April 23, 2014
advice articles
When Gays Become The Bigots

When Gays Become The Bigots

Hi Will & RJ,

I am a bisexual woman in my 30′s and I have really been struggling with figuring out my place in the world and I am hoping that you might be able to help me put a few things into perspective 

I know that everybody experiences sexuality differently, but I can tell you that I am not “confused” or “afraid to come out” or “experimenting.”  I am truly bisexual.  I don’t fall for somebody because of their looks or their outer packaging; I fall for who they are on the inside, and that beauty is far more important in the long run.  I have had serious long-term relationships with both men and women, but I have always considered myself part of the “queer” crowd.  The LGBTQ community in college was the first place where I ever really felt like I belonged, and I never really experienced any discrimination because I was bi.  

In graduate school, I fell in love and married a terrific guy.  I didn’t CHOOSE to love a man over a woman; I just followed my heart.  I have always been out to my friends and family and when I married a man, it never seemed to be an issue with anybody I knew, gay or straight.  I continued to be a member of the LGBT community, marched in Pride parades with my friends, participated in Equality rallies and other events.  

A couple of years ago, we were forced to move to a new area for my husband’s company.  As soon as we were settled in, I tried to reach out and make some new connections in local LGBT organizations, but I was really given the cold shoulder everywhere I went.  I was starting to get a complex about what could be wrong with me, but then I realized that perhaps I am not being welcomed because I am in a heterosexual relationship.  To test the theory, I called a couple of the same organizations and introduced myself as a Lesbian, and to my surprise, everybody I spoke to was incredibly warm and welcoming!  

So, here is my question to you:  Do you think I am somehow offending people by continuing to consider myself queer?  Did I really forfeit my so called “Queer Community Membership Card” when I decided to settle into a heterosexual marriage???  

Thanks!

-Starr

Hi Starr!

Let me start off by saying congratulations. As a fellow member of “Team B”, I know that it can be especially challenging to figure out your sexuality. And even after you yourself realize that sexuality isn’t just a black and white thing, you still have to put up with crap from the people on both sides who claim that that’s the case. Furthermore, you’ve found the love of your life. So yeah, I believe some congrats are in order.

straightBut now you see just how annoying it can be when members of the LGBT community fall prey to the kind of groupthink that we’re supposed to be fighting. Make no mistake, the mob mentality is almost always a dangerous thing, because it can happen anywhere…and mobs don’t always listen to reason. You do have to cut them just a little bit of slack. Most people flock to LGBT organizations for support, the kind of support they’re supposed to get from family and friends. More often, they’ve experienced some betrayal at the hands of straight people, so they may have some trust issues when it comes to straight people. Meanwhile, they know that they’ll never get rejected by other gay people for being gay. There are also people out there, gay and straight, who simply object to the term “queer”. While some feel that it’s a word that’s more inclusive to the entire sexuality and gender spectrum, others don’t like it because they don’t necessarily approve of “word reclamation”. “Queer” used to be an insult, and still is in some contexts. And whenever a minority takes a derogatory term and makes it their own, there will always be those who will object to the term.

Believe it or not, though, there are more radical members of the queer community who do view your marriage as a sellout of sorts. To them, the oppression of straight people extends far beyond the law and the government, it also includes the institution of “marriage” and the concept of monogamy. Many of these people see sexuality as something that’s meant to be explored without the imposition of any structure or boundaries. Meanwhile, the forces of straight oppression seek to impose their rigid structure of committed monogamy on the queer community, and anyone who falls prey to the concept of “straight monogamy” is either a helpless sap or a willing sellout. I’m not saying I subscribe to any of this thinking, but I have made it a point to read up on it. And they do have a point: we shouldn’t just subscribe to the mindset of a traditional, monogamous marriage if that’s not what makes us happy. And just because you and I have found happiness in our respective committed relationships doesn’t mean that that’s everyone’s cup of tea.

Radical_Queers_ResistBut you’re right in that you shouldn’t need to apologize for marrying a man who makes you happy, and you shouldn’t have to put up with discriminatory treatment. Then again, if you want to try to fix the problem at these organizations, the only thing you can really do is try to fix things from the inside out. Straight people don’t change their minds about gay people because they hear a good argument, they do it because they meet and/or know someone who shows then just how normal we are. The same goes for how these organizations view married people. I’m not saying you need to lie or anything, but I would lead with you bi/queer identity and just conveniently forget to mention your husband until you’ve found yourself being accepted among the ranks. Or, if that doesn’t jibe with you, then keep searching until you find an organization that’s more open-minded. Or, if there don’t happen to be any where you are, perhaps it’s time for you to start your own organization and lead by example.

I’m sure that you’ll find a way to keep fighting the good fight. You sound like someone who is extremely passionate about LGBT issues, and passion almost always finds a way to manifest itself. Sometimes it means joining an organization and donating your time and efforts to them. Other times, it means taking to the web and starting your own YouTube channel and advice column. I have every faith in the world that you’ll figure something out. In the meantime, I thank you for everything you’ve done for our community, and everything that you’re going to do, and encourage everyone else reading this to follow your example.

Best of luck!

