“Bisexual women are used to feeling invisible – instead, let’s create queer spaces that are genuinely inclusive”
BY RUTH DAVIES
The tension between feeling “too gay” when you’re around straight people and “not gay enough” when you’re in queer spaces can be uncomfortable, frustrating and erasing.
Thankfully, more bi people are speaking up about bi-erasure within the LGBT+ community, forcing us all to have much needed conversations about how we can support each other and create queer spaces that are genuinely inclusive.
Although progress is being made, these conversations have begun to reveal deeply troubling and victim-blaming attitudes towards bi women.
Most bi women – especially those who, like me, are femme presenting – will be familiar with the eye roll that greets you in queer spaces when you mention a male partner.
I’ve come across lesbians on dating apps whose profiles explicitly state that they won’t date bi women.
More than simply being hurtful and offensive, this attitude creates a silence and a shame for bi women around our sexuality which opens the door for abuse to take place.
At SafeLives, we’ve published research on the experiences of LGBT+ survivors of domestic abuse, because we believe that no one should be “hidden” or prevented from accessing support.
We found that LGBT+ survivors were much more likely to have self-harmed or attempted suicide than those who don’t identify as LGBT+.
For bi women survivors the figures are particularly stark; a shocking 34% have attempted suicide, and 39% have self-harmed – the highest of any group.
There are many factors that could account for this, but I’d suggest it’s partly because when we look to the “community” for support after abuse – we’re told it’s our own fault.
The implication here is that, by “choosing” to date men, bi women are “asking for it”.
Imagine having so little empathy that you’re prepared to place the blame for sexual assault and domestic abuse on the victim, because her choice of partner is distasteful to you?
Imagine calling yourself a feminist and at the same time suggesting that women should change their behaviour in order to avoid abuse?
Imagine erasing the experiences of women who have been abused by female partners.
When I speak to bi women who are also survivors, I hear that their sexuality was part of the abuse – from both male and female partners. The stigma, discrimination and erasure that we encounter in the wider world bleeds through into our intimate relationships.
When I told my then boyfriend at the age of 22 that I thought I was bisexual (freshly home from celebrating Pride, with rainbows painted on his face), his reaction was a cruel one.
My sexuality became a part of myself that I had to cut off and keep invisible in order to keep him happy. It added to the list of eggshells that I was already walking on in the daily task of managing his emotions.
When I started dating women and found attitudes towards bisexuality that mirrored his, I felt hopeless – trapped between a rock and a hard place.
If bi women can’t expect support from our queer sisters, where are we supposed to turn? How can we call ourselves a “community” if bi people don’t feel safe and supported?
Until we all face up to these questions, bi women will carry on hiding our hurt – at the cost of our own mental health.
SafeLives is a UK-wide charity dedicated to ending domestic abuse, for good.
The National LGBT+ Domestic Abuse Helpline is run by Galop and is open 24/7: 0800 999 5428
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