not bi enough

Activating our Bi-dar: a future for the bisexual community

Radar

Most of us are familiar with the term gaydar.  It is the ‘intuitive’ ability to assess if someone is not straight.  But then, there you have it.  It implies that you can only be gay or straight.  What about all of us bisexuals?  What happens to us when someone erroneously assumes we are straight or gay?  As Shiri Eisner points out in Bi: Notes for a Bisexual Revolution: “Since our bisexuality is not ‘known’ to have any visual markers, we are routinely accused of fraudulence, perceived as invisible, and forced to deal with others’ doubts regarding our identities and our oppression.”

The terms ‘gay’ and ‘straight’ present a simplified and more palatable understanding of how the world works.  In fact, the Western, minority world has a long-standing affinity for binaries – so much so that binarist ways of thinking and acting go unquestioned.  Anthropologists have a term for this: ‘Doxa’ – the stuff that goes without saying.  Good /bad; male/female; child/adult; life/death; straight/gay: are all binarist, seldom questioned, ways of making sense of the world.  Anything in between, that doesn’t fall neatly into one or the other category, is feared and sometimes reviled.

As part of our Judeo-Christian heritage, we tend to divide everything into rigid categories of good and bad so often, we don’t give it much critical thought.  For example, the male/female binary is left unquestioned, and it is assumed to be natural and inherent.  Any person who falls outside that binary is a social outcast.  Puberty, is another example of a liminal state of existence between childhood and adulthood, and as such is often scorned.  Teenagers are depicted in Western culture as individuals who are caught between childhood and adulthood and are therefore unstable and dangerous.  Those stages between life and death are rejected as unnatural and even repulsive because they defy our strict separation between those categories: life and death.  States of being like depression and chronic illness that are between being fully alive and dead, are considered to be something to avoid at all costs.
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Dear Joanna: "Am I bi enough?"

Untitled-2Dear Joanna,

For the most part I’m certain that I’m bisexual, but it seems like no matter how many times I seek support on the internet and am reassured that yes, it’s okay to be bisexual and lean more heavily towards guys, I still somehow don’t feel “gay” enough to legitimately call myself bi, or be a member of the LGBT community. I also only just recently came out to myself (as in, last week) which might contribute my feelings of not belonging to the LGBT community. Even though the word “bisexual” has been making occasional appearances in my mind for the last 4-5 years, I found it relatively easy to convince myself that I was straight. There was that time that I fooled around with a (girl) friend when I was about 13, but I just called it “experimentation”. And when I had a crush on another female friend from 15-16? I told myself it was just strong friendship, and any time my brain ever dared to label it an actual crush, I told myself I was just going through a phase. Except I’m 20 years old now and really don’t think it can be considered a phase anymore.

I’ve always supported the LGBT community, and grew up in a house that was very open-minded, though this wasn’t the norm for the rest of my family, who are heavily religious Christians. I have an aunt that enjoyed relationships with men until she very unexpectedly fell in love with a woman 15 years ago, whom she is still with today. The rest of my family still accepts my aunt’s presence and makes the effort to keep in touch with her, but it is generally understood that to ever bring her partner to a family event would be taboo. So it’s not that I actually have a problem with liking girls, because I don’t- I just understand how much easier it is to be straight, and wanted to fit that simple model. In fact, I’ve always viewed bisexuality with amazement: basically the definition of loving someone for what’s on the inside, rather than out, and now that I’ve accepted this aspect of myself I’m actually very proud of it, but I feel very unsure about telling people.
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