My Personal, Lived Experience as a Bisexual Individual
Biphobia, homophobia and marginalisation take place often, and it is important that we unite as members of the LGBTQ+ community to empower each other.
I am bisexual.
That got your attention, right?
Great. I hope I can retain your attention throughout this long piece because everything I’m about to say is extremely important, and it affects the lives of so many queer individuals in our society.
Being a bisexual, queer individual myself, I face various forms discrimination and mistreatment in society compared to heterosexual 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, bisexual man.
Of course, don’t get me wrong, I live in South Africa, a constitutional democratic state where people 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 ,and 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, however, 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 as being “gay”, “wrong” etc. This homophobic, misogynistic view happened to me. I was one of those individuals who detested the gender norms and wanted to be myself. Teachers, school peers and other individuals were often critical of this and thought it was wise to begin labelling me.
Consequently, norms in our society have allowed the perpetuation of homophobia, biphobia and queerphobia to become a subconscious and imminent expression in the daily lives of individuals across the globe. Societal norms and moral agendas have inflicted many prescribed notions on the supposed “correct” behaviour of men and women. Any behaviour conflicting such norms has over the years and in present day received much scrutiny, and are usually justified with claims such as “it’s just not right.”
For example, in schools, teachers perpetuate the heteronormative agenda 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 out 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 teacher even 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, and it is this very reason why LGBTQ+ youth don’t feel safe and comfortable in schools because they are being taught that their very existence is a problem.
The LGBTQ+ community is made to feel unaccepted and unloved in most environments, and when the system built to educate the impressionable youth influences the masses that being queer is immorally and socially unacceptable, these will be the lessons they carry with them into adulthood. This will inevitably create unsafe environments leading into working spaces, friendships and even personal relationships.
One of the many fears that many queer individuals face in our society, is the fear of religious or cultural persecution. When you grow up in a very religious household such as a Christian one for example, you always fear that your parents or religious 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.
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. What is even more grotesque and disturbing, is that many queer womxn are so called “correctively raped” in order to “cure their sexuality” because men within their cultural group or community are clearly more disgusted by the idea of them being queer as opposed to rape. It shows you how not all normative socialized thinking is correct, doesn’t it?
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 accept bisexual womxn because they find it sexually pleasing that they can objectify and watch them hooking up with other womxn, and secondly, they, including gay men in this part, assume that bisexual men have to be gay…as if everything is about men.
The worst is when people try to assume other individuals’ sexuality, it is firstly problematic, and secondly, they assume using a binary system that there is only heterosexuality and homosexuality. I’m exhausted with having to prove the existence and validity of my sexual orientation, and if you still don’t believe that bisexuality exists then 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 quite 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” view.
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 for myself and feel that it 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, so ‘black and white.’ We can all agree that it is multi-coloured 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.