Are Queer-Only Spaces Excluding Bi People If Our Partners Aren’t Invited?

1/25/2018

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Bi people don’t often get a break from biphobia. And when we step into “queer-friendly” environments, we are still often left without the messages we need to feel secure in knowing we are welcome. Rampant biphobia means events need to communicate a clear welcoming of all bi people. But are those spaces excluding bi people if they say our cis straight partners can’t come?

That this is a concept left addressed on a case by case basis belies the root of the issue. If bi people had an actual seat at the table, this debate would have been settled, at least in a general sense, long ago. Though we are the majority of the queer community we are still most often treated as outliers. But we are a part of the queer community. And the A in LGBTQIA does not stand for ally. (It stands for Asexual, hello ace fam!) If there is anyone who can relate to our hardships, it is each other. As much as you know Chad (or anyone’s straight partner) accepts you for who you are without condition, I don’t. It takes an energy to learn that, and I shouldn’t have to expend it on my night off.  Queer-only spaces are essential for queer people. We can let our guard down a little more, we can relate with less likelihood of having to also educate. The answer to welcoming bi people into “queer-friendly” spaces is not to invite our closest cishet. The answer to welcoming bi people into “queer-friendly” spaces is to make them friendly to all queer people. It is recognizing the members of our community who are most often ostracized and purposefully pursuing inclusion.

But that is also the exact reason there should be events for queer people that explicitly welcome our cis straight partners. We shouldn’t have to always leave our loved ones at home. It ostracizes us when our local queer-friendly places don’t acknowledge our families.

That we don’t know what events our cis straight partners are welcome at is a problem. That we are left wondering shows how far LGBT organizations have to go. Although a majority of bi people with partners are partnered with a straight person, there is not an easy, clear, widely known protocol. The energy we have to expend wondering, approaching, asking if our family is welcome to join us–that is a barrier for bi people who want to access spaces. Spaces that are supposed to be our own. Our health disparities alone show LGBT organizations need to spend more time, energy, and resources ensuring bi people have a welcoming and safe place to go. That means hiring bi people, making organizations explicitly bi-friendly places to work, funding bi programs and projects. That means not just fundraising under the “LGBT” umbrella, but actively sheltering all members of the queer community from harm. It means having queer-friendly events that are welcoming to all queer people, and consciously considering the scope of what that means.

“LGBT” organizations are failing us by not addressing this issue. By not addressing the needs of bi people as a whole. Queer only spaces are essential. Spaces for oppressed groups, free of the majority, are a necessity. Straight people have the whole world–let us have this one corner, this one night, this one space to be a little vulnerable.

Our local pop-up night, our potluck social, our book club–these are not the places for our cis straight partners. These are not the places for their voices to be heard, for them to take up space. It is for the organizations who ignore our needs while raising millions of dollars in our name who should be hearing this plea. Because while it is essential for us to have queer-only nights, it is also imperative for us to have places to go with our partners where we can be truly seen. Our straight partners should not have to be invited every time–but there is no reason besides biphobia that our families aren’t explicitly welcomed, sometimes. Bi people are not erased when our partners are not invited–but our needs are not addressed when we are expected to leave our identity at the door.

SB Swartz
SB Swartz is an author covering inclusive wellness, queer family, and reflections of our world as seen on tv. As a contributing writer for bi.org, SB created the Step Bi Step series for bi parents and originated the This Bi Life series showcasing bi community stories.

SB would very much like to talk to you about your pets, her pets, and the way you view the world. She's her favorite somebody's mama. And yes, she's #StillBisexual.

Find SB Swartz @sbswrites on Twitter and read more of her latest @sbswartz on Medium.