This is in response to “UNPOPULAR OPINION: If You Only Date Men, You Don't Get to be Queer”, posted on xojane.com
I don’t normally do this. Respond to biphobic bullshit, that is. Normally, I just say “fuck that noise”, just as the author of this piece suggests, ignore it, and carry on with my life. Speaking of my life. I’m bi and I’m pretty much totally closeted. I’ve come out to my mother (although I’m not sure how well it stuck, so to speak) and 3 friends, not counting people I’ve met via various LGBT centers and online. None of my classmates of 18-and-counting years of education know. Nobody at any of the labs I’ve ever worked at knows. My two supposedly best friends don’t know. I go to the local LGBT center sometimes, and even volunteer a bit with the Pride center at the university, I run #BiTalks. I don’t date women. I don’t date men. I don’t date anyone of any gender. Mostly because I don’t feel any real desire to do that. Will I in the future? Maybe, but I don’t think about it too much.
I live my life the way I feel comfortable with and the way my anxiety allows. I know the limits within which I can push myself. I do that in various areas of my life. Sometimes just asking a question during a lecture requires all the strength and courage I can spare that day. Sometimes I move an ocean away from my family to pursue my dreams of science despite the overwhelming irrational dread. Sometimes I walk up to talk to an unknown person in an attempt to make friends with my heart threatening to jump out of my throat.
Unpopular Opinion would have us all to be out all the time everywhere. But that’s impractical and impossible. Why would I come out to, say, my PhD thesis advisory committee? Or every single person in my workplace? They have no business knowing my personal life. Additionally, I have to prioritize where I want to spend my energy. While my sexuality is an important part of myself and I try to help other bi folks as much as I can running #BiTalks, for the most part I don’t want to do anything about it right now. Knowing it for myself and sharing it with the few people I feel comfortable with is enough for me at this point.
I do think that people who are out are important and they give me life, but at the same time I’m a firm believer that you should come out only if you want to and feel OK doing it. Avoiding fear and trepidation altogether when coming out is likely near-impossible, but one should do with a certain sense of excitement, furious triumph or something, not just dread and anxiety. Not everyone is cut out to be an activist. Not everyone ‘’wants’’ to be an activist. If all LGBT people were solely LGBT activists, we wouldn’t have our people doing anything else, like being bi-friendly therapists or run LGBT-friendly businesses. Obviously, you don’t need to be LGBT to do that, but it helps, and you don’t need to be out either, even though it helps as well. My point is, there is no one “true” way to live your life as a queer person. Whatever you choose to do, you’re still important and valid, because your outward behavior doesn’t change who you are.
Which brings me to all the horribly biphobic points Unpopular Opinion makes. Firstly, she accuses her closeted friend “dipping in and out of straight privilege”. It’s been said before but I’m going to say it again, if you’re not straight, you have no straight privilege, period. There’s heteronormativity and bi erasure. There is no straight privilege for non-straight folks. Also, heteronormativity is not the bi people’s fault. ‘’It’s not our fault’’ that you see a woman dating men and think that she’s straight and if she tells you she’s actually bi, you think that she’s not really queer. Bi community fights these notions, of course, but it’s not the fight each and every bi person must undertake every time it comes up. We’d have no rest.
Secondly, Unpopular Opinion goes on to say how her friend and, by extension, other bi/queer people in a similar situation should identify, i.e. anything but queer or bi. She also speculates that she has no way of knowing of all the people that her friend had sex with, but goes on to say that there can’t have been any women because she doesn’t know about them. Whatever is the case self-identification is the only requirement for choosing a particular label. Nobody has any right to say otherwise. Unpopular Opinion also scorns at people who adopt the queer or pan label when they mean “sexuality is fluid, I would never rule something out in the future”, to that I would like to cite the definition of bisexuality one of the foremost bi activists Robyn Ochs gives: “I call myself bisexual because I acknowledge that I have in myself the potential to be attracted – romantically and/or sexually – to people of more than one sex and/or gender, not necessarily at the same time, not necessarily in the same way, and not necessarily to the same degree.” I bolded the part where she says “potential”. I feel like I’m repeating myself, but again, there’s no one true way to be bisexual. Our attractions may shift and change. For example, a bi woman might find herself attracted to mostly men for 10 years or more, but she knows, either from experience or passing thoughts, that she is/can be attracted to other genders too.
