Honoring a bi partner in a straight relationship?
April 24, 2021 10:19 AM   Subscribe

I (M) am entering into an LTR with a woman I’ve known for a long time who came out as bi late in life and recently, and is struggling with reconciling things. Other than giving her her own time and space, what can I do each day to help with that and make sure she doesn’t feel erased?

I hope y’all will be patient with me if anything in my question is poorly worded or sounds patronizing or is wrong on its face. I love this person very dearly and my aim is to be respectful and her feel lifted up. I’ve asked her the same question directly but was looking for additional input.
posted by ftm to Human Relations (11 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
You sound like you just like your partner a lot.

If it were me, I'd just want the person to omit the categories and ask questions if they felt needed.

If it's something she actually struggles with socially, it's a different situation. Perhaps be very clear with any arrangements or limitations and just let her do as she pleases, so as long as it brings you no harm or doesn't compromise your own definitions of what a connection or relationship is.
posted by firstdaffodils at 10:49 AM on April 24, 2021 [1 favorite]

From the perspective of someone bi, married to a dude I met when I was a teenager, came out as queer in my 30s: at this point I figure I'm somewhere on the genderqueer spectrum but don't really fuss too much about labels. However, it is kind of frustrating to mostly get compliments on my looks/outfits from peers or a partner on days when I'm dressing more femme. (Particularly as I'm on a slow/pandemic-stalled process to replace a lot of those items in my wardrobe with new favorite fit clothing, boys XL shirts.) So maybe try to be aware of that? That said, this may not be applicable to your partner if she's not also struggling with gender presentation stuff.
posted by deludingmyself at 10:52 AM on April 24, 2021 [4 favorites]

This POV is very dependent on personal definitions and labels, but
I'm a non-straight person in a straight-passing relationship, and I/we consider the relationship a queer relationship. I'd feel not seen if my partner called our relationship straight because that's putting me into a box that prioritizes him and being 'normal'.

You can pick the label that works for your relationship, and maybe it doesn't matter to her, but it might help not think of it as 'straight'.

Good luck!
posted by platypus of the universe at 11:25 AM on April 24, 2021 [18 favorites]

Best answer: A bisexual person in a opposite-gender relationship is in a bisexual relationship. Reframing this in your thought process will help. I understand why you think this, but the framing you are using is one reason why heteronormativity is pervasive in our world.
posted by saeculorum at 11:51 AM on April 24, 2021 [19 favorites]

As a bi woman in a long-term monogamous relationship with a man, here are some things that I would like a partner (or maybe just people in general) to know/think about/do. You sound like a sensitive caring partner so maybe none of this will apply to you, but I'll just throw my thoughts out there and maybe something will be helpful.

Don't assume your partner does not want to be monogamous, or is incapable of being monogamous. Just because a person is bisexual or pansexual does not mean they necessarily need to have a partner of every gender they happen to be attracted to. Just like a straight person, if I find myself attracted to someone outside of my monogamous relationship, I can control myself.

If there is a possibility that both of you are open to being polyamorous, be sure that you both clearly understand what that means for each of you. Currently, I have been perfectly happy being monogamous for many years. There was a time, however, when I would not have minded having permission for a girlfriend on the side, but I was not willing to reciprocate with permission for him to do the same. If you are thinking about some form of polyamory, make sure that you are both on the same page regarding what that entails.

Don’t assume she’s your ticket to a threesome. Every man I’ve been with has generously stated that they would be perfectly ok with me having sex with a woman, but only if they could be involved. Unfortunately for them, I had absolutely no interest in exploring that side of my sexuality with a guy along for the ride. Unfortunately for me, some guys can be pretty obnoxious about pushing for it.

Follow her lead and be supportive regarding how visible she herself wants to be. Bi people can encounter hostility from straights for being “gay”, but don’t assume that LGBTQ+ people will naturally be allies. Some of the most negative and offensive things I’ve heard said have been from other queer people (one of whom told me to my face that I must be confused about my sexuality, or else I was a coward for remaining “on the fence” rather than just admitting I was a lesbian.)

I haven’t found a lot of personal benefit to being visible, to be honest. I’m not looking for a girlfriend. I don’t want to be hit on by couples looking for a “unicorn” (a bi woman willing to play with a couple without bringing her own man along.) I don’t want to give my guy the idea that I may be open to the idea bringing another woman into our sex life. I don’t need shitty commentary from bi-phobes on either side. Even if I wanted to be out for the sake of counteracting “bi invisibility”, it takes a certain amount of effort to stay visible. If I’m not continually drawing attention to it, people see my relationship and forget I’m not straight. I love that bi people are getting more representation on TV, but by the last season of Schitt’s Creek I wonder how many people actually remembered that David is pansexual, considering he hasn’t dated a woman since season one? The last time I watched Brooklyn 99, I was amused by the fact that they had to keep bringing up Rosa’s bisexuality once she started dating women, so she didn’t become an assumed lesbian. I’m not really interested in continually bringing up my sexuality when most people are only interested in who you’re bringing to Christmas dinner, not who you may be lusting after in your heart.

