I Get Bi With A Little Help From My Friends
Last year, before I made the trek across five states to move to sunny Los Angeles, I wanted to have a going-away get-together with my closest friends. I hopped into my Ford and drove from my hometown to my college town, where the majority of my pals resided. After picking everyone up, while driving to the party, I had a strange epiphany that I shared with the whole vehicle:
“Not a single person in this car is straight.”
Not a one. Not even a little bit. In a full car, there was not a single heterosexual person among us. Bi and/or queer, yes. But there was not one person who would identify as less than a two on the Kinsey Scale.
I began to speculate as to why this might be – why so many of my closest friends are LGBTQ-identifying individuals. It wasn’t too difficult to figure out; it’s simply because they understand me. They know the challenges and rewards of being a queer individual better than a straight person could.
That’s not to say that friendships with straight folks are not rewarding. All friendships are rewarding in their own ways. I’m not one to turn down friendships with anyone, and I actually think having diverse friendships is an important part of becoming a well-rounded human being.
What I’m saying is that we all like to be around people who understand us and can share in our struggles. At work, my manager, a straight, cis woman, is not able to understand exactly how a coworker’s homophobic comments affect me. My long-term partner, a straight, cis man, try as he might, will never be able to fully understand the way I feel when I’m at a Pride festival. A straight, cis family member won’t be able to grasp how much it meant to me to have my doctor ask if I was sexually active with “men, women, or both?”. But my queer friends can.
Having close queer friends in your life means that there are some things you don’t have to explain, because they already understand. There are some things you don’t have to say, because they’ve already experienced it themselves.
I came to understand my sexual identity when I was 18. That’s when I came out and began declaring myself as bi to those around me. Over the next few years I was able to meet fellow queer folks and create lasting connections with many of them. In the time since I began growing a community of amazing LGBTQ people around me, there have been countless times when I was massively grateful to be able to share an experience with them, knowing that they would be able to share it with me in a way in which my straight friends were simply unable.
In college, when an acquaintance told me she believed that bisexuality was not real and that I would figure out what I “really liked sooner or later,” my bi friends were rolling their eyes before I could finish telling them the story. They’ve heard it, too. Every bi person has. We all get it. We all relate to it. We know that struggle all too well.
Two summers ago, when a coworker said some homophobic comments and my best work friend – who is queer herself – heard about it, she immediately texted me because she knew I’d want to be informed. She wanted me to know about it because she would have wanted to know about it. Even when several of my straight coworkers didn’t see what the big deal was, and implied that I was blowing it out of proportion, my bestie was just as frustrated as I was, because it affected her in the exact same way.
Most recently, on Election Night, when the results came in and the winner was announced and our new President and Vice President-elects took the stage, I had calls coming in from multiple queer friends. I didn’t have to tell them that I was scared about what this change would mean for LGBTQ rights and equality and current/future legislation because they already knew, and they were scared too. We cried together and comforted each other without fear of being misunderstood or accused of overreacting.
It is important to have friends that are different than you. Creating relationships with people who differ from you helps you to gain new points of view and see the world in new, important ways. But it’s also important – vital, even – to have friends who share key similarities with you. I firmly believe that when you’re a queer individual, being friends with other queer folks is a necessity. In a society as heteronormative as this, when LGBTQ rights and issues are still up for debate, we need connection. We need to feel as if we’re not alone. We need to know that our existence is valid and our problems are not just ours alone. We need a team. We need community. We need family.
The queer friends in my life, including the ones who were in that car with me, are my lifeline at times. They hold me together and they strengthen me. No queer person should have to go through life feeling alone, and I am grateful every day for the extraordinary people who go out of their way to make me feel connected and cared for.