by Farah Maneckshaw
Dating as a queer woman is complicated and painful enough. So much so that it has become a tragi-comedic ritual for sapphics to narrate and trade in experiences of queer heartbreak on a first date.
And being bisexual? That’s an added layer of complexity. Any bisexual who has given dating apps a shot will tell you about what its like to be a ‘unicorn’. Unicorn hunters are (painfully) heterosexual couples who seek bisexual women to have threesomes with. Often, the profile will deceptively only feature the woman, so you are in for a rude shock when you realise the girl you were trying to charm is, in fact, neither single nor in polyamorous relationship.
This uncomfortable experience of being fetishised and viewed as a sexual object for the male gaze without our knowledge or consent is unfortunately familiar to most bisexual women.
I’ve found that the Queer community itself can become a space of invalidation for bisexual people, who are rarely ever spoken about as a distinct category and are seen as not belonging there on account of ‘bisexual privilege’, although we have many unique issues and concerns.
According to the Bisexual Invisibilty report (2011), bisexual people face higher rates of intimate partner violence than any other sexual orientation, which seems clearly linked to bi-phobia. The sparse conversations we have about sexual health and STIs hardly ever include queer issues in India, and if they do the idea of them specifically addressing bisexual needs is laughable. It isn’t surprising then, that bisexuals experience higher rates of mental health concerns than other sexual orientations.
The idea that we are privileged continues, even though being in a relationship that appears heterosexual does not make a person any less bisexual or vulnerable to queer-negativity. The last time I wrote an article on bisexuality I was dating a man. But still received slurs and abuse from a stranger I did not know.
Unfortunately, inspite of these glaring statistics and many other heart-breaking experiences, many bisexuals (including myself in the past) believe we are privileged and feel uncomfortable about speaking out about our issues because we don’t feel ‘queer enough’. While privilege is of course, relative and contextual, we do need to be speaking more about bisexuality.
Shiri Eisner, author of ‘Bi: Bisexual Notes for A Bisexual Revolution’ points out that bisexuals experience a specific form of marginalisation called ‘monosexism’, which is rooted in the assumption that people are only either heterosexual or ‘homosexual’. This allows people and structures to ignore the specific experiences and struggles of bisexuals, because how can we even speak of an identity that doesn’t even really exist?
The erasure of bisexuality serves to maintain the cis-hetero-patriarchy and makes homosexuality and heterosexuality seem like two distinct categories. The fluidity that is inherent in bisexuality is threatening because if bisexuality exists, it means that there is no way for heterosexuals to ‘prove’ their straightness and hold onto their power.
Being bisexual in a monosexist and queer-negative society is hard, but there’s also beauty in its subversiveness. Being bisexual situates you at a unique vantage point and allows you to examine power relations in ways that other people may not. I wouldn’t change it for the world. The ability to date many genders also allows for me to question ideas we have about gender, marriage and monogamy and has given me the space to reflect on what is really important for me in my life and relationships.
Scripting new forms of love in a world that pretends they do not exist is not easy - but if you’re lucky enough to find people that understand this and are willing to try with you anyway, the queer joy is limitless.
(Farah Maneckshaw is a therapist at Ummeed Child Development Center. She also works as an independent journalist and writes about mental health-related subjects from a socio-political lens. In her free time, she plots how to queer everything and watches bad reality t.v. You can find her @justsofarahway on twitter. You can also reply to her by hitting Reply to this email.)