Having A Bi Buddy Is About More Than Just Romance

8/21/2017

Two months ago I made the move from Los Angeles back to my hometown in Colorado. While there were plenty of things that were nice and familiar about my new home – friends, family, being able to find where I was going without the help of GPS – like with any move, there were some new changes to get used to, my new workplace being chief among them.

My day-job is at a popular coffee chain. I’ve been working there for a couple of years now and simply transferred from my location in Los Angeles to a new one in Denver. So the job itself? Totally familiar. But my coworkers? Not so much.

On that first nerve-wracking day, while worried I wouldn’t be able to find the same kind of work family I’d had in LA, I met Hannah. She’s about my age, and has an infectious sense of humor and a penchant for being intimidatingly outspoken. She spent most of that first morning loudly singing “Bohemian Rhapsody” between interacting with customers.

While casually sharing bits of information about ourselves in the hope of fostering a friendship, Hannah divulged to me that we had more in common than our love of Gilmore Girls and classic Queen songs; she’s also bi.

I was beyond excited to say the least, and so was she. The commiserating began immediately.

We discussed how both of us have straight friends that – try as they might – are not able to truly understand what it’s like to be queer, and to be bi, specifically. She divulged to me that many straight women have angered her by saying that they “understood” bisexuality because they had crushes on celebrities of their own gender.

“Yeah, of course we’re all attracted to Shay Mitchell,” she said. “Obviously. But then I’d ask them if they would actually date her? Could they see themselves actually being with her? Marrying her? Do they see her in the same way they see Patrick Dempsey? And they’d say no. No. So no, they don’t understand me.”

In turn, I explained to her how at my last job, a coworker said she would become violent if it turned out that her brother was gay. When I tried to talk about it with some peers, and even our boss, (who are all straight) I was met with nearly-identical reactions all around. It was a chorus of “She’s just young and immature,” “I don’t think she really meant it,” and “I wouldn’t be too upset about it or put too much stock in it.” I was furious, heartbroken, and completely sick about it.

“It just showed me that sometimes when I see lines being crossed, my straight friends don’t even realize the line has been approached,” I told Hannah.

“Exactly,” she replied.

Eventually we moved on from often feeling misunderstood by the straight folks around us and began discussing another attribute we share: we are both bi women in long-term relationships with straight, cis men. We’ve both experienced having our identities erased, either accidentally by people seeing our partners and assuming we’re straight, or by people choosing to believe that we’re no longer queer and have “picked a side.” A few weeks later, when neither Hannah nor I was able to make it to Denver Pride, we felt the same sadness that we’d have to wait another year for the magical experience that comes with being completely surrounded by people who just get you.

Hannah sighed, gave me a comforting smile, tilted her head and said: “That’s why it’s so good that I have you here with me.” I felt the exact same way.

For most of my jobs, I have been the only out-bi person. I’ve learned that the best-case scenario is usually people being accepting and then generally not bringing it up again, except when someone gets a bit too tipsy at some kind of post-work get-together or holiday party. Keeping in mind that others can have it way worse, (some people can even lose their jobs when their bisexuality is revealed) the worst-case scenarios I’ve experienced have been people not understanding and debating the existence of bisexuality with me, avoiding talking to me about relationships, (or avoiding me altogether) or making awkward, occasionally sexual comments that they think I’ll be okay with because my bisexuality somehow means to them that I’m an overly-sexualized person with little-to-no boundaries.

Because of all of the less-than-stellar experiences I’ve had with being bi in the workplace, it’s beyond reassuring to find someone who can innately understand and be on your side. Finding a fellow out-bi person at work has pretty much made me feel like my heart is growing ten sizes every time it’s happened. Well, both times it’s happened. Sadly, it’s only happened two times in my life.

If I had it my way, I’d never not work with a fellow bi person. We need each other.

As individuals on this Earth, we can try to see things from other people’s points of view, but we’re never going to be able to do it fully, and with complete sight and comprehension. The best we can do is try to find people with whom we share important similarities and be there for each other when others cannot. That’s what Hannah and I have. And I’m grateful for it every time I step behind the café counter.

Mckenna Ferguson
McKenna Ferguson is a bi activist, writer, and Corgi enthusiast living in Los Angeles. Originally hailing from suburban Colorado, McKenna graduated from Colorado State University with a major in English and a minor in Media Studies. Her work focuses on such things as LGBT life, entertainment and pop culture, and intersectional feminism. You can follow her on Twitter @McKennaMagazine for ramblings on her daily life and whatever show she's currently bingeing on Netflix.