Stephanie Beatriz is bisexual. She's also marrying a man this fall. And those two facts don't cancel each other out.
That's the point of an essay Beatriz wrote, which was published by GQ on Thursday. Unlike people who are monosexual (meaning that they only date one gender, i.e. straight or gay/lesbian), bisexual people often feel that their sexual identity is erased based on who they're dating. Beatriz is marrying a man, but that doesn't make her straight. And if she were marrying a woman, that wouldn't make her a lesbian.
"To be bi is a continual series of coming-out moments," she wrote. That's true for anyone in the LGBTQ+ community. Queer and trans people don't just come out once. They have to come out again every time they meet someone new or start a new job. But Beatriz points out that bi+ people (an umbrella term for everyone who dates multiple genders) have an added layer of coming out; they have to come out to everyone they date, too. As a lesbian, I don't necessarily have to come out to the women I'm dating. And a straight woman certainly doesn't have to come out to the men she dates. Most of the time, people will just assume that you're a lesbian if you're a woman going out with a woman or that you're straight if you're a woman going out with a man. But those assumptions erase the experiences of bisexual+ people.
"When does it end? When do you get to stop telling people you're bi? When do people start to grasp that this is your truth," Beatriz asks.
Beatriz never gives the answer outright, but instead implies that the invisibility bi+ people feel might never end. "Bisexual+ people are constantly being treated, whether by people in their lives or through unfair and inaccurate media representation, like who they are isn’t real," says Alexandra Bolles, associate director of campaigns and public engagement at LGBTQ charity GLAAD. "One way this bisexual+ erasure takes shape is when others assume bisexuality+ is a phase and that one’s 'real' identity depends on who they’re dating at the time." But, as Beatriz is saying, a person's sexuality depends only on themself.
Marrying a man doesn't take away the fact that Beatriz will be attracted to women (and also other men) even after she's married. And as a part of the LGBTQ+ community, her attraction is a big part of her identity. So it can be frustrating for Beatriz (I assume) and other bi+ people to constantly have to "prove" that they belong in queer spaces. "It can be tiring for bi+ people to combat these false assumptions all the time," Bolles says. "It can also bring up a lot of past hurtful experiences of being shamed, hurt, or denied resources for being bi+."
While the impetus for change is really on monosexuals (can we please stop telling bi+ people they're not real?), Bolles suggests that bi+ people who want to keep combating negative assumptions first tell their own story, as Beatriz does here. "Sharing your experiences, especially with people who care about you but may not fully understand your identities, can help humanise what they might see as unfamiliar topics," she says. "If someone mislabels you somehow, and if you feel safe doing so, you have the right to remind them about what your identity is and that it’s not a phase."