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The isolation and erasure of bisexual identities

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Bi erasure

Anna Schnell The Daily

There’s a sense of isolation in being a bisexual woman. We aren’t straight, but, especially if we’re in relationships with men, we aren’t queer enough.

I spent years of my life conflicted about my sexuality before finally settling on the label of bisexual, but everything was thrown into disarray again when I started dating a man. A friend joked about me “being heterosexual now,” and it added to feelings I was already having — that I was being isolated from a community that has always been such an important part of my identity.

Being a woman dating a man fits more in with what’s socially normative than my relationships ever had before, and that suddenly made me feel less queer. I spent a lot of my time in woman-loving-woman spaces, and although I’d always known I was attracted to men, it was more in theory than in practice.

As soon as I started dating a man, it felt like I was genuinely becoming less queer — and not just personally. My friend who joked that I was heterosexual now is also bisexual, but she now sees me as straight, despite the fact that I discussed my sexuality and a previous relationship with a nonbinary partner often with her.

It seems like people view bisexuality as some sort of sexuality Schrodinger’s cat. You can be bisexual as long as the box is shut, but as soon as you hook up with someone or start a relationship, you’re “picking a side.”

There aren’t sides to bisexuality. It isn’t half-straight, half-gay, or even somewhere in between. It’s its own unique sexuality, and bi people are bi no matter who they’re dating.  

After how terrifying it is to realize that your sexuality makes you non-normative, and the difficulty coming out and knowing your friends and family might see you differently, and after having queer friends by your side supporting you through that and finding safety and hope in that community, it hurts to be shoved back into a heterosexual box (or closet) by that community.

While I’m dating a man, I don’t experience a relationship with a man the same way a straight woman would. I experience it as a bisexual woman. Implying otherwise erases my history, my previous relationships, my childhood crushes and how, despite dating a man, I am still a woman who loves women as well.

This is only one aspect of bisexual erasure, and how our identities as bisexual people are reduced to who we’re dating or having sex with. In a world where heterosexuality is normative, our identities are reduced to a fun way to steal a girl’s boyfriend in Ariana Grande music videos.

For a lot of queer identities, there’s an emphasis on visibility, and bisexuality is no different. It’s not representation to turn bisexuality into a joke, and it further isolates bisexual people, especially bisexual women, from the queer community.

I wasn’t just bisexual when my partner was nonbinary. That didn’t define my sexuality any more than dating a man does now. I’m not asking for validation in dating a man, I’m asking for people to understand that bisexuality is much more complex than who a person is dating or sleeping with.

Reach Social Media Editor Hailey Robinson at specials@dailyuw.com. Twitter: @haileyarobin

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