If a Bisexual Woman Marries a Man, is She Still Queer?
We must find ways to assert our identity outside of our relationships.
The New York Times recently published a piece called, “Our Marriage Looks Straight. We’re Not,” about bi- or pansexual people who wish to assert their queer identity even while in straight marriages.
Bi-erasure is a huge issue. The imposter syndrome for bisexual and pansexual individuals is real. Just the other day, I was talking with a friend and he said, “You make it sound like you are trespassing into the [LGBTQ+] community. But you are a part of it.”
The need for feeling validated in one’s identity as a queer person who has the potential to be in “straight” relationships is real. I won’t deny that.
And yet, I was irked by the article. Everyone has a right to express themselves in whichever way empowers them, but I felt like maybe some of these individuals were desperately clinging to an identity that would set them apart from the heteronormative world. Of course, your bisexual or pansexual identity doesn’t just evaporate when you marry someone of the opposite sex.
I must make it clear that I am not asking anyone to internalize biphobia and bi-erasure and deny their sexuality or keep it hidden just because it is no longer visible to the world. I simply believe a straight wedding is not the time or place for asserting it. You will always be queer, even if your wedding guests don’t think you are.
Many comments on the Facebook post where I found the article (which included several from people who shared identities with those in the article) labeled the featured couples’ actions as a cry for attention.
I think one user put it best by saying, “Your marriage isn’t queer, you are.”
But what if it was the opposite? If I, a bisexual woman, married a woman, would I find any reason to correct people if they thought I was a lesbian? There would be little point in doing so because the world would almost always perceive me as a lesbian. Would I stand up at my wedding and make it known that I could have chosen a man? Of course not, because heterosexuality isn’t a marginalized identity and there is no need for straight pride.
But the principle remains the same. No matter who I marry, there will be no need to bring up my bisexuality within the context of my relationship beyond simply telling my partner that I am bisexual. That identity assertion could happen in my Medium stories, on my social media, or anything that pertains to me as an individual outside of my marriage. I could still share both my male and female celebrity crushes and relate to other queer women, but I wouldn’t feel the need to grab a megaphone and shout, “JUST TO LET YOU KNOW, I AM STILL ATTRACTED TO ALL GENDERS” everywhere I went with my spouse.
The idea that settling down with a partner means “choosing a side,” is hurtful for bisexual people who want to feel seen, but with more and more bi and pansexual people engaging in polyamorous relationships, many people don’t have to choose. Polyamory lets bisexual people hang on to their identities in a way that monogamy doesn’t. But again, your queerness isn’t defined by who you are currently sleeping with. Bisexuality isn’t a professional certification you have to renew with continuing education units in the form of sex with people of multiple genders every two years.
I try to write about my queer identity as it exists outside of my relationship, but I am certainly guilty of only feeling truly queer depending on who I am dating. I know that I would feel even more like an outsider if I never dated a woman. I wouldn’t be as vocal about my identity in writing, save for maybe a few confessional posts. Up until a few months ago, the world saw me as a straight, white, cisgender, middle-class woman. I was number two on the privilege list. It would feel wrong to me if I entered a straight marriage and decided to make it known that I still had a marginalized identity while enjoying all the privileges of not having one. Maybe I do internalize bi-erasure and guilt about my privilege, but this is my reality, and my story and I am sticking to it.
This community is so special, resilient and beautiful, it’s hard not to want to maintain strong ties. But if you are cutting into a rainbow wedding cake at your marriage that, to the rest of the world, looks straight, you are holding onto the novelty of being a part of it when you have the privilege of never facing the same discrimination as others. A straight relationship offers safety no matter where you travel. I dated men for so long before coming out that I couldn’t see the shift in privilege at first, and I never thought to worry about holding my girlfriend’s hand in public.
One bride said marrying a man made her feel like everyone who thought her bisexuality was a phase “won,” and others alluded to how “relieved” their parents were when they married a man. And that is really fucking sad. I can’t say I wouldn’t share some of those feelings. I find myself hoping I do marry a woman because discovering my queer identity has been such a confusing but beautiful journey. And maybe, just maybe, a part of me feels like I have something to prove. But your relationships aren’t about ‘proving’ anything to anyone else or seeking validation. The point is that you are happy no matter who you fall in love with.
It’s all about perception. You cannot control how people will perceive you. If you are flaunting rainbows and dropping hints of queerness at your marriage to a man as a bisexual woman, many people might perceive you as just an ally. In fact, throughout your marriage, you may be perceived that way, because you no longer have to personally fight for yourself to be visible in the way that fellow LGBTQ+ people in same-sex relationships do.
Yes, even if your relationship is straight, you must continue to do the work. Don’t let your family get away with homophobic comments just because they are no longer directed towards you. Do not remain silent on issues of discrimination. Support your LGBTQ+ friends and family and let anyone who is struggling to come out know that you can relate and talk with them if they are open to it.
But reasserting your identity at your wedding when it is not relevant to the particular relationship that you happen to be in is just asking for external validation for your identity. And external validation for anything never gets anyone very far.
The most important thing is that you see, know, and love yourself, in all of your queer glory.
(But hey, who knows? Maybe when I do get married, things will change. If my spouse is a cisgender woman, maybe my bachelorette party will feature a spin on all of those “Same Penis Forever” decorations and read “No More Penis, Ever,” as a subtle, cheeky nod to my bisexuality).