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???
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.
But 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.
But 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!