Recently, I was talking to my core group of friends when I noticed something:
Bi-erasure is still a thing, and sometimes it is so ingrained, so subtle, that people don’t realize that they are doing it.
I’m not sure how we got on the topic of one of my friends’ male friends in our group chat, but she said his name and two messages from different people immediately popped up: “The gay dude?” (This was not in an offensive way – we sometimes throw names around, but we all are bad with names and so we need other ways to identify people.) I immediately got defensive. Because he isn’t gay; he’s bisexual.
“No, the bi one,” I reply.
I kind of removed myself from the conversation after that for a bit; to be honest, I was more than a little upset and I wanted to examine that feeling. It’s not like he and I were friends. Even though he did once open up to me about how hard it was for him as a Black man to have a relationship with a Black woman after she found out he was bisexual (and vice versa with men). And so he had to choose. Maybe I was just frustrated for his sake?
Or maybe I was projecting my own struggles with this issue into my friends’ words when they were clearly oblivious to the intricacies of what it could be perceived as. It seemed as if, by the casual way they said it, they didn’t realize that they could be erasing part of someone’s personality, someone’s being. Because even though he has explicitly said he likes men and women, he can’t possibly really like them all. He’s with a man right now, so he’s gay, right?!? And one may say that it’s just words – that I’m being too sensitive – but words mean things. Soon enough, if you hear a word being used to describe you constantly, your brain will pick up on it and do that whole “association” thing. That’s something I’ve experienced firsthand with verbal abuse; and while this isn’t abuse, being told repeatedly by several different people that you are “something” can make a person question if they are indeed that descriptor.
My relationships with non-men have all been very layered. They have been some of the deepest relationships I have had, yet for the most part they’ve gone unacknowledged – lot of times by outside people, and sometimes even by the other person in the relationship! It’s frustrating.
And it has to be even more frustrating for those who feel as if they have to choose a side if they want companionship – just giving up and stifling your attraction to fit into a mold that people refuse to release you from.
“I’m not actively dating, so I can see why I don’t have any non-men partners. I rarely approach anyone. And it only seems like cis-men approach me – it’s like it’s just assumed I’m straight. Even more so when people find out I’m polyamorous and see my partners. I feel like anyone who might be interested in me won’t even approach me because of how I’m perceived.” I sigh.
“It’s pretty much the same for bisexual men,” one of my partners informs me. “Most gay men just assume – when they learn that I have female partners – that I’m confused, in the wrong place, or on the DL.”
“I just don’t understand the bi-hate, or even the dismissal of it,” a friend states in another conversation. “Monosexuals don’t trust ya’ll. It’s weird.”
Yes, it is.