Being Bisexual in a Straight-Passing Relationship: Public Perception and My Queer Identity

Artwork by Andrea Miranda

For many people, sexuality is an ever-evolving matter, which grows and changes with you as a person. Personally, like many others, I identified as ‘straight’ for years, mainly due to what is taught and what I felt comfortable with. Coming to terms with your sexuality can be very tricky, however, and a slow process. It wasn’t until I had left school and was surrounded by very supportive queer friends that I felt comfortable to really question my sexuality and uncover my bisexuality. Now I can’t say I didn’t see it coming in my teenage years – from watching exclusively lesbian porn, kissing any girl I could get my hands on at parties and setting my tinder preference to girls only ‘just to check it out’ - but it was only quite recently that I have felt comfortable in accepting that for myself. Even still, outside of my immediate bubble I am still somewhat uncomfortable. I’ve dated girls before - once for a considerable amount of time – but I have never told my parents or many friends from home. It is still new for me – even though I come from a supportive household with supportive friends - and for some people this process is far more tremulous and stigmatized.

It was not long after I came to terms with my sexuality and begun to feel comfortable with myself and expressing my queerness that I ended up in a heteronormative relationship. I have been with my partner for a year now, and I am so so happy. By no means is this his fault or a reflection on our relationship - our relationship is everything I could ever want it to be and more. However, for some reason I instantly felt that the queerness I had begun to build for myself was erased, and I was back to being straight again. Of course, this was nowhere near true: your queerness is not defined by your relationship status or what you choose to reveal publicly. But I felt like mine was.

Obviously, this was very much a me problem, but I feel that many bisexual people in hetero-passing relationships suffer from the same insecurities. Publicly, your queerness is hidden, and even with friends and family, I sometimes felt that traditional assumptions surrounding hetero-passing relationships overshadowed my queer identity, especially in regards to my heteronormative family and their assumptions surrounding a boyfriend/girlfriend dynamic. There is also the issue of biphobia, as many believe bi people are simply yet to pick a side, closeted or just ‘experimenting’. These assumptions also feed into feelings of invalidity, and made me feel like I needed to ‘prove’ my queerness, something I wasn’t doing with my relationship. This is most likely my own internalised biphobia telling me my sexuality isn’t valid, but even so I constantly struggled to feel secure in my queer identity.

A coupling of biphobia and a need for public validation left me insecure in my sexuality and has affected many others too. There is still so much stigma and harmful stereotyping experienced by the LGBTQIA+ community that it is worth noting how privileged I am to have never experienced physical or verbal abuse. Unfortunately, the trans+ community face the most vicious attacks, as trans people continue to be physically and verbally attacked, as well as bombarded with transphobic legislation from the UK government. Gay people also face homophobia at home and on the streets. There is outright violence occurring to the community daily which needs to be tackled head on by the public and the media to allow queer people to feel comfortable in themselves and exist freely as every human should have the right to do. The biphobia I am writing about is far more nuanced, however it can negatively impact people's self-image and self-security, and may even come from inside the community.

I think another issue that is so prominent and has effected my personal experience is the contemporary obsession with public image. We are continuously trying to validate ourselves, our careers, our partners and more on social media and in public. I feel there is a constant pressure to be seen and to be doing, but there is so much more to our lives behind a caption. I may appear heterosexual at first glance, but that does not mean I am. My outward appearance and social media existence does not define me, and I do not need to explain it to be valid. We are all very conscious of public perception, and I think this can sometimes interfere in our private lives. It certainly has in mine, as I allowed it to play a part in my perception of my own queerness.

Although there is still a long way to go before I become secure in myself, reflecting on these inner turmoil's has reminded me that outward opinion does not equal truth, and the only person who can validate your queerness is yourself. It is a revealing step for myself to write this, but I hope that anyone who may invalidate their queerness due to a lack of experience or a hetero-passing relationship can find solace in the fact they are not alone, and learn to love themselves for the glorious people they are, not the false perceptions others may hold. Queerness is so wonderful, learn to love it and love yourself for the authenticity they both hold.

Written by Isobel Gorman-Buckley