This past year, I’ve learned a few things about myself and my queerness.
One, that I had a lot of internalised bi-phobia to unpack and unlearn. Second, that experience and attitude was intimately attached with my womanhood.
I realised the presentation of my sexuality was fundamentally down to appearing palatable to others. I would play on appearing gayer to my friends in the community, and I would let men sexualise my bisexuality. Hell, even calling myself queer feels more comfortable than calling myself bisexual. It sort of feels like bisexual has too many syllables and my throat closes up when I say it. The misogyny associated around women and bisexuality/queerness made me pit myself against other women for an imaginary competition of who can appear the most wanted for men. This structure created a competition where my female experience and my pursuit of feminism was at odds with my own sexuality.
As an activist within the LGBTQI plus community, I have definitely seen a bigger social and legal focus on gay and bisexual men (just look at any popular movie during PRIDE month). Trans women are considered the most vulnerable group in the community, and much of that is down to the misogynistic attitude that fundamentally criminalises and vilifies the feminine. We see the attack on gay and bisexual men as an attack on the feminine (see: Effeminophobia), and we see attacks on lesbian and bisexual women as an attack on the lack of the feminine, (when feminine is seen as something that men can profit or capitalise on). We see trans women being attacked by patriarchal structures against their femininity and we see TERFS attack trans women for their perceived lack of legitimate femininity.
The LGBTQI plus community has rarely made me feel queer enough to fit in. My experience of being a bisexual woman meant that I was fighting this internal battle, navigating how to be butch enough to be taken seriously in the bisexual and lesbian sphere; navigating the feeling I wasn’t gay enough to have genuine romantic relationships and connections with women.
I was floating around all these stereotypical and inherently phobic attitudes that was rooted in my experience as a woman. The fear of exploring polyamory in case I’d be adding to my own communities stereotype of ‘greedy’ and ‘can’t choose’ left me feeling guilty; then when I did explore polyamory, I felt guilty that i’d decided it actually wasn’t for me and I was letting down so many queer women who’d advocated for it as the progressive way forward. What if i’m now upholding misogynistic and patriarchal power structures? Does that now make me a bad feminist or woman?
So much of my queer experience has revolved around sex and relationships. The hypersexualisation of being a woman, and then being a queer woman (as well as being a fat woman, a woman in a senior position, a sex positive woman) has meant nearly every element of my identity has been fetisished to some degree. And this is my experience as a white, cis woman too. It gets a whole lot shittier when you factor in the fetishisiation of women of colour, the hypersexualisation of trans women and how sex workers who identify as women are treated.