I usually dread when the subject of ‘high school’ comes up with new friends. I just anxiously wait until someone asks me where I went to school. The dilemma is that my answer to this question is typically a loaded answer – “I went to an all-girls private school” can completely derail a conversation.
There are a few reactions that are fairly standard. One discusses privilege, and one discusses bisexuality. Today, we’re going to focus on the bisexual part. More specifically, how private school made me both a perpetrator and victim of bi-erasure.
Bi-erasure is exactly what it sounds like – the erasing of bisexuality. GLAAD defines bi-erasure or bi-invisibility as: “a pervasive problem in which the existence or legitimacy of bisexuality (either in general or in regard to an individual) is questioned or denied outright.”
Where is started
I went to an all-girls private school, which made me and my friends get labelled a certain way. Fantasies about pillow fights and public make outs and every other stereotypical porn-esque act was pretty much all I heard about. Some of my friends did take advantage of it – they’d grab each other’s chests and make out with their closest friends to get the attention of some pubescent boy, or a few – basically, whoever was watching. They’d hold hands with their friends while walking downtown in their hiked up uniform to get the attention of (unfortunately) a lot – a LOT – of men. Please remember this is high school.
I never really understand the concept of doing these things to please a guy. I just really didn’t understand why I would want to make out with someone I wasn’t attracted to, for the sole purpose of turning on some guy. If the guy doesn’t like me without needing to be a fake bisexual… then he doesn’t like me.
I grew up in this environment – where women do things to please men and that includes being sexual with each other. I didn’t know anyone who actually identified as bisexual. I didn’t even know anyone who identified as a lesbian until after I graduated high school. I was surrounded by people who faked being bisexual, so I didn’t think it actually existed for real out in the world. I basically erased ‘bisexual’ as a possibility.I grew up in this environment – where women do things to please men and that includes being sexual with each otherClick To Tweet
Any time I had a female crush, I chalked it up to wanting to be like them because I didn’t realize I wanted to be with them. All that lesbian porn I watched? The Internet did a great job of convincing me that all straight women prefer lesbian porn. Fantasizing about sleeping with women was such a straight thing to do if I was dating a guy… right? I mean, the fact that I dated men just meant that all my desires were ‘straight’ desires… right? It’s a peculiar thing to be surrounded by signs that you’re bisexual and yet have no idea that you’re bisexual.
When it all changed
I finally realized I was bisexual years later by reading a particularly resonating essay about someone else’s coming out story. It was like this person was writing about me from the future. It was 2 a.m. and I was glued to my phone’s screen. I read bisexual coming out stories about people in their mid-20s to late-40s that could not have spoken truer words for me. It was like these big bright lights turned on and lit up my entire mind. I kept replaying all these moments throughout my childhood, adolescence and adulthood that just made so much more sense knowing that I was bisexual. I can’t even say I had been in denial of being bisexual. I just had no idea it was even really a real possibility. I had been the victim of my own bi-erasure.
Accepting myself as bisexual was something that clicked. It felt real – it felt like my authentic self. It felt like somehow I’d been lying to myself this whole time… but I just didn’t know I was bisexual. I didn’t know it was even a real possibility.
I’m not going to lie – I did briefly panic. I then proceeded to do what any reasonable person would have done – I got black out drunk and came out to my best friend in a messy pile of tears and vomit. What can I say – all that private school really showed me how to conduct myself in public.I’m not going to lie - I did briefly panicClick To Tweet
My high school surroundings with the fake bisexual-for-attention had caused me to be a perpetrator of bi-erasure. In doing this, I had erased my own identity. Realizing it was liberating.
Telling my partner about it has been more than liberating – it was terrifying but perfect all at once. Being in a long-term relationship with a cis-man, I was worried that I wouldn’t feel completely bi-sexual but thankfully I’ve stumbled upon some wonderful bisexual communities that address this concern. Just because you are with someone of a certain gender doesn’t mean that it erases your identity. The same can be said about having zero sexual experience – it doesn’t matter if you’ve never dated a woman – who you date does not erase who you are.
In terms of my own relationship, it obviously helps that my partner accepts my sexuality without question and even helps me explore it. He isn’t hoping for me to put on a show for him. He cares that I am happy with my sexuality and my explorations. Whenever a woman is in the picture, it is absolutely for my happiness and not for his desire, and that makes a huge difference to feel comfortable about expressing my bisexuality. I was worried that there would be stereotypical threesome fantasies and my bisexuality would be reduced to a performance like people did in high school, but I’m super glad to say it has not.
Now that I know I am bisexual and have lived with this identity for quite some time, I always try to make up for my own perpetration of bi-erasure. I discuss it with friends and with strangers on the Internet. I discuss how being in a relationship with a cis-man doesn’t change my sexuality. I discuss how marrying a cis-man still doesn’t change anything. I discuss how never having been in a long-term relationship with a cis-woman doesn’t change my sexuality. My sexual identity is my identity.
Your sexual identity is your identity. If anyone ever tells you otherwise, just know that there are so many bisexual advocacy groups online that you can reach out to. No one can dictate your identity except yourself. Bi-erasure is definitely a problem that exists – I know first hand as a perpetrator and a victim of it. There’s still work to do with making sure the B has an equivalent place in LGBT+ but we’re on the right track!