I’ve only ever had serious relationships with women. As a queer woman my experience with men is limited to a few young “relationships” extending no longer than 6 months at a time in high school. Since coming out so much of my identity has been tied to my sexuality and the queer community; I have worked my whole life to be comfortable, confident and proud of my queerness. Now though, for the first time ever I have a serious boyfriend and I’m not sure how to move through the world as a straight-presenting woman. All I’ve ever known is the “otherness” that comes with being a minority.
I’m extremely happy in my relationship; it’s healthy, loving and balanced. A year ago I never would have thought I would end up with a man but here we are. Things are great but there is one thing weighing heavily on my mind: how do I reconcile my queer identity with my straight presenting relationship?
In theory, being a bisexual woman in a relationship of any gender composition should be a celebration of the fluidity and nuances of sexuality. In reality, I’m caught in this awkward limbo of not quite fitting into either world; I’m not sure how to be comfortable and feel seen in a queer space OR in a heterosexual space. Imposter syndrome rears its ugly head no matter where I go.
There are many privileges that come with being in a straight-passing relationship, like not having to constantly come out to people when I’m talking about my partner and they assume their gender to be a male. I can walk down the street holding my boyfriend’s hand and nobody bats an eyelash. With my ex-girlfriend, we would never hold hands because it would always attract attention. People would stare or do a double take. We would go about our day, minding our own business and total strangers would feel entitled to comment on our relationship, both with positive and negative unwanted and uninvited opinions.
Some people would view straight privilege as a positive thing, and it is just that - a privilege. Indeed it’s nice to be able to exist in public with my partner without drawing unwanted attention, but it’s also invalidating. Years of struggle - and pride - associated with being queer, erased. I worry that as time goes on, my queerness will become less and less relevant. I’ve felt lost and confused about this new outwardly straight presenting identity. Who am I without the obvious queer label hanging over me?
Being with a man means people expect to see “evidence” of your queerness. I tell myself that just because I’m with a man now that doesn’t make my bisexuality any less valid but I still end up gaslighting myself and questioning my own identity: am I a fake? Does this mean I’m “straight now”? Am I betraying the queer community? It’s frustrating because when you’re with a woman, just existing is enough to validate your queerness but when you’re with a man, it’s an effort.
The challenge lies in learning to shake off and ignore the fear of judgement from others while finding ways to stay grounded in my identity. Consuming LGBTQIA+ content, remaining actively involved in events within the community and speaking out on the oppression each different stripe of the rainbow faces continue to reaffirm my queerness. Every day I’m learning to relax and allow myself to accept the joys and pleasure of a caring partner instead of feeling guilty and ashamed for “turning my back” on the queer community.
Regardless of how straight-presenting I may seem, I will always be unapologetically bisexual and proud. Queerness is not defined by the gender composition of a relationship. I’m just as entitled to celebrate pride and take up queer space as anyone else under the LGBTQIA+ umbrella, and I will happily educate anyone who challenges me on that not to assume the structure and dynamic of a straight-presenting couple.
It’s twenty bi-teen and time to change the narrative about how those of us who fall outside of the “L” and “G” labels in the rainbow fit into the community. Even though my boyfriend is straight, the fact that I am queer means I am in a queer relationship. Acceptance from others begins with acceptance within ourselves. You are valid regardless of how you present. Be proud and own your sexual identity so we can get to a place where a question of belonging is not even a passing thought.Support Villainesse