About RJ

RJ is a blogger/vlogger/writer and the other half of the NotAdamandSteve duo. When he's not making videos or writing stuff online he's usually working out, gorging himself on Chipotle, traveling, enjoying scotch, or spending quality time with his new fiancé and German Shepherd.
  • EsmeT

    I totally get what Starr is saying – it’s one of the many issues that bisexuals have because we live in a world time when non-bi’s do not understand us yet. There’s a pressure once in a committed, long-term relationship to also ‘commit’ to a monosexuality, and it’s stupidly hard to still be considered a bisexual.

    There are lots of bisexual organisations out there, and I hope Starr has found some resources and contacts in the B community, but she should have every right to be included in LGBT spaces too. RJ is right, unfortunately it’s the turn of the bisexuals of today to fight the good fight if they feel passionate about it; so we have to keep calm, keep positive, and keep going, befriending our LGBT kith and straight kin, and opening our lives to them.

    I’m convinced that if we remain firm, confident, and amicable, and fix the root of many of our problems – ignorance – with education and pushing our visibility, we will succeed in improving our lives and the lives of those bisexuals to follow.

  • Tom

    Great article. I think we need to revive and modify the Nancy Reagan campaign and start “Just say NO – to labels. An important development to grow out of the exploration of Autism is the new focus on the idea of spectrum. I strongly believe that, if truth be told, all of life and “being” falls along some spectrum. Surely a community that has the rainbow as its symbol would want to embrace a wider application of the concept of a spectrum.

    • Flick

      Good point. As someone who is on the very minor side of the autism spectrum I notice that every case is unique & whilst I don’t display all of the personality traits the 90% of the diagnosis I display in buckets.
      The only advantage of gay/ straight labels are to signify to strangers what gender your partner is/ gender you’re interested in dating.
      So as the bi/pan etc label’s answer of both/ all doesn’t fit it in the ‘tick 1′ box some people still don’t know what to do with it.

  • rkieru

    Sometimes I think that part of the problem is “LGBTQ”. We’re trying to make one community out of five, and I don’t think we’re doing a very good job of it.

    Take “Bisexual” for example… well a lot of people hid behind that label back in the day, because they were scared to be truly “out”. Coming out as Bisexual was Closet v2.0 for them until such time as they gathered up a good support structure and could embrace and be open about their true sexuality.

    Unfortunately some members of our community take “Bi today Gay Tomorrow” as well… literal; they forget or dismiss that this phrase exists ONLY because people misappropriated the label toward their own end.

    I myself am guilty of that misappropriation and I regret it; not only in that my actions further hurt bisexual members of this community, but that hiding behind that label was merely wearing a different mask.

    • Starr Dragonheart

      I totally get what you are saying! I once had somebody tell me that “bisexuality is like the yellow on a traffic light-” a fleeting blink on the way to gay!
      I definitely don’t agree with that, but I wonder if the word is really appropriate to all of the people who use it. I have met Bi’s who “just like sex any way they can get it” and Bi’s who “like sex with men but only form emotional connections with women,” and then there are people like me who really feel like what matters most is what’s in a person’s heart, not what’s in their shorts.

      So, if you don’t mind my asking- do you think that a term like pansexual or omnisexual is better because it doesn’t carry the same connotations as bisexual?
      Or do those terms have their own negative connotations just because of the “different-ness” that they represent to the straight majority?

      -Starr

      • rkieru

        We are delving a bit into the difference between gender as identity and gender as biology. The term “Bisexual” is more directed toward gender as biology. You are equally attracted to physical characteristics of men and women.

        Pansexual is more heavily influenced by gender as identity and implies that there is more than the binary system that gender as biology currently provides.

        I don’t see Bisexual and Pansexual as interchangeable because of that issue; pansexual seems much more cerebral compared to heterosexual, homosexual, and bisexual which all very much have to do with the plumbing that most sexually arouses you.

  • mytzie

    this is an issue that always upsets me. But Starr i recommend you
    stick with it and try to make connections in these organizations. as RJ
    said most people don’t change their opinions unless its someone they
    know *bi-erasure can be very hurtful* but we have to put ourselves out
    their so that others may know that bisexuality is not a phase.

    though some people continue to be blissfully ignorant, others are so
    welcoming and accepting. maybe going to a few meeting and getting to
    know the people personally one

  • Flick

    IMO anyone in a committed (monogamous) relationship regardless of orientation should just say ‘taken’.

  • Daniel Park

    We should remember that radicals on any side of a divide can be divisive and damaging. For several years, the UK has permitted a “quasi-marriage” institution known as “civil partnership” for same-sex couples. Although better than nothing, many same-sex couples felt cheated by this “second class” citizenship. More tellingly, they felt deeply that certain more radical parts of the LGBTQ movement formed an unholy alliance with conservatives to create and maintain civil partnership, under the guise that “marriage itself is a straight concept we should have nothing to do with”. Of course they didn’t bother to ask anybody but themselves whether this was accepted truth for other LGBTQ people.

  • Starr Dragonheart

    Wow, RJ, you’ve blown me away! THANK YOU SO SO MUCH for giving me such a
    well thought out, and compassionate response! You have an amazing amount
    of insight and you’ve given me quite a bit to think about.

