Someone I know recently looked at me in surprise when I mentioned that I have decided to start using the word queer to describe my identity. “But you aren’t a lesbian,” she said, “why would you want to identify as one?” I can certainly understand her confusion. After all, my partner is a man, and my pronouns are she/her; to the world I look like a cis-gender, straight, white, 42-year-old. I am an invisible queer person.
I was 20 years old when I acknowledged that I was attracted to women, and I came out as bisexual. Anyone who knows me is aware that I am a person who isn’t afraid to share her beliefs in loud and boisterous ways; some people even call me (gasp) confrontational. I immediately came out to my friends and family, without really thinking about any of the consequences that could come with this revelation. Surprisingly, (at the time) most people ignored it. I thought I was being accepted for my bisexuality. It took me a long time to realize that it was something completely different.
Bi-erasure has been a part of my life for the last twenty-two years. And it isn’t just from straight people, even those in the LGBT community have looked at me and told me that I can’t be bisexual. This is super confusing to me, since the B stands for BI-SEXUAL! For some reason, the idea that I am attracted to people on any part of the spectrum seems to be scary to just about everyone.
In twenty-two years, I have heard every stereotypical response to bisexuality, and they always make me feel angry and hurt. When I discovered the LGBT community in Minneapolis, I thought that I was finding the community that I belonged to, and instead there were many times when I didn’t feel as though I belonged in any community. I’m in no way saying that every experience I’ve had with LGBT folks has yielded this pain, but there have been enough of them that it’s made an impression on me.
In 2014, even the LGBT Task Force made a mistake when the leadership program director wrote about saying “bye-bye to the word bisexuality.” And, she made the statement on Bisexual Awareness Day. The organization later apologized, but that statement shows that there is a real problem when it comes to the idea of bisexuality within the context of the LGBT community.
It’s as though, because I can “appear” to be straight I really don’t exist as a queer person. But my queerness shouldn’t be tied to outward appearance. I read a great blog once that talked about Queer Theory which said queerness is freedom from norms. It used to be that “normal” was described as heterosexual. Through the years homonormativity has become a way for the LGBT community to move into some of the laws that have given rights to an entire community, and I am definitely thankful for that. But it doesn’t mean that it isn’t problematic and we shouldn’t look at it.
I definitely have some privilege that I have to take a hard look at because of this invisibility. I don’t have to currently worry that someone is going to be negative towards me if I hold hands with, or kiss, my partner in public. I don’t try to be, but I can be someone who can walk around with all of the privilege of heterosexual people. But on the other hand, I have experienced all of the negative effects of heterosexism in my life. That is the reason that I chose to identify as queer; I felt the need to step away from both heterosexuality and even homosexuality. After all, I am neither of those things, and I’m both of them.
Melissa Anne Frank is majoring in both Women’s Studies and English Rhetoric at St Cloud State University. She plans on continuing her education with a Master’s degree and then a Doctorate. Melissa is a white, cisgender, pansexual who is proud to be part of the Social Media team at the St. Cloud State Women’s Center. Melissa also writes a personal blog called Musing with Melly on WordPress. Melissa loves reading, writing, video games, spending time with her partner and two children, and crushing the patriarchy!