"Just leave your boyfriend at home…": Being Bi at Pride

it-s-ok-to-be-gay-prideWith pride happening in a few weeks, I have noticed posts cropping up around the internet, written by members of the gay and lesbian community, telling bi people if and how they should be attending Pride. The general consensus is that bi people can attend Pride if they are in a relationship with a “same sex” partner and if they do choose to attend with their “opposite sex” partner, they should keep quiet and refrain from showing public expressions of intimacy.

While the LG community often has problems with bi people, these issues seem to get intensified when the issues of Pride comes about. Despite the origins of Pride and the heavy involvement of bisexual (and trans) people in its early organisation, there seems to be a focus on open and visible gay celebration. But what happens when you are someone who is never able to be visibly queer, despite how you identify?

The statement of “If you are bi, but in a hetero relationship, you can come but leave your straight partner at home” pushes some very obvious questions to the surface. What if you are both bi or queer in some way? Who should leave who at home? Why are we constantly having to prove how “gay” we are? You could very well be misgendering one or both of us by assuming we are in a hetero relationship! And finally, I am NEVER in a straight relationship… because I am not straight.
I am queer (/bi) and so therefore my relationship will always be as such. Its not only the horrific biphobia in these sorts of statements that is the issue, people who think this way are forgetting that hetero queer people exist, for example those who are asexual and heteroromantic or aromantic and heterosexual, or trans people who are heterosexual (because one huge thing people tend to forget is that your gender does not affect your sexuality), you can be genderqueer and heterosexual and still belong in the LGBTQIA+ community and therefore 100% have a place at Pride.

This puts me in an uneasy position this year, I haven’t attended Pride for the past few years as I never really felt welcome and on some occasions have overheard slurs and hate speech such as “breeders” being used to talk about bi people being at pride. It’s not the inclusive, open and accepting environment where we are free to be exactly who we are, or it is, as long as you are “fully gay”… whatever that means. Another problem I have with pride is that it is usually referred to as “gay” Pride, a place to celebrate being ‘gay’. The entire LGBTQIA+ community, with its vast and extremely diverse group of identifiers is usually squashed down into a box labelled “gay”. People will often refer to the “gay” community as one monolithic group that encompasses all queer identifiers, both sexualities and genders.

However when those of us who are considered “other” within the “gay community’” use the word gay, it is suddenly an issue. We are confronted with, “but you aren’t gay, you are ___”. And they make a good point. I am not gay. I do identify with a whole bunch of other identifiers that do make me queer and part of the community however. It just so happens that that community is very often called “gay”, and if I belong there, and that blanket term is being attributed to me, do I not have the right to use it? I admit it’s tricky and a problem based in language, but I don’t think I am any less “gay” for being bisexual than anyone else in the LGBTQIA+ community. And therefore I have the right to attend Pride safely and without facing discrimination and slurs.

Furthermore I should also be able to bring my partner. From an outside, heteronormative, perspective, I understand how people would look at us and assume we are a ‘straight’, albeit alternative, couple. But what they are missing is that I am a bisexual, demisexual Queer woman, and he is a heterosexual, demisexual, trans man. We both identify with more than one identifier, either with our sexuality or gender, that puts us comfortably in the LGBTQIA+ community and Pride should be somewhere we can celebrate that, together. Without fear of being looked at the wrong way by people assuming we are straight and therefore “don’t belong” if we hold hands. Which really is the height of irony, not belonging in the one place where you are supposed to belong.

While I will be attending Pride this year with caution, I am carefully optimistic that I will be surrounded by open and accepting people, and will avoid those who are biphobic, transphobic and prejudice at this “accepting” festival.
Basically what I am saying is that neither of us will be leaving each other at home, and if you are in a relationship with someone of a different gender or that appears to be heterosexual, you shouldn’t either.

