Hey, Cha-Cha here.
It’s been a minute, I know! Forgive me – this blog is very much alive, and for all the bi/pan/fluid people out there, keep sending me submissions! firstname.lastname@example.org – I am checking it, I do get your submissions, and they will be up SOON. For new readers, see the “About” tab for the submission guidelines.
Life’s been hectic, as it always is. So here’s a piece about relationships. If you feel so moved, give feedback and share in the comments. Or if you want – send me a post! /shameless.plug – on to the article!
When Things Don’t Work Out
I think that because of the position that LGB* people are put in, as differing from the norm, as not right or desirable, at worst as evil, we tend to celebrate Things Working Out: Marriages Working Out, Protests Working Out, Lobby Days Working Out, Our Organizations Working Out, etc. Varying themes include Wins, Successes, Celebrity Moments. It’s understandable: in a society which places an “everything you are is evil / sinful / doomed to fail” onus over all our heads to one degree or another, we can’t just expose the horror stories of prejudice, discrimination and violence that we face for being who we are. Those of us interested in same sex partners also wind up pressured to show that being LGB can Work Out, that this Makes Us Happy, that This Is Okay, etc. That our lives can be good, fruitful, happy, loving.
In my experience, this “positive pressure” is especially true in the realm of Relationships Working Out.
And I’m not saying it’s bad to celebrate Things Working Out! Not at all. I mean, for the Record, Things Can Totally Work Out, everybody, they totally can, and frequently do, and thank goodness or there would really be no point for me at least, and all would be horribly depressing!
But what I have noticed is that the pressure to defy the increasingly vocal and scary bigots, from the God Hates Fags people to the slightly more politely worded Professionally Bigoted Politicians, to even in some cases our own parents and community, can manifest as a weird pressure to grin and make everything okay.
When it comes to bisexuals, this pressure to show Things Working Out, in my experience, can be even worse.
This can manifest in a lot of different ways:
– “See? I’m a real queer! See how great my relationship with my same sex partner is!”
– “See? It’s possible to be bi and be happy! Look how normal (read: good) my family with my opposite sex partner is!”
– “See? I’m not crazy / a slut / a bad person! Look how great my relationship with my six partners of various genders and orientations is, and on top of that, our pets love us!” (Alternatively: “See! I’m married and monogamous! I’m not one of those slutz! Accept me!”)
There are about 10 million variations on the theme.
But here’s the thing:
Nothing works out, all the time, for everyone.
Especially, relationships don’t always work out. This is true for humans generally, and I know this is gonna be a shocker, but it’s also true for bisexuals, pansexuals, and more fluid-sexual people.
But when it comes to our community, somehow, way more can wind up on our plates than the heartbreak of a relationship that’s just ending. And a lot of it has to do with how society at large perceives same-sex relationships, and on top of THAT, how both straight society and mono-sexual gay and lesbian communities perceive bi, pan, fluid people.
Recently, folks, I had a relationship not work out.
It happened to be with a same sex partner. It happened while I am still with my primary, opposite-sex partner. It happened with a person I don’t know too well. And it happened in a community where I am very spottily “out” – meaning, in some spaces, not in others, and the city is small and it feels like everyone knows each other. (I feel like “out in some places, not in others” is a theme in my life as a bisexual – blog topic for another day.)
In the spirit of exploring how a combo of homophobia, biphobia, and “positive pressure” contributes to break ups like mine being more uncomfortable and challenging than they would otherwise be, here are the things that happened to me when myself and this other person, also a woman, ended up having problems and not being together anymore:
– A lot of my straight, guy friends didn’t appear to understand what the problem was, that this was really painful, or that this was a serious thing at all. It took a lot of hard conversations to get certain men to understand that this was not a lesbian-themed porno-fantasy** they were watching, this is my actual life, and it actually hurts, and they should actually give a crap. In other words, that it was actually at least as big a deal as any other relationship painfully ending. I feel that this lack of understanding had partly to do with the fact that it was about two girls, but also to do with the fact that several of them knew I had a male partner. It was like I should be okay because (a) I still had one partner and (b) the underlying assumption that it was only about sex with her. The reasons for these assumptions are complicated, and this paragraph really only scratches the surface, AND it’s not intended to slander the men involved, who are good people with good hearts – none of us can know about what we haven’t been exposed to, especially in a society that pretty much relegates girl-girl relationships to fantasies for men. AND at the same time there was learning involved in this experience, and we are (mostly) closer for it – AND at the same time, I didn’t really sign up to be that learning experience, and kiiiiinda could have done without, coz I have a lot going on in my life. And I wonder if maybe, if I’d been more out, we would have learned sooner and been better prepared, as friends, for Things Not Working Out, AND there were all kinds of reasons why I didn’t want to be out. And all of these contradictory feelings are true, in the sense that I really felt them all, sort of all at once.
