“The umbrella term ‘Gay’ will become your safety blanket. It’s here where you yourself will contribute to bi-erasure.”
Dear me at 20-something,
I’ll start by saying it’s funny to regard this age. Technically, this makes you an adult. Yet in hindsight, I realize 20-anything is still so young. Life, at this stage, is malleable. You are malleable. And I’m sure, by now, you understand that as you get to know yourself better, unearthing things like your traits, your preferences, your character, you and your world are changing all the while, sometimes at breakneck speed.
This getting-to-know-you cycle will be endless, as it should be.
It’s because of this process that you will grow comfortable with embracing even unanswered questions. You will eventually be content not to poke and prod into oblivion at the uncertain…simply because uncertainty scares you. Realizing that you are bisexual and accepting this fact about yourself will be the journey that teaches you this.
While you live your way into learning this lesson, one encounter riddled with microaggressions at a time, it’s important that you do not recoil from the conversation, if you can manage. While vulnerable (and brace yourself because you will be), others might feel it’s their right to fill the silences left by you with their own prejudices about bisexuality. They might offer “advice” or words of encouragement, which, if anything, might only feel like a nudge in one direction or other. Choose. Choose the one gender you’re “more attracted to.” Pick a side.
But you know yourself better than anyone else. You had your first guy crush at the age of 12 and a year later, you were smitten with a schoolmate at your all-girls high school. Spoiler alert: you will hit 31 and still find people from both genders attractive; you will still see yourself with a person belonging to either one.
Dear you, I know it will weigh heavy in your mind, the encounter with that total stranger in 2015. You and your girlfriend will meet him on a night out, enjoy drinks together when he asks you, “So how long have you two been together?” As you answer, he, unprovoked, will say with finality: “Babalik ka rin sa lalaki.” Your partner will be in earshot of this exchange.
This will fill you with rage. But for someone so angry, you will instead freeze. You will harbor a little anger for yourself for it, too. As dead wrong as he is to invalidate you, this will be the beginning of you identifying as a lesbian solely based on the fact that your last two relationships are with women and because you do not want to have a repeat encounter. The umbrella term “Gay” will become your safety blanket. It’s here where you yourself unwittingly contribute to bi-erasure.
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Dear you, you need to know that bisexuality is vast and that vastness is beautiful. But with a bigoted perspective, this can be painted like a problematic gray area. An area to escape or otherwise drown in. This will initially appeal to you, with your Type A personality and desire for things to be neat and clear-cut, but it won’t be in the way that’s good for you; it will tap into your fear. Fear that not fitting into the neater boxes will lead you into isolation. Fear that you might not actually know yourself as well as you think you do.
This will be amplified when your female friends who dated women for a stretch of time proceed to date men, then get married. They buy a house, have a baby. Even this, the safety of something certain like tradition, no matter how progressive you’d like to believe you are, will sometimes appeal to you. You will hear it from them, too: “Oh that? I was going through a phase.”
Dear you, let’s get one other thing out of the way: it’s okay to not know. But this doesn’t mean you’re confused either. The “Q” in LGBTQIA+ anyway also stands for “questioning,” and that is as valid as any other identity on the gender spectrum. In a similar vein, should your journey bring you to the realization that you identify differently, know that that’s what the other letters are there for: to acknowledge and accommodate the fluidity of it all.
The good news is you will claim your bisexuality proudly, eventually. You will unlearn the notions planted in your mind that bisexuality is an identity only halfway-realized or a preference because “maybe you just don’t know what you actually want so you want it all.” This will only happen when you decide not to retreat into yourself and instead channel any not knowing into participating in the conversation. Your work, thankfully, will lead you to meet more members of your community, to broader discourse, to better-informed takes on gender and sexuality. You will learn about things like Sexual Orientation, Gender Identity & Gender Expression, gender sensitivity and allyship.
With that, only in your late 20’s will you learn that bisexuality in itself is a spectrum. It takes into account emotional, romantic and/or sexual attraction to two or more genders. It’s here where you begin to truly comprehend that gender is diverse and fluid and nuanced, and you will wish they taught you this in school.
Finally, also in your late 20’s, the words “I’m bisexual” will roll off your tongue. And when they do for the first time, you will feel genuine pride. A high point of that getting-to-know-you cycle, sure, but there’s also no feeling like it: like you’ve come home to yourself.
So, dear you, the next time an uncomfortable conversation arises about you identifying as bisexual, stay. There’s already so much to be said about you showing up.
Art Matthew Ian Fetalver