This Year’s Pride Reminded Me to Never Stop Being Visible

7/2/2018

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Pride was different this year. It could be because I’ve changed or it could be because times are changing. I think it’s a big ol’ combination of both.

Leading up to Pride, I wrote about how apprehensive I was to attend Pride with the bi woman I’m dating. I recalled a particularly painful Pride festival a few years back, when my partner of the time — who prefers female pronouns but presents more gender non-conforming — left pride in tears, due to the fact that gay men were ridiculing her for being born a woman. They also teased her for dating me, a seemingly “very gay” man. (They thought she was in denial of my sexuality, and there was no way I could be attracted to her.)

This year, however, the streets of NYC pride were filled with bi flags. For the first time ever, I saw the vendors at Pride not just selling rainbow flags and transgender pride flags, but also the pink, lavender, and blue bi flags.

Men were holding hands with women in the street. Women kissing women in the street had bi colors painted all over their faces. I really felt that bisexuality was more visible, partly because I was on the lookout for it, but also because it was just so there.

Even when my female partner and I attended Pride Island, which advertises for being for everyone, and it is, but I’d say less than 10% of the folks there were women, trans women, and gender nonconforming people, we still were welcomed with open arms. And in a sea of shirtless men with abs and cut-off booty shorts, we stand out. I’m 6’4. She’s 6 feet and wears heels making her roughly my height. When we kissed, gay men were cheering us on. They were loving it. Not once did we get side-eyed.

We also met another queer couple (one man and one woman) who were engaged. Both identified as bi. Of course, we hit it off immediately.

I bring all of this up not just to say how amazing my pride was, but also because times are changing. People are changing. The queer community is changing. As a writer, activist, and professional bisexual (I hate that term, but it really lets you know the type of work that I do), I often feel like I’m fighting an uphill battle. This is in large part due to social media. The most vocal people on comments are nasty and biphobic trolls.

About a year and a half ago, I performed a spoken word poem at a bi open mic night put on by the BRC (Bisexual Resource Center). People loved my poem, titled “Questions for Monosexuals” and encouraged me to publish it. So I added it to the video channel I had recently created. Immediately, multiple trolls picked up the video and I was receiving death threats and hate mail. One of the trolls of my video produced a terrifying video making fun of me that I think now has more than 100 thousands views. (I’m not going to Google anymore than I already have to try to find it.) Then the commenters went through all my other videos, down-voting every single one. So all of my videos have way more downvotes than upvotes. They all proceeded to have horrible, nasty comments on them. I had to disable comments on many of my videos.

I was new to video content, and this was one of the first personal videos I produced, and it actually discouraged me from doing any more video content. I know this is sad. I know it means the trolls and the haters won. But Jesus, it put me in a really dark place. I needed to engage in self care. Now, having been an activist and in the public eye longer, I’m better at brushing these types of things off.

But sometimes it can be tough.

Even folks from the bi community came for me for my video. And that isn’t the first time folks within the community have come for me.

I used to be part of a bi writers/activists group on Facebook right as I started my first official writing gig contributing to Pride.com. Folks in the group would post my articles, say “Go” and then proceed to tear into them and, subsequently, me. I heavily doubt they were aware that I was a member of the Facebook group. Instead of talking to me, a new writer who clearly meant to be doing good work, they preferred to comment nasty things on a private group on Facebook. I was so hurt, so angered by my own community, that I almost stopped writing altogether.

I realize now, that they were the bi activists in that group who only wanted to depict a perfect, non-slutty, monogamous bi. One who never had to lie about their sexuality. They didn’t want to acknowledge that yeah, some bi folks do later identify as gay, some live for threesomes, and some are ethically non-monogamous. As you know by now, that’s not what I’m about.

Anyway, I digress, but before I continue, I want to say thank you for reading this rant. This week’s column was definitely more for me than it was for you. I really needed this.

But I also put forth my experience to reiterate: don’t let others get you down. Don’t let others discourage you from being your best bi self. And realize, like I realized at this year’s pride, that it isn’t all for nothing. All the times you put yourself out there, only to be shut down, are still worth it. Because you do help change people’s mind. You do help in the fight for visibility. And you are making it easier for future generations of bi+ individuals to embrace being attracted to more the one gender. So while it may be difficult to be vocal and openly bi (trust me, I know), you are making a difference

 

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.