position to do it. Stepping up to do some of that bi-101 educational work is a really good deed, and I would admire and appreciate you for doing it.
posted by nebulawindphone at 6:51 AM on September 13, 2017 [3 favorites]

Coming out is the essential political act for queer* people (and bisexuals have a longstanding problem of having their identity passively or actively ignored both by straight people and by gay people) so I think it's great if you do, but because it's so little a part of your life, also sort of fine if you don't? My gut sense as "stranger on the internet telling you what's morally right" is that your main obligation to a group you belong to in an invisible way is more along the lines of "stick up for bisexuals in conversations where people are saying something shitty" than "sign up for a whole lot of difficult conversations by coming out when it's not a relevant fact of your life." That said, coming out can also feel empowering and affirming and just, I don't know, great. If it feels like a core part of your identity that you have never talked about, it can be a great relief to talk about it.

As to the appropriation angle, unless you come out in a way that really stresses, as you say, having borne a burden you did not in fact bear, anyone who focuses on appropriation is being a dick. Coming out is, still, in 2017, hard and brave and if you do it, you have committed an act of kindness toward some person who thought they didn't know anyone else like them, and have helped to convince some straight person who thought they didn't know anyone queer that, hey, a bunch of big political questions affect someone I know and give a shit about. Which is also an act of kindness.

*I'm using queer as an umbrella term but realize it has negative associations for some people.
posted by Smearcase at 7:16 AM on September 13, 2017 [4 favorites]

Coming out is about being open about what how you live your life, so you can be honest with people about the person you love. You are already out now since the life you actually live is public.
Your theoretical bisexuality is nothing to be ashamed of, but unless you plan to put it into practice, it's TMI and is likely to confuse some people. I would be proud of my bisexuality if I were you, but would consider it something most people don't need to know.
posted by w0mbat at 9:22 AM on September 13, 2017 [1 favorite]

If you feel safe and comfortable coming out, and your only concern is "I'm only technically bi," be aware that doing so can encourage other people who can't. You can be sure there are other cis guys with relationships with women in your circle of coworkers and acquaintances who are struggling with "am I bi? what does that mean?" and being more public can help them sort out that yes, "being bi" can include an exclusive relationship with a member of the opposite gender.

If you can - making a statement on Bi Visibility Day is a convenient starting point; other little ways to come out are things like saying "oh yeah, [actor name] is hot" during a movie discussion, or casually flirting with guys the same way you would with women (at whatever level of flirting is normal for you, appropriate for the setting. E.g. "If I weren't taken, I'd date you in a hearbeat," etc.).
posted by ErisLordFreedom at 9:56 AM on September 13, 2017

I asked this question recently and I think a lot of the answers would be useful to you too in thinking through how you expressing your own identity is not appropriative. I know they were very helpful to me!
posted by augustimagination at 10:08 AM on September 13, 2017

I'm the female version of you and I am open about my bisexuality with people who are safe to tell. I usually don't have to tell other Queer people, because apparently I'm easy to read when people know what to look for. I am proud of it, consider it part of my identity, and am in complete solidarity with all sexual minorities. I've had to deal with the "not Queer enough" accusations several times but people who say those things are not the norm in my experience. I've been able to talk to them about their assumptions and in some cases they have changed their minds. No one has ever said I've misappropriated anything but I did have a past partner who was accused of doing so. The person who said that was abusive, and I've always considered such accusations to be hurtful and wrong. You have nothing to be ashamed of even if people do say such things to you and it might even be a teachable moment.
posted by Beethoven's Sith at 12:08 PM on September 13, 2017

But you are bearing a burden! The burden of being unseen, which is one all queer people face. You have this dyke's permission and encouragement to waltz your way out of that closet. You may never know how many invisibility cloaks you lift by being out and proud. Welcome to the club!
posted by fritillary at 5:18 PM on September 13, 2017 [2 favorites]

So, this is my second time pushing back on something like this, but it's not a big thing, so if I'm a broken record, I'm hopefully just a 45rpm broken record: coming out is not TMI. I'd file that gently beside "I don't care what gay people do as long as they do it behind closed doors." I know a lot of my friends are straight, and whether or not they're putting it into practice, it's who they are and it's not TMI if they want to make it known.
posted by Smearcase at 5:37 PM on September 13, 2017 [3 favorites]

I'm concerned that I'd be appropriating a burden that I don't think I've borne, nor am I likely to bear

First of all, you're totally allowed to be open about your own sexual orientation without worrying about whether it's "appropriative." How could the right-thinking progressive view be that any LGBT person needs to keep quiet about their identity?!

Anyway, I doubt it's true that you haven't been burdened at all. It's great that you're happy with you long-term relationship with your girlfriend. But before you two got together, you had to worry about being the victim of homophobia if you acted on some of your desires. To say you haven't been burdened by homophobia/biphobia because you're a man who's ended up in a relationship with a woman would be analogous to saying that if two black people are married to each other, they could not have been burdened by any bias against interracial relationships at any time in their whole lives. Well, yes they could have — if that bias deterred them dating or starting a relationship with someone of a different race in the past. Just because it might be uncomfortable discussing this with your current partner doesn't mean it has never been a factor in your life.

You have a distinctive role to play in awareness raising, precisely because the facts you listed make yourself not very visibly bi. There are other people like that, and you could give them a morale boost and encourage them to be more open about their identity. But you can only do that if you realize that you have the right to do it and don't need to worry about appropriating anything.
posted by John Cohen at 6:16 PM on September 14, 2017 [1 favorite]

Hppy Bi Visibility Day!
posted by Iteki at 7:47 AM on September 23, 2017 [1 favorite]

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