So I guess I would say be supportive of however she chooses to be visible, or not, but definitely let her take the lead; and understand that her desire to be visible might vary depending on the situation, and the people involved, and how tired she might be of bringing it up.
posted by Serene Empress Dork at 12:22 PM on April 24, 2021 [27 favorites]

I am a cis bi woman married to a cis straight man. From the outside, our relationship looks like the gold standard of heteronormativity.

I’ve experienced, and could have written the same thing about, every single point Serene Empress Dork wrote above. (Reading it made me pause for a second midway through and think to myself, “Wait, did I already answer this question?”.)

There have been so many implications that I couldn’t possibly be monogamous. SO MANY ever-so-generous men wanting me to perform for their gaze. So many disparaging comments from quote-unquote-real gay people (mostly gay men for some inexplicable reason). So little personal benefit to being visible[1].

So yeah. Taking her lead and not making any assumptions is very, very good advice.

[1] I believe that being visible has lots of benefits for others and for society as a whole so I’m out everywhere, but the only personal benefit I get is the satisfaction of living out loud as my authentic self. Otherwise it brings me nothing but inconvenience.
posted by jesourie at 2:21 PM on April 24, 2021 [11 favorites]

Best answer: As a bi (well, pan, but whatever) woman in a relationship with a bi man, our relationship is straight. We aren't, we're both queer as fuck, but our relationship is straight.

Don't assume any 'rules' about what you should or should not call your relationship are universal, despite what some here seem to be claiming.

(But for sure, do not do not assume that bi = poly, that is a tired and often offensive cliché. Doesn't rule it out either, of course, but if you wouldn't bring it up with another partner, probably don't here either?)
posted by Dysk at 8:07 PM on April 24, 2021 [3 favorites]

Something to follow her lead on is how out she is in different situations, and how she feels about having it come up in different situations.

There are bi women who would think it was awesome for their partner to be like "OMG, yeah, [girlfriend's name] and I both have the biggest crush on that actress." There are people who would think it was awesome in some situations and weird in others, and people who would think it was totally obnoxious. There are people who wouldn't be into having it come up so light-heartedly, but would be fine with you bringing it up in a more serious situation — maybe if a close friend's kid just came out as bi and they're looking for someone to talk to about it, your girlfriend would be fine with you making that introduction.

And, I dunno, that's all stuff you'll figure out. I think a good baseline is "don't out someone unless you know it's ok." But as you get to know her and learn how she feels, you may find that there are situations where it's ok.
posted by nebulawindphone at 9:14 AM on April 25, 2021 [1 favorite]

Let her figure things out and take her lead. Basically try to understand what being bi means to her, and how she wants to express that. DON'T ask this right out, like "honey, so what does being bi mean to you, and how do you want to express your bi-ness?" Take her lead when she brings it up.

However, if you are genuinely curious about something, you can initiate the conversation. E.g. "Do you think of this as a straight relationship or do you wanna call it something else?" Always come from a place of trying to understand and empathize with her, and avoid mansplaining. E.g. "I read this about bi women in relationships and men, so that must be what's going on with you." Don't do that. Try "I read this, and I'm wondering if that's something you experience too?" Be open, don't assume anything, listen, and try to integrate what she's saying. You said you don't want her to feel erased, so make sure that she feels heard with you. You would not want to make her feel erased in your relationship because you weren't listening properly.

In the meantime, do some research and reading on your own. Find material by queer/bi women in relationships with men to understand their perspective, but also don't assume that everything they experience is what your partner experiences. There's lots of stuff out there to get you started.
posted by foxjacket at 10:21 AM on April 25, 2021 [4 favorites]

Best answer: My feelings differ somewhat from some of the posts above so I'll just chuck in my two pennorth in case it's useful. I love being visible! I love having my queerness celebrated! It makes a huge change from my youth, where it was sneered at, male-gazed, and/or ignored.

For reference, I am a bi, more or less cis lady married to a cis straight man. I've known I was bi my whole adult life but internalised biphobia meant that I didn't inhabit the full space of that identity like I do now, so I probably have some similar feelings to your partner on this.

Things I love that he's done for me:

- Showed up to cheer me on when I walked in our city's Pride parade
- Is co-parenting our daughter in such a way as to vocally and consistently promote the idea of all identities being visible and good. Some people might laugh, but even as a 2.5 year old she has story books with gay characters in, and toys whose pronouns are they/them
- Enjoys Gay Humour with me, which I have only realised is a thing since finding the Gay Twitter community, talk about life enhancing
- Bought me a rainbow watch strap when I was disappointed (albeit not surprised!) cause Pride got cancelled last year (it would have been our first one in our new city).

These are small things that feel big to me. He doesn't ask, he just listens, and shows up. I guess that's it really.
posted by greenish at 1:04 PM on April 27, 2021 [3 favorites]

Best answer: echoing greenish from a different perspective. I'm considered a cis straight male, but as a side "hobby" I perform in a comedy troupe here with lots of LGBTQ+ people - the founders are a gay couple - and sometimes people assume I'm bi just because of that. Anyway, in _all_ the variations of couples, including some polyamorous "thruples", that I've met through this group, what she says holds up the most "Listen, and show up". That's probably the best four word advice for any relationship, really.
posted by TimHare at 9:08 AM on April 29, 2021 [2 favorites]

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