People see me, but they don’t see my bisexuality. I am used to being invisible. When I was in a long-term relationship with a man, it was particularly bad. Any time I went somewhere with him, people didn’t see me, they saw a straight intruder with my face. If I wanted to make myself known, I had to shout from the rooftops that I was bi, and who wants to do that at their partner’s family gathering? Or in any social space, for that matter: I have yet to find a situation when dropping in the fact of my bisexuality is possible to do casually, naturally or at all.
People say “come out” like you only have to do it once, rather than over and over to everyone you meet. I don’t try to hide my bisexuality, but nevertheless it stays hidden. Invisibility has become normal for me, the state I return to any time I’m in the public eye. I don’t like it, but it’s hard to fight. I’m not someone who feels comfortable talking about themselves, which means I’m not likely to declare my sexuality to every new person I meet.
So I continue to fly under the radar. I am reminded of that Buffy episode “Out of Mind, Out of Sight”, featuring a girl who gets ignored for so long that she becomes literally invisible to those around her. I have often felt this way about my sexuality. I’ve been assumed straight for so long in so many areas of my life that my bisexual self has become a ghost at best, as insubstantial and weightless as a puff of air. It makes me question whether I’m really queer at all, like maybe I’ve been fooling myself for my entire life.
But it’s not all bad. Invisibility is a superpower, after all. Thanks to my invisibility, I have:
- Robbed a bank
- Strolled around naked in broad daylight
- Haunted the shit out of those jerks who were mean to me in high school
- Spied on people
- Slept for hours in the most random of places: at the library, in the office, on the bus
- Had sex with other bisexuals in public (when two invisible people have sex, the result is a black hole of invisibility that threatens to consume everything around it)
- Seamlessly infiltrated heterosexual Mormon gatherings
On the other hand, my invisibility means that I have also:
- Floated on the periphery of multiple queer social groups over the years, always held at arm’s distance because I couldn’t be trusted
- Had my identity denied by other queer people because I was just being “trendy”
- Had to come out repeatedly to my family because they tend to forget my sexuality every time I date a man
Even though it makes for a cool superpower, I’m sick of being invisible. Back in the first year of my relationship with my ex-boyfriend, I searched for ways to clearly convey that while I was in a straight relationship, I was still queer. I kept my hair cut short and I stopped shaving my shins and my armpits, desperate for something visual to signify that I was still part of the queer community. It didn’t really work, and after a year I gave up and went back to shaving, because I found it more convenient and less gross in the summer. Other visual signifiers also failed to get my sexuality across. I’ve found that the only thing that works is yelling in people’s faces that I’m not straight, over and over until they finally get it.
I wonder all the time how other bi queer people do it. Do they yell in people’s faces? Do they always wear t-shirts or jewelry or other accessories proclaiming their sexuality? Do they worry less about this issue? Maybe I should worry less — maybe I shouldn’t need to have my identity validated by the outside world. I’m out to my friends and my family, and maybe that’s all that matters. Who cares what strangers see?
There are plenty of queer people out there who have to care what strangers see because the prejudices of those strangers impact their lives. People who are more visibly queer than me have to face all sorts of problems that I rarely have to deal with. It’s a privilege to always have a choice about how queer I present myself, but it’s also exhausting to constantly have to make that choice. It angers me, too, because it’s a choice I shouldn’t have to make. I shouldn’t have to live in a world where I’m straight-until-proven-gay.
Even though I’d be losing a superpower, I just want all parts of myself to be visible to the rest of the world. I don’t want to continue to let most of the people who meet me labor under the misconception that I’m straight. At the same time, I don’t want to walk around with a sandwich board over my head proclaiming my sexuality, and I don’t think I owe it to anyone to constantly explain myself. I want to be out and proud, but I don’t want to spend all my time shouting my identity in other people’s faces. I don’t want to be heard, I want to be seen.