I occasionally get myself into a cyclical conversation with open minded bisexual folks.
I’m all for the folks who identify as bi meaning “I am attracted to all the people across the gender spectrum”. That’s cool. That’s fantastic.
But I’m a little bit sick of being treated like I’m irrational for not assuming that a hundred percent of bisexuals mean this, and further, for calling out people who act a little entitled about it.
It has been my experience that a great many people who identify as bisexual mean that in a binary way. See what I did there? They mean “I am attracted to men and women”. Not “I am attracted to all the people”. And let me be clear: most people, on planet earth, do not want to have sex with me. Nearly all of them. Maybe because I’m genderqueer, maybe because I’m weird, maybe because they don’t like my haircut. Doesn’t matter and I don’t take it personally.
Not being attracted to transpeople does not make one transphobic.
A bisexual who wants to only date men and women isn’t necessarily transphobic, and I give everyone the benefit of the doubt; I try to assume queer folks won’t be transphobic, even though often they are. But that feels a lot more generational to me. I have really good luck with bisexual folks not being transphobic douchebags, thus I tend to assume they aren’t transphobic douchebags.
Generally I’ve found that the vast majority of cis people haven’t really examined whether or not they’re attracted to people like me. There aren’t a whole lot of us kicking around. You could go your whole life without someone explaining their pronouns to you. (Well, you couldn’t, because I already have, but other people.)
But for me this all comes down to risk, and exposure, and vulnerability. Open minded bisexuals get annoyed that people think their bisexuality is limiting. I get that. I just don’t have a lot of time to sympathize because I live every day of my life, every time I leave the house, with actual transphobia. I spend every day worried about living in a rural town, about the risk I run single parenting here, about the next knock on my door from social services and all the excuses small-minded people could come up with to lodge complaints against me.
I stood at a counter here in town trying to order something and no one would look at me. Big counter, lots of people in front of it, lots of people behind it. And the people behind it were helping the people behind me. Because I don’t look the way other people do. I’m not trying to pass; there’s nothing to pass as. I’m just trying to live my life.
I am a target, all the time. I never get to put down that feeling. It never goes away.
There’s a thing in marginalized communities, you know, where everyone gets shit on. Everyone wants their voice to be heard. But the other side of that is how fucking impossibly terrifying it is to vocalize dissent.
Queer community has rarely felt inclusive to me, and in the small enclaves where it does I risk so much to speak my truth that it’s, oh, I don’t know, it makes me physically ill. It makes me nauseous for hours. It’s a nothing thing, except of course it isn’t, which is why people go along with things that pose them harm, why women in civil rights movements swallow misogyny over and over again, why people of color don’t call out white entitlement all the time, even in situations where people consider themselves allies. Or perhaps especially in those situations.
The risk is so much greater when you’re part of a larger picture. You tell yourself it doesn’t matter. You tell yourself it won’t help to say your piece (because it probably won’t). You tell yourself it’s not worth alienating people just because you’re invisible and you’re so tired of being invisible.
Bisexuals shouldn’t take shit from anyone. None of us should take shit from anyone. If you’re bisexual and someone’s telling you that’s transphobic, fuck them. If you’re trans and someone tells you they’re not attracted to transpeople, you know, maybe don’t jump straight to “you transphobic shithead”. (Unless they are.)
But man, if you’re bi and someone’s telling you that in their experience, a lot of bisexuals really mean “men and women”, you might listen to that, because it’s likely been their experience, as it has been mine. I’m not hysterical, or irrational, or painting all bi people as transphobic. I’m trying to limit the risk that I will be attracted to someone only to discover later that they can be attracted to me, sure, just as long as I don’t talk gender too much, or insist too loudly on my pronouns, or in other ways betray myself.
Betraying myself has been sort of a hallmark of socialization for me. Please allow me to make myself palatable to you, to polish off the edges so you won’t have to think too hard about the ways we are different, or to stand off to the side so you won’t have to think about the ways we are the same. I suspect all people do this to a certain degree. I can’t decide if I do it more, or if that particular poisoned blade just feels so much deeper when sunk in my guts than it does in yours. Or perhaps you’re better at hiding the wound.
This is the only character I can play, and you’re looking at zir. I open my mouth, even when I know I will regret it. I recite Audre Lorde to myself in the dark of my bathroom, wishing I’d been born someone who lived without fear, or at the very least felt more righteous within it. And I am so very fucking tired.