Friday, June 26, 2015

Bonus Update: This Bi's Perspective on Marriage Equality

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Very few times in my life have I been able to hang out in a room full of fellow self-identifying bi- and pansexuals. In fact, most notably in my early adulthood, it was virtually impossible to identify each other because we kept it all hush-hush. We'd tell one person who turned out to be a mutual friend of another bisexual who would then "hook us up," like a puppy playdate. Usually it was a "Psst, over here... I hear you're... *makes swinging motion with hand*" Then there'd be a couple of solemn nods and no more would be said. 

Being bisexual is a little bit awkward in predominantly LGBT environments. If I am dating a woman, I'm assumed to be a lesbian, and if I am dating a man, I'm assumed to be straight and therefore largely an outsider. Things must have changed some since I was more active in the community, and I live in a much more accepting city now, but this is how I was indoctrinated.

I knew a bisexual woman in college who self-identified as lesbian while in a lesbian relationship and as bi when that relationship broke up and she started dating a man. I accepted this because I understood that it's just easier that way. A self-identified gay cousin of mine confessed to me when he came out ten years ago that he really considered himself bi, but it was easier to identify as gay. Another self-identified gay man told me the same thing a couple of years later while we were chatting at a gay bar. (He later tried to pick me up. I declined.) 

But on those rare occasions when it has been just me and my fellow Bs and Ps, a frequent topic of discussion was same-sex marriage. We felt torn and upset in a way that gay, lesbian, and straight people can't. (Trans folk I am sure can relate, though.) Being allowed to marry, for us, was like a roll of the dice. If I fell in love with a woman, boo, I lost. No marriage for me. But if I fell in love with a man and wanted to get married, as I now have and do, I'm a winner! Yay! And that is just crazy. We hated it. We felt bitter about it. We resented it.

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A self-identifying cisgender dyke I dated for a time in college and I half-joked/not-really about this on occasion. I had also dated a secretly self-identifying transgender woman (a few of them, as I have found out since). I knew about this person's identification and so did this cis-woman. The joke was that if I wanted, I could marry the transgender woman because she had a penis, but not her because she had a vagina. Some joke. 

I also identify as bigender (nonbinary is a  new one that I also took a shine to recently). And in college, and most of high school, I was extremely butch. I was often mistaken for a man and in my brief, mostly casual relationship with the above-mentioned woman, we definitely took on the stereotypical man/woman, butch/femme roles. I was pleased as punch to be the "gentleman" to her "lady." (Though I was also very insecure, shy, and easily cowed. Bless her for putting up with me.) Even embracing those "traditional" roles, no marriage for us!

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I was engaged to a man who identified (at the time) as bisexual for about a year in college, and we had privately decided that neither one of us felt comfortable actually getting married. Not because the relationship was unstable (though it turned out to be), and not because we didn't want to commit ourselves to another human being. It came down to marriage inequality. Because we happened to have had opposite genitalia, we got to marry? It wasn't fair to us, so we never bothered to even start making wedding plans.

For every man I have ever dated seriously, there has been a nagging voice in my mind that if I married him, I would be a traitor. I'd be flaunting my privilege in the faces of my friends, people I cared deeply about and worked alongside in advocacy. Dating women was more cut and dry. There was simply no option, so no problem. (Unless we ran off to one of the few states that started to allow them, returned to our home-state and sued, which is a lot for anyone to go through, and I am deeply indebted to the people who have gone that extra 200 miles. We wouldn't be here without you!) 

That all changed today. Now everyone can marry! I could marry a woman if I wanted! My transgender exes can marry! It's a wonderful thing! Is our fight over? Hell no. There are so many things affecting our community - suicide, mental health, homelessness, and job and housing discrimination, just to name a few. But I do believe that with the legal recognition of all of our relationships, acceptance will follow. As we've seen, it's a Domino effect. Families are being recognized. This is amazing! I am blown away by how much has changed since I graduated college ten years ago. 

Now, I see and hear people say things like "I'd turn gay for her/him," and I rejoice. Ten years ago, NO ONE would say that without being instantly ridiculed. (Not in Michigan, at least.) I often joke that I didn't know any straight people while living in San Francisco. You were either LGBPQ or "I don't identify" (which basically translated to "I'm mostly attracted to my opposite gender, but I won't leave out the possibility of something happening with my same gender so I'm keeping my options open"). Young people see their own sexuality as so fluid that they are willing to admit when they are not only attracted to members of their same gender or sex, but openly state that they want to have sex with them. They aren't afraid. They don't see the stigma. Same-sex attraction is accepted, and now so is same-sex marriage. 

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Wait, I take back what I said about not knowing any self-identifying straight people in San Francisco. I knew this one woman who identified as straight. She had also been in a serious relationship with another woman for over two years, and swore she'd go lesbian again for Angelina Jolie. She is now engaged to a man. And bless their union!

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