    I think more than anything else, you’ve reminded me that I have a lot to be
    thankful for: I have a loving husband, and beautiful children. I have friends
    and family who know and love me for who I am. I have a voice, and I have
    the power to make a difference in my life as well as the lives of others.

    There are so many people in the world who don’t have the freedom to fight for
    what is right, or even to fight for their own happiness. I guess I just needed
    a kick in the pants to remind me that if I am experiencing injustice or
    intolerance, I need to speak up, step up, and do something about it.

    Being a married, bisexual woman puts me in the unique position of being a
    minority within a minority. I’ve been looking at that as an obstacle in my
    life, but you’ve helped me to see that maybe it is also an opportunity. I’m
    going to have to give some thought to exactly what I outlet I want to use, but
    I definitely think it’s about time that people like me made their voices heard!

    Much Love & Gratitude
    -Starr

  • Briar Gibson

    The bi-phobia present in some queer/LGBTQA community really upsets me. We are supposed to be a place of support and love. Then of course I have to remember that I have been guilty of Bi-phobic sentiments in the past and extend some understanding to those who are still struggling with that.

    I think it can be more difficult to accept the bi members of the committee who are in committed heterosexual relationships because due to their heterosexual relationship status their day to day experience is different to the rest of the queer community; they don’t have to worry about wither or not it is safe to hold their partners hand in public ect.

    Bisexuals in heterosexual relationships have to deal with a big part of their identity being ignored/ not recognized by the general public. As a fearly feminine lesbian people are always mistaking me for straight and I hate that, simply because it is a denial of a big part of my identity. It is even more annoying when, once told, they don’t believe I am gay, because apparently this is not what a gay girl is supposed to look like.

    I think it is a simple matter of respect to see someone for how they identify. If someone is Bi and therefore identifies as belonging to the queer/LGBTQA community then it is common courtsey to acknowledge that. And, in my opinion, anyone committed to fighting the good fight should be welcomed with open arms.

    • Starr Dragonheart

      Hi Briar,
      I think you bring up a good point. Now that I am in a hetero-marriage the truth is that I don’t have to endure a lot of the same challenges/threats that same-sex couples face. But since I have been in serious relationships with women in the past, I do know what it’s like to be afraid to show affection to my same-sex partner in public. I have experienced hate and bigotry and even violence because of who I am and who I love. Those experiences make me so much more aware of the “privileges” I enjoy as part of a straight married couple, and much more cognizant of the reality that if my heart had taken me down a different path, I would not have those same rights. There are so many times that I find myself feeling guilty that things could be so easy for me now, and still so difficult for many of my friends and family. It makes me absolutely furious to see all the things that most straight couples take for granted!

      Most straight people don’t really realize that people in the LGBTQ community are constantly having to explain themselves to the world. People assume that you are straight until you explain that you are not. It’s like you come out of the closet over and over again every time you meet somebody new. Then, once people know that you are in a same-sex relationship, they want to know what the sex is like, or if you are going to fly to Canada to get married, or which one of you is the “man in the relationship,” or how you are going to go about having children…. you know how it is. So here I am in a situation where everybody assumes I am straight and nobody is even asking me any questions. You would think that it would be relief but honestly, it’s just awful to feel like I am never really being true to myself.

      I have been thinking SO MUCH lately about this strange position that I
      have found myself in. I have peers that are straight, who can’t fathom
      that I am not exactly
      the same as they are, and I have peers who are LGBTQ who can not imagine
      how I could/would choose to marry a man. The challenge I face is in
      making these so-called “peers” accept that my bi identity didn’t change
      the day that I said my vows, and neither did my right to say/do/be whatever I want in this world.

      I really REALLY appreciate your assertion that we ought to RESPECT a person’s right to identify however they choose. It’s seems like such a simple and obvious concept- if only people could actually DO it!

      Thanks for your contribution to this discussion! It’s great to know that there are understanding people like you out there!
      -Starr

  • Ashkan Il

    Hi Starr,
    I think in order to think this through you need to ask yourself this very important question:
    do you define yourself as a monogamous person at the moment? I know that maybe you do not want to even define yourself, but I think it is an essential concept that you should consider (at least for a short span of time).
    If your answer is yes, then isn’t it a bit harsh for your significant other and for you as a person who have some values and concepts to place yourself as a “queer”? I must say that I don’t completely get how being a bisexual misogamist works, isn’t it a paradox?
    In my mind you can be a homophile and a friend but not exactly a “queer”.

  • Rachel Lee

    I didn’t find this helpful. I was hoping for uplifting advice, I wasn’t expecting to be told to be nice to the bigots because they are gay.
    I’ve been bullied all my life by gay and straight people. I’m not going to make concessions for anyone.

  • JolieChienne

    I was reading this article
    http://www.nytimes.com/2014/03/23/magazine/the-scientific-quest-to-prove-bisexuality-exists.html?_r=0
    today and it made me remember this post. It’s an interesting read.

    • Tom

      Excellent article. Very thorough. AIB seems like they take a very intelligent approach to this conversation.

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