The Myth of “Bisexual Priviledge”
The comments thread on How the L Word gives women teh gay has quickly devolved into a discussion about how bi women who date men get showered in priviledge. I’m not sure how or when this myth got started but I feel compelled to point out that it is 100% bullshit.
Or to put it simply, there is no such thing as bisexual women leaving their girlfriends and then getting to frollick off into the sunset with their male partners while getting doted on by straight society and living happilly ever after.
It doesn’t work like that. Not remotely. But for some reason, lesbians of the world seem to firmly believe that it does. First, when a bisexual woman leaves a female for a male, it usually isn’t because that conniving bi girl sat down and though “gee it’s too difficult to be seen as a lesbian in our society, perhaps I should flock back to the penis full-time and then I can get a hetero goody bag”.
What usually happens is that the relationship with the female goes sour (maybe she has horrible hallitosis or is bad in bed or votes Republican, who knows) and the relationship ends. Then she meets someone new who happens to not be female. That is it. There is no conspiracy, no bisexuals with priviledge-seeking heat vision. While I’m sure somegirl somewhere left a woman for a man to please her family, culture, society, whatever because she couldn’t handle pressure in the face of heteronormativity, that is a strawman arguement since that is not the case for the large majority of bisexuals.
And more to the point, when a bisexual woman leaves a lesbian woman and hooks up with a man, the only real priviledges she get are thusfar:
* She gets to have strangers look at her on the street and assume she is heterosexual… while she knows she is not and she gets the priviledge of feeling confused, guilty, and shitty about it.
* She gets the priviledge of her ex-lover demonizing her not just as a bad girlfriend or a bad person but as a representation of why bisexuals are a terrible group of people.
* She gets to have family, co-workers, and friends who never really “got the whole bi thing” become immensely confused and/or assume she is straight now… while she gets the priviledge of wondering what is so dammed difficult to understand and getting to explain to Pentocostal Aunt Ethel that she hasn’t left the sinful gay lifestyle behind.
* She gets the privledge of new friends, aquantences, and co-workers assuming she is heterosexual… while she gets the priviledge of thinking “Why do they assume I’m straight?” and “Should I come out?” and “Is it safe to mention my ex-girlfriend without starting a fistfight or having to expose my entire sexual life story to a near stranger?”.
* She gets the priviledge of sitting among her gay and lesbian friends with her partner and worrying “Do I belong here?” or “Should I be offended by that slightly derrogatory joke about straights?” or “Do I have the right to go to pride?” and knowing that just being herself will loose her friends, respect, and street cred as a “real” activist/academic/writer/whatever.
* She gets the priviledge of not being asked back to plan the local pride parade or volunteer at the feminist bookstore, she finds herself oddly unwelcome at the lesbian knitting group and not invited to the latest queer party. She gets the privledge of loosing her community.
* She has the priviledge of sitting among her straight friends (or usually his straight friends) with her boyfriend and worrying “Do I belong here?” or “Should I be offended by that slightly derrogatory joke about gays?” or “Should I tell them I’m bi?” and knowing that just being herself will distance new friends from her, might cost her boyfriend respect, and open herself up to comments from any male about how hot it is when two girls get is on (but how gross it is when guys do other guys). She gets the privledge of feeling like an imposter in the straight world.
* IF, and this is a huge IF, the relationship goes well enough that marriage becomes a serious option she has the priviledge of agonizing over what she should do. Should she get married even though she couldn’t have gotten married had she made it this far with a woman? Is a hetero committment ceremony respectful or feel like mockery? She they stay unmarried on principal even though marriage would really help them out financially? Would it be helpful to show that bisexuals can and do committ or would it be selling out? And why can’t her friends who are fighting for marriage equality be happy for her?
* If she has children with this man, she gets the priviledge of members of the gay community making tacky breeder jokes at her, excluding her kid from the gay parents playgroup, and a woeful lack of books or resources about parenting as an open bisexual. She gets the priviledge of dealing with grandparents, neighbors, and teachers who all pressure her to raise her kid as though she was a “normal” hetero and no support from the gay community for anything else. She gets to scour the gay parenting books for glimmers of relevent data, question if she should come out to playground moms and teachers, and balence raising a queer friendly kid when the queers won’t have anything to do with her and all the heteros around said child perpetuate myths of heteronormativity.
** And hardest of all, she gets the priviledge of her lesbian former friends, lovers, aquaintences and coworkers telling her how easy it is now that she has the priviledge of seeming heterosexual.