Content Warning: biphobia

The July 22nd xojane article "UNPOPULAR OPINION: If You Only Date Men, You Don't Get to be Queer" is biphobia disguised as queer activism. The article details the anonymous author's complaints about their friend's queer identity, which wind through many contradictions to say: "I have only known you to date and fuck men. However you feel and whatever you do, you are not queer enough to be queer." (Let's not mention the irony of the author telling bi women they must come out constantly to everyone, when they themself won't even attach their name to their biphobic opinion piece.)

As much as I wish everyone would be an activist, it’s not a prereq for LGBTQ+ identities. Even "queer," with its often-political implications, is often extended no-questions-asked to gay and lesbian folks, while bi women are treated like they have to earn the right. The friend described in the article is making complex decisions about when and how to be out, like we all do. Outside the twisted biphobic logic of this article, it's clear why someone might be more out at a liberal women's college than in high school.

No one ever has a duty to come out, and that goes as much for queer women who only date men as it does for anyone else. It's not the author's place to judge when it's safe for their friend to come out, any more than it's their place to decide their friend's identity. Sometimes "hard or complex conversations" are the danger. Not everyone always has the mental and emotional energy to be grilled about their romantic and sexual attractions and histories in relation to how they identify their orientations. It's ableist as well as biphobic to require queer women to do this work in exchange for their freedom to self-identify.

The author uses “the personal is political” to justify their demands, but they don’t seem to have a decent sense of how those categories operate. The personal only effectively serves politics when there is a supportive community to put it in political context. Biphobes excel at depoliticizing bi identity. Outside of radical bi community, coming out as bi is much more likely to attract dangerous and destructive criticism than to make others consider their bi erasure.

The author calls for straight-parsed bi/queer women to come out, but they create obstacles rather than support. Scrutiny like this from within the queer community fuels further biphobia and consumes energy that we misinterpreted bi folks could otherwise spend on other personal and political ventures.

The author's attitude is part of what made it take so long for me to realize I was queer and be able to come out. I went through high school thinking of myself as “straight but not that straight” when I had to think about that identity. I had never had a crush on a girl, but I felt like that was sheer coincidence, that there was a potential there. No one told me it was possible that that potential meant anything, and I never independently thought to name it as queerness. I went through high school and my first few years of college relating to the out queers from afar, not even realizing it was their queerness I identified with. The author of this xojane article insists that her friend should find a "not that straight" way to be straight so that the author won't have to question their own ideas of what it can mean to be queer.

Once I had a better idea of my own orientation, I started to think about coming out, but I still wasn't sure what exactly I was. The author’s solution is to talk about experiences instead of labels. For all the difficulty of coming out to my mom as pansexual, I think it went a lot better than it would have to tell her my earlier formulation, which was: “I’m romantically attracted to guys, and I’m sexually attracted to girls too, but I’ve never had a crush on one, and I’d never have sex outside of a relationship, so it’s probably never gonna happen, so it doesn’t matter." (And as it turns out, that's not a good summary of my attractions.)

Here's how the author and xojane could have used the space of this article to make the queer world safer and more welcoming for multi-gender-attracted women: Queerness is about how you feel and identify, not the stats of whom you've dated or fucked. Coming out is difficult, especially when people try to shove you back in the closet. You don't ever have to come out, and you're the best judge of under what circumstances that's a good idea for you. If you do want to come out, you have every right to, even if you're uncertain of your identity or you've come out differently before. You are not responsible for other people's misreadings of you, and it's up to you whether to correct their biphobia. You're not letting the rest of us down by taking care of yourself. There is huge variation among bi and queer people, and you don't have to meet a quota of attraction frequency or intensity in order to be one of us. You are one of us. You are enough. Welcome.

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Kayla Rosen is a bi/pan/queer agender femme who spends a lot of time rolling their eyes at various misreadings of their identities. Find them writing about messy intersections at goodbye-good-bi.tumblr.com and kaylarosenzines.etsy.com.