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Alice Ryder

Alice is a bisexual activist, blogger and gender warrior. She recently finished her Masters in Gender so splits her time between the fetish goth scene (she means finding a job) and volunteering for the National Domestic Violence Helpline. You can follow her on Tumblr (link- aliceryder.tumblr.com) and Instagram (link-aliceryder)

9 Responses to "Just leave your boyfriend at home…": Being Bi at Pride

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  • Grahame says:

    I’m not sure if I have any real standing on the issue. I’m one of the boyfriends mentioned in the title. My girlfriend is a bisexual woman, I’m a cisgendered, straight man.

    I don’t have anything to add but my agreement. You’ve said all there really is to be said here. If she were going, I’d willingly stay home, but it would fill me with misgivings about something that I feel should be positive.

  • Paul says:

    Theres a place for people who support family and friends who aren’t heterenormative, and those people too, if sincere, should not be put in a position of being “hidden in the background” just because its politically inconvenient for (say) a gay person to be seen to acknowledge and stand alongside hetero supporters in an Lgbtiq public event context. Inclusivism and equality of respect is something we’re working for,surely, and something to be proud to have the opportunity to role model – and yes, even on a pride march.

    I’ve seen too much of the “we do like them but they are socially inconvenient, can’t you make them invisible to make it easier?” stuff directed at us and partners to fell its a good thing to do to others when we have control of an event… and let people’s perceptions and people think what they will.

  • HelenDamnation says:

    I’ve never been to Pride. If I did go, it would be with my best friend, who is bisexual and genderqueer largely presenting as male, while I am female and asexual homoromantic. We’re not together but we are cuddly. It… worries me.

  • I’m the ed-in-chief of this site and I’m so chuffed Alice wrote this for us. I have a genderqueer anatomically male bi partner who wears female clothing to events like Pride (but is still clearly appears “male” and is OK with that). I’m a fairly feminine yet short-haired and big booted (I said “booted”, sh!) bi woman. I do wonder how people at Pride place us. Until we kiss, obviously… 😉

  • Molly Burke says:

    Frankly, it chaps my hide no end that my wife and I can go to Pride, and that I will be assumed to be gay, when I’m not. Bi women married to women are invisible. Bi women married to men are likewise invisible. Men have the same trouble. Is it also a cisgender thing, as well? I ask because I ponder it all, and how we might bridge these ultimately unnecessary divides.

    I’m not sure how we can become more visible, really. It baffles me that a celebration of our identities turns out in all practical truth to be nothing but bloody difficult. I wish I had better answers, and better questions.

  • Elle says:

    This is something I have struggled with as long as I can remember. I prefer to not even use the term ‘bi’ as I feel I could be attracted to, love, and have a relationship with a person who identifies in many ways. However, due to the difficulties faced with breaking into the lgbt community as a ‘bi’ woman I have often missed out on celebrations and a part of my life I dearly wish to embrace. I am technically in a ‘hetero’ relationship but I feel excluded from being able to celebrate the other half of me which is and always has been attracted to woman and that yearns to be able to share this experience and feeling with other people. It was always posed like a decision or an ultimatum between the straight and gay worlds, and whenever I had taken the brave step to introduce myself to those in the lgbt community as ‘bi’ I have been greeted with condescending remarks, or laughter with an ‘isn’t that cute mentality’ (mostly from those identifying as lesbians who obviously saw me as experimenting rather than identifying). I want to be out, to celebrate with pride, and to be included in the lgbt community but it sometimes feels like its not worth the risk of being laughed at/embarrassed and the heartache of it all.

  • I attended Pride this year with the guy I’m seeing at the moment. He’s also Bi, had never been to pride and had a real BLAST! I’m a founding member of my Pride group which I originally set up with my ex-girlfriend. As we’re quite an accepting, broad minded group, people within my group were accepting. I had to shoot off at one point (flat-hunting hell) so I wasn’t around much and don’t generally love being overly affectionate in public anyway so if I’m honest, people who probably didn’t know us would think we were probably just friends anyway.

    I do find myself taking part in more LGBTQA+ stuff when I’m with a woman rather than a man. That shouldn’t be the case but it is.

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