The Bi Line: Why Some of Us Still Say We’re “Gay AF”

7/27/2017

A friend who has always openly identified as gay recently opened up to me about his bisexuality. In our conversations, he wondered if he was able to still say he’s “gay af.” He was worried that by using this popular phrase he would erase his bisexuality.

I meet lots of bi people who vocalize their bisexuality to me when they find out I’m a bi activist. Many of those people outwardly identify as gay or lesbian in order to remain a part of the gay community. One way that many of these folks do this is to use well-known phrases and terms that identify them as gay, even if they are out as bi.

The more popular terms and sayings for queer people usually center gayness. This is due, in part, to the fact that individuals in both the gay and straight communities don’t see bisexuality as really queer. Most don’t think bisexuality has a culture or a community. Saying something like “I’m gay af” allows bi people to communicate to gay people “I’m part of the queer community, I’m one of you” without fearing biphobia or the anxiety of having to come out as bi.

This has come up in a few recent situations that have gotten press. The most recent is when Kristen Stewart came out to America while hosting Saturday Night Live by saying “I’m so gay, dude.” There has been speculation about Stewart’s sexuality for years, but it wasn’t until Saturday Night Live that she made herself known to the world. Her saying she’s “so gay” allowed her to officially come out quickly on national television. And the world responded by giving her coming out a ton of headlines.

Yet, Stewart identifies as bi and she said so just a few days after her big announcement. In an interview with The Guardian, Stewart said that “it’s not confusing if you’re bisexual. For me, it’s the opposite.” This nuanced conversation about her sexuality got less press, especially from the queer media who had previously lauded her “so gay” announcement.

Another instance is when activist Rose Uscianowski confronted then republican candidate Ben Carson. Uscianowski said “do you think I choose to be gay?” After news of Carson’s conservative Christian beliefs (I’ve written about the long history of anti-LGBT theology in his denomination) showed he said people chose to be gay.

That was strategic for two reasons: the activist confronted him and needed to get the point across “I’m one of them” quickly. Second, bisexuality in Christian spaces is even less understood than secular spaces (I’ve written about these intersections). If Uscianowski had identified themselves as bi, it may have easily derailed the conversation to one about bisexuality, and how it’s “sexually deviant and promiscuous,” instead of a conversation about “choosing” sexuality.

And yet, I believe it’s important to say “bisexual” now more than ever. As a community, rallying around the word bisexual is strategic. It’s why the bi community has adopted Bi+ as a term to include the 30+ labels used by those who have nonbinary middle sexualities. We need to be seen as a community and counted in order to have our community’s disparities addressed. And regardless of the various sexual identity labels we use, we are all in the non-monosexual community and face the same issues.

I’m not arguing that bi people shouldn’t say terms like “I’m so gay” or “gay af,” especially when individuals can and do hold multiple sexual identities. In some contexts using this language even serves very specific strategic purposes. But there’s a reason why folks feel the need to engage in these terms and it’s partly because of a lack of understanding on bisexuality and it not being seen as part of “real” queer culture. If we continue to erase ourselves by deploying this strategy, it also makes it harder to raise awareness of bisexuality. Maybe it’s time to popularize the phrase “I’m bi af.”

Eliel Cruz

Eliel Cruz is a speaker and writer on religion, (bi)sexuality, media, and culture at Bisexual.org, The Advocate, Mic, and Religion News Service. His work has also been published in the Huffington Post, Everyday Feminism, Washington Post, Soujourners, DETAILS Magazine, Quartz, Rolling Stone, and various other international platforms.