I am Bi
I am bi.
That got your attention, right?
Being a bi, queer individual myself, I face various forms of discrimination and mistreatment in society compared to heterosexual (or even homosexual) individuals. I need to also state that from an intersectional perspective, black queer womxn, for example, face much more discrimination and marginalization than I do as a white, bi man. Of course, don’t get me wrong, we live in South Africa, a state whereby under the Constitution, we are all legally and politically equal. However, socially, economically and psychologically, we are definitely not equal and institutionalized discrimination still takes place, which imposes biases against marginalized groups. People of colour, womxn, queer people, and disabled individuals are still discriminated against on a daily basis. There is a façade that we live in a “Rainbow Nation” (the irony) where toleration and equality are supposedly encouraged and promoted by all sectors of society. This is not the case.
Our society is primarily based on a heteronormative, patriarchal system. While this may not seem like a problem to many straight, cis-gendered, men, it has had serious effects on many of us who are queer or are womxn. Growing up, young men and womxn are expected to follow prescribed gender norms. Men are supposed to be active, sporty, aggressive (“boys will be boys”) and sex driven whereas womxn are supposed to be submissive, “girly,” superficial and creative. Anyone who differed from the norms were immediately labelled “gay,” “wrong” etc. I was one of those individuals who detested prescribed gender norms and wanted to be myself. Teachers, school peers, and other individuals were often critical of this and began labelling me.
Heteronorms in our society have allowed homophobia, biphobia, and queerphobia to become a subconscious expression in the daily lives of individuals across the globe. Societal norms and moral agendas have inflicted many prescribed notions on supposed “correct” behavior of males and females. Any behavior conflicting such norms has and continues to receive much scrutiny, usually being met with claims that “it’s just not right.” For example, in schools, teachers perpetuate the heteronormativity by expressing their views in class or restricting certain course work that contradicts, or even offends, the normative values.
In my own school, I observed various teachers skipping content to do with LGBTQ+ culture and history and there were even teachers who were overtly queerphobic, who stated that homosexuality, bisexuality and being queer are forms of immoral behaviour. One said this in an assembly and another said this in a “Religious Education” lesson. These statements by teachers were quickly brushed off by the school ensuring that LGBTQ+ youth didn’t feel safe and comfortable in schools. They are being taught that their very being is a problem. They are made to feel unaccepted and unloved in every environment, and when the system built to educate impressionable youth influences the masses that being queer is immoral and socially unacceptable, these will be the lessons they carry with them into adulthood. This will create unsafe environments leading into working spaces, friendships, and even personal relationships.
Many queer individuals in our society face a fear of religious or cultural persecution. When you grow up in a very conservatively religious community, you may fear that your parents or friends won’t accept you and would rather pray for you to be cured or disown you. That has happened to many young LGBTQ+ teenagers and the number of homeless teens continues to rise, particularly in Western states even though queer people may be equal in terms of the law. Even now, I know that my sexual orientation is going to be hot gossip at a family dining table or coffee table because me being who I am supposedly affects their lives and their reputation.
Oh, and for goodness sake, can I just clear the air around bi-erasure and biphobia; this affects pansexual and fluid individuals too. I’m sick and tired of hearing from both gay and straight people that I am “greedy,” or in “a phase” and I’m “gay but too scared to come out fully.” Firstly, patriarchal men have no problem “accepting” bi womxn because they find it sexually pleasing that they can objectify and watch them hooking up with other womxn. Secondly, they, including gay men in this part, assume that bi men have to be gay…as if everything is about men.
The worst is when people try to assume other individuals’ sexuality, which is firstly problematic, and secondly, they assume using the binary system in which is that there is only heterosexuality and homosexuality. I’m exhausted with having to prove the existence and validity of my sexuality and if you still don’t believe that bisexuality exists then unfriend me and never talk to me again because you are invalidating my being, my person. So many times people will question the validity of others’ experiences, just because they themselves have not been personally affected. It’s ok to question and learn, but to invalidate and disregard the experiences of others just because it is not your own, is grossly closed-minded, and frankly, discriminatory. If you are uncertain about a topic (for example bisexuality), feel free to ask and discuss with an open-mind, instead of bombarding others with your “but that’s just not right.”
I’ve always been critical of the coming out process. When I initially began expressing myself and accepted myself for who I am, I did come out to individuals. However, I felt like it placed me in a position where I was inferior and I had to wait fearing that I wasn’t going to be accepted by a straight person. Instead, I reassessed the ‘coming out’ process and feel that this notion should be an empowering experience for the “closeted” individuals who need to be empowered and encouraged to be who they truly are. Life isn’t, as they say, ‘black and white.’ We can all agree that it is multi-colored and multi-faceted.
I am lucky and privileged to be confident and happy with who I am. But I know there are those who aren’t. So to those who feel lost, feel confused and need a shoulder to cry on, I am here to support you. We are fighting this unfair system together and I know we will achieve the complete social, economic, political, legal and psychological emancipation of all individuals regardless of their sexual orientation, race, gender, sex, religion and disability. Saying “I am bi” will no longer be shocking. Instead we will simply be accepted for who we are, individuals living in a world beyond binaries.