Being Bisexual: Shamed For Passing As Straight?

By Mikey Carr

I was out with some friends recently who expressed their annoyance at the fact that a lot of the LGBTIQ community events seem geared toward “mainstream queers”. As both of them ascribe to what you might call “dyke aesthetics” they felt alienated by events that failed to meet some kind of queer quota. After all, they said, it’s easier for people who can pass as straight as they don’t get exposed to homophobia as often so it’s kind of like rubbing salt in the wound when queer parties start to look the same as straight one.

Now I love a good old out there, queer as fuck and freak-a-licious party as much as the next cock/rug muncher, so I can sympathise with their position on the watering down of queer culture. However being a straight looking bisexual man in a relationship with a woman I couldn’t help but take issue with the assertion that just because people don’t clock me for a queer straight away that I therefore escape the ravages of homophobia. If anything, I’ve found the fact that I can pass for straight often exposes me to it, albeit indirectly.

You see, people these days tend to hide their homophobia when around queer people, when they recognise them that is. However when it’s little old bisexual me they’re sitting next to – with my classic movie star good looks (hair flip) – they often don’t think to hold back.

There have been innumerable cases where I’ve had people back pedal on something they said (and clearly believed) once they found out I’m partial to a bit of dick every now and again. Hell I’ve had people call bullshit and straight up refuse to believe me, insisting I’m orchestrating some kind of PC ruse to make them look bad, the general denial of bisexual authenticity aside.

And while I could sit here and list off a number of such occasions, there is one that stands above all others. Discussing marriage equality with my grandparents.

You see while I came out to my parents and family last year, the idea of discussing sex with my grandparents creeped me out so much (ewww, old people) that I decided not to tell them I was bisexual until only recently. What fueled that decision was our ever more fiery debates about same sex marriage, safe schools and the plebiscite.

Now it bears mentioning here that while I didn’t want to discuss sex with my grandparents, pretty much every other topic of conversation has always been on the table. From euthanasia to the legalisation of abortion and marijuana, the olds and I had always enjoyed a very frank relationship.

I felt more than comfortable expressing my view that they should have offed themselves years ago for the greater good of the herd (the plan the family decided on was to drape them in all my grandmother’s jewellery, toss them in the harbour and rent out their corpses as a dive site). They had no problem telling me how disappointed they were that the singer in the title role of the production of Aida they saw last year wasn’t in blackface (in front of my step sisters Sri Lankan boyfriend no less). Our dinner party conversation was always pretty intense is what I’m saying.

So when the topic of same sex marriage came up, they attacked it with the same vigor and colourful arguments that we usually exchange across the table. You see they had no idea how much they were hurting me. Not only were their opinions on the issue straight up offensive (i.e. that trans and intersex people ought to be treated as though they have a medical condition rather than accepted) but mistaking my emotional reactions as me just throwing a hissy fit over not winning the argument, they proceeded to bring it up over and over again and essentially tease me with their views.

Enough soon became enough though and I came out to them, after which they apologised profusely and short of changing their mind at least said sorry for their views. It’s weird having your grandmother call you up after you’ve stormed out of father’s day dinner to tell you she’s sorry for thinking the way she does.

I don’t blame them for their views, as abhorrent as they are. Being in their 80s they are still struggling to let go of the ideas they were indoctrinated into by their conservative upbringings, and have actually softened a great deal on plenty of issues through our discussions.

However the mainstream media’s coverage of same sex marriage and safe schools has done very little to steer them in the right direction. Strangely enough they were always very supportive of the LGBTIQ community on other issues and it’s only recently they seem to have turned into hate spewing mouth pieces for Rupert Murdoch. Coincidentally this says a lot about the way media coverage in this country has changed in the last five years.

The point I’m trying to make though is that up until I told them I was bisexual, they had no problem raining down bigotry over the dinner table like the angel of death over the city of Sodom. Before I came out to them there was no stopping them bringing the issue up, no matter how many times I begged, pleaded or threatened them (my threats getting pretty colorful by the end including a vow to “guzzle a pint full of Muslim sperm at the dinner table” if they wouldn’t drop it).

Now that they know, they love, accept and respect me as they always have, yet they haven’t changed their views, they just keep them to themselves. And while I wish they would see the fabulous glittering rainbow flecked light of equality, I am just happy not having to face their bigoted views over the dinner table.

Sure that may be defeatist of me and it’s certainly a case of ignorance is bliss. But faced with the alternative of having to be confronted with those views every time I see them, the easy way out is a compromise I’m willing to make.

It bears mentioning that my experience pales in comparison to the countless trans people who are victimised around the world everyday. And I certainly haven’t had it worse than my fabulous brethren who wear their queer-dom bravely on their sleeves. But that doesn’t make me immune (come on science, where is the homophobia vaccine already?).

Homophobia hurts all of us differently, and we need to recognise that if we ever want to beat the conservative forces in government, the media, business and society. As long as we insist on competing in some kind of misery Olympics (indigenous trans youth would sweep that shit like Jesse Owens) all we’re going to do is alienate each other. And let’s face it, we’ve got plenty to be bitchy about to each other as it is.


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