– More things I felt: that this experience was further confirmation that I am a fake queer – the fact that I couldn’t Make It Work with this woman.
– Experiences: A lot of folks called to ask if I was okay. They were overwhelmingly queer women and queer men, and also trans folks of various orientations. Their concern was touching, AND there were times if I wondered if my straight, cis friends… noticed… anything wrong. Or were they just afraid to say the wrong thing? I’ll probably never know.
– I felt insecure about being poly. Maybe it’s a lifestyle that can’t work out, I thought. Intellectually, I know this isn’t true. But emotionally, I feel colonized by ages and ages of one-person-oriented people giving me crap for being poly-oriented, and it all came up again for me.
– As a bisexual, I worried that my being poly is just contributing to the stereotype of us as “sluts” who “can’t settle down.” Again, my intellectual brain was like, “Oh stop, you are so far above this.” But emotionally, I’m not. I’m fighting internalized bi-phobia and internalized poly-phobia like so many others. It sucks.
– I worried my parents were right about me – that this is wrong, that I’m wrong, that I’m a cheater and a fake and just trying to be “different.”
– I felt terribly guilty about bringing my bad moods about the situation home to my primary. I thought, “if he were with a straight girl, this wouldn’t be happening.” I wondered if I should pretend to be straight again. I know that this won’t work… I’m embarrassed that part of me still wishes it would.
– From an LGBT-oriented relationship help hotline, I experienced a very nice young woman who clearly didn’t know what to do with me or my call. She kept sounding really uncertain. I have no idea what part of me was throwing her off, or if she was just having a bad day, but I hate having to wonder.
– I worried that I am just “bad for women.” What does that even mean? I don’t know. But the thought kept rolling around in my head.
– I experienced, from a lot of straight people, pretty much total disregard for the situation. It was like they just couldn’t believe it was so painful – I mean, I have a boyfriend right? Also girl-on-girl, nothing serious, and HAWT, right. I would get so angry, on top of everything, about this.
– From some straight people, mostly men, I experienced INCREDIBLE solidarity, respect, and support. From these folks, I learned what it would be like to be in a world where my orientation, relationships, etc, is truly nothing to bat an eye at, and when there are problems, we deal with them as a community.
This post, like so many of my posts, is not intended to be a Conclusive Statement On The Issue. It is definitely not to say I Was Right and somebody else was Wrong, or I’m a Victim, or anything like that. What it is, is a collection of thoughts and experiences, exploring the impact of “positive pressure”, biphobia and homophobia on the issue of relationships (and other things) Working and Not Working, and I think it gets written as much in the comments as it does on my computer. It’s definitely influenced by the fact that I’m a woman, that I’m cis, that I live in the communities that I do and have the background that I have – would love to hear from some people with different backgrounds than I have: is any of this similar, is it all different, how is it for you?
So what do you think, readers?
What have other bisexual, pansexual, fluid, omnisexual, + folks experienced, when things don’t work out?
* Transgender people can be of all orientations. While some of this article may parallel some transgender people’s experience (or maybe not), it primarily has to do with reactions and experiences based on my sexual orientation. As such, I felt funny adding “T” to “LGB” in this context, because transgender and cisgender have to do with ones gender identity, not with sexual orientation (ie, transgender people can be lesbian, gay, bi, straight, etc… just like cisgender people). I have a concern that lumping “T” in with “LGB” all the time sometimes creates confusion as to what “transgender” means, and sometimes winds up erasing the sexual experiences of trans folks… as tho there is “sexual” LGB and then this non-sexual T “other”. So, in this context, I didn’t add “T” to “LGB”, because LGB and for that matter straight should already be presumed to include transgender people as well as cisgender people. At the same time, I get that transgender visibility as anything other than bigot-heavy “tabloid stories” is, still, very limited in the mainstream, and it is important to create an alternative narrative that reflects transgender peoples humanity (so sad that this is still needed). I don’t want to erase the “T” in “LGBT”… but at the same time, I have concerns that lumping them all together, all the time, winds up making the “T” invisible, anyway. Would be curious about feedback on this, especially from transgender readers and writers.
** Not that there’s anything wrong with porn! I love porn! But it’s a delightful fantasy! And my life is real! With real, complicated, sometimes yicky feelings! To be processed! Okay!