I was asked (indirectly) what positive or beneficial things being a bisexual has done for me and I probably thought about it more than the person who asked intended but this is what I came up with.
As a straight-seeming, white, middle class, male I have a lot of advantages or more accurately, privileges, that others don’t. It wasn’t something I ever really considered until I admitted to my bisexuality and began exposing myself to the LGBT culture online and in person. Let’s be honest, how often do we stop to question why things are working out for us while they still are?
There has been a lot of discussion about white privilege, cis privilege, and straight privilege by people I follow online lately, and other voices that are talking about it seem to be carrying farther. Far enough that even my friends, family and acquaintances in the rural south have heard them and started sharing their knee-jerk defensive views on it. Views that I look at and sometimes agree with at first simply because it’s more comfortable for me to not look at it very closely. As a white male I am atypically safe in trusting that I’ll be presented with gift horses and that they’ll all have pristine dental hygiene.
I am, however starting to ask questions, and as a result I am now confronted by a black-feathered and well deserved platter of crow.
There are a lot of drawbacks to publicly identifying as a bisexual, especially as a bisexual male. Not to say that my struggles are greater than other gendered bisexuals. They are confronted by many of the same ignorant ideas that I am and some that are uniquely their own, for instance; bisexual women being even more sexualized by others than their peers simply because of their orientation. However, as a bisexual male I have, on multiple occasions, been told that bisexual males don’t exist. That we are/I am really just gay and clinging to straightness and straight privilege out of cowardice or self hate. I’ve even been told, by loved ones, that my sexuality is a direct result of my having been molested as a child. That I am an aberration instead of a man embracing a valid orientation. It seems that the louder I object the more cut off I become. The more I complain the more I’m in denial, “too hung up on labels,” or alienating so-called allies
Now, again, I’m not trying to compare my admittedly minor struggles with anyone else’s, and this isn’t supposed to be a pat on the back for myself, but I do think that my blinders have been lifted at least a hair. Not only because I’m suddenly confronted by some small struggle, but because experiencing my own struggle to convince people to hear and understand me I suddenly find myself in a position to put myself in the shoes of the many other people who are also struggling.
Trans-sexuality for instance is something I have had a hard time wrapping my head around. Not because I have any problems with it, but because I am not familiar with the sensation of feeling out of place in my own body (outside of the run-of-the-mill teenage awkwardness). It would be easy for me, as a cis person who doesn’t understand their problems, to look at transsexual people and their struggles and dismiss them as too strange, or to make sweeping judgments and off-hand comments that are neither helpful or wanted, but I’m finding myself in a position where I want to ask real questions and learn. My wife and I have been watching “Transparent” lately and it has been eye-opening for me