What pisses me of most about Unpopular Opinion’s piece is the fact that the author spends the first half of the piece basically policing someone’s identity and claiming to know everything about the person and her life, and then in the end puts in a disclaimer that she’s not the sexuality police, but says that everyone should come out (barring life-threatening circumstances), which sounds exactly like sexuality policing. Not to mention all of the counterarguments to the arguments as to why bi women don’t come out. How about we take them one by one, shall we?
The queer community is full of bisexual erasure and biphobia. That’s true, it is, and the author of the piece seems to agree and suggests that we say “fuck that noise”. Well, guess what? That’s what I’m doing, there’s more ways to do that than just coming out. Me, walking away and living my life as I want is me saying “fuck that noise”. I will always cheer the bi folks who keep fighting biphobia and bi erasure, and it’s important to fight it. But it’s up to each person to decide whether they want to do it. I’m not going to drive myself to self-harm because of anxiety and stress induced by fights, arguments, and bullying. Even more importantly, I’m not going to feel guilty about not speaking up out of self-preservation. This is to all bi women and bi folks in general out there, who feel guilty and anxious about not being out, don’t be. You have to take care of yourself first. The mental health of bi folks is already the worst among queer people. If you feel better being bi “quietly”, you’re just as valid and important.
It's hard to date women/gender non-conforming folks. Here Unpopular Opinion says that it’s hard for everybody. It’s true I suppose, what’s your point? It’s also hard for straight people, if romantic movies are anything to judge by, and straight people are everywhere. Unpopular Opinion proceeds to say that online dating is “a crapshoot”. To each their own, I guess, but what about people who don’t have time or energy to go out/volunteer? To be honest, I don’t have strong opinions about dating at all. However, I don’t believe that everyone coming out would solve that many of queer dating problems. It’s unfair to pressure and guilt-trip people into coming out just so you can get laid.
Coming out is scary. Again, Unpopular Opinion says that it’s scary to everyone, and I agree and brownie points for mentioning the fact that coming out may be physically unsafe and/or cause you to lose your support system. However, not being out to the whole world doesn’t make my life any less “truthful”. Honestly, the amount of things I’ve never told anyone about myself is much bigger than the amount of things I’ve shared. I’m still me. It’s my life. Since I’m an adult, within the limits of the law, as far as my personal and inner life goes, I’m accountable only to me. Even kids and teens don’t owe anyone any information about their sexuality, if they don’t feel like sharing. Again, it comes down to priorities at any given time in your life. Balance between all the things (work, family, friends, hobbies, being out, etc) is desirable, of course, but you cannot be balanced out 24/7 your whole life. Also, it’s very presumptuous of Unpopular Opinion to assume that everyone can overcome “scary”. It is not equally scary to everyone. Coming out is probably always at least a little scary, but it’s especially scary for the first time, it’s especially scary to folks with anxiety and other mental health problems. No one has any right to judge people for not coming out, whatever their reason. In the end, Unpopular Opinion says that she’s not the sexuality police, but the tone of the whole post is very judgmental and the rest of the post is basically her guilt-tripping and judging people for not coming out. Like, I get that it’s difficult if you’re visibly queer and you get bullied and called slurs and can’t do anything about it, but guess what – it’s not other queer people’s fault! If anything, by saying that everyone should be out all the time, you’re perpetuating the same stereotypes of what a queer person should do or be. And it’s an impossible feat anyway – one cannot be 100% out to everyone they meet unless they’re wearing a sign “I’m bi”, and even then, you cannot guarantee that everyone will see it/be able to read it.
I'm not sure. Well, at least Unpopular Opinion concedes that it’s OK if you’re unsure and that there’s no certification you need to pass to talk about your experiences. But the same goes for labels! Again, there’s no one correct way to explore your sexuality. If you have people you can talk to, great! One should be able to use whatever words they choose to describe both their experiences and possible identities. If they want to try out a label, just see how it sounds in relation to them in casual conversation, they should be able to do so without fear. Alternatively, if one wants to keep their identity journey for oneself, that’s their choice.
I don’t want to/you can’t make me. Unpopular Opinion’s response to that: “I sure can’t! Also, fuck you.” She seems really pissed that she can’t control how other people live their lives.
So, that’s it. I kind of wish I hadn’t read this Unpopular Opinion. My life is much happier without biphobes in my life, but I guess at least it’s made me feel even more fiercely protective of all bi folks, especially, closeted bi women. I will defend you all to the grave online, because, in person anxiety often gets the best of me.
Co-creator of #BiTalks, anxious bi baby scientist who loves too many fictional women