Good Bi Love: What’s The Role of My Straight Partner?

7/2/2017

First off, I want to thank everyone who emailed me about topics they’d like to see discussed! As promised, I’m going to start exploring some of the nuanced issues that come with the bi identity. (Also, feel free to keep emailing me topics you’d like me to explore at [email protected]!)

One question I’ve received repeatedly, and to be frank, one question I really hadn’t thought much about prior, was “What’s the role of my straight partner in making my bisexuality visible?”

It’s an interesting question, because in most queer relationships, both individuals in the couple are indeed queer. In other words, a gay man doesn’t have to tell his parents that his new boyfriend is part of the LGBTQ community. That is rightfully assumed. However, with different-gender relationships, there are instances where one of the folks in the couple is queer (part of a marginalized group), where the other is straight and cisgender (part of the majority). This undoubtedly leads to a different relationship dynamic.

Before I go any further, I want to give credit where credit is due. While I don’t think straight people deserve an award for being open to dating bi people, a 2016 survey from Glamour revealed that a whopping 63% of women are not willing to date a guy who had a known history of hooking up with other men.

Additionally, a straight person endures their own hardships when dating a bi person that they wouldn’t have to deal with if they dated someone straight. They have to deal with their family’s response, which may be less than positive. If a straight woman is dating a more feminine presenting bi man, then she’ll have to deal with her family whispering behind her back, “She knows her boyfriend is gay, right?”

Not to mention the flack that she’ll receive for existing with you in queer spaces. If you are a bi guy, and you go out to a gay bar that’s primarily composed of gay men, and your female partner is there with you, it’s likely she will receive some death stares and not feel welcome.

Again, these folks don’t deserve a gold statue made in their honor, but I do think it’s important that we acknowledge that they are putting themselves through additional drama and BS that they wouldn’t otherwise have to deal with if they dated someone with the same sexual orientation.

I bring all of this up to say cut them some slack. They will undoubtedly make mistakes, especially if they haven’t dated a queer person before. But if they’re learning from their mistakes and being respectful of your bisexuality, then I’d say you have yourself a winner.

With that out of the way,  I think we are now equipped to tackle the questions at hand. “What’s their role? How should they behave? Who should they tell?”

The answer is however you and your partner decide.

Since receiving questions on the topic, I’ve spoken to a few couples that include a bi and straight person. John* and Mary* have been married for a couple of years. Only Mary and a few close friends knows John is bisexual. John doesn’t want Mary telling her parents. His reasoning? They’re monogamous, he loves her, and he doesn’t identify much with queer culture. John thinks it would be unnecessary drama for such little gain. He doesn’t feel closeted or torn over his decision.

While my gut response is to show John the Still Bisexual campaign, which illustrates how bi individuals in monogamous relationships are still bisexual, I held my tongue. That’s not what he wanted (or needed) to hear in this moment. That’s not how he wants to live his life. His relationship is working out for him fine as is, and who he does or doesn’t decide to come out to his prerogative.

On the other hand, I’ve spoken to couples where the bi individual wants to be out publicly to everyone, including their partner’s parents. To these bi-identifying people, it’s important, and they don’t want to feel re-closeted. In these situations, as you might expect, then yes, it is the partner’s responsibility to openly discuss their partner’s sexual orientation.

Needless to say, this necessitates a talk. How should you come out to the in-laws? How should you both discuss your bisexuality when at work and with friends, etc.? This requires clear and direct communication. You need to sit down to discuss exactly how you’d like your partner to support your bi identity. There’s no wrong answer. The answer is simply whatever you think will make you the happiest in the relationship and help you to embrace your identity.

You may also find out that over time, what you’re doing is not working. Again, that’s completely fine. Maybe later, you decide it is important that everyone knows that you’re bi, despite being married and in a monogamous relationship. If that happens, then you tell your partner. It really is as simple as that.

So what’s the exact role of your partner in making your bisexuality visible?

Whatever you and he/she/they decide it is!

 

*indicate names have been changed to protect anonymity

 

Zachary Zane
Zachary Zane a Brooklyn-based freelance writer, speaker, YouTuber, and activist whose work focuses on (bi)sexuality, gender, identity politics, relationships, and culture. He's a contributing editor at The Advocate Magazine, a columnist at Bi.org, and currently writes for The Washington Post, Cosmopolitan, Out Magazine, and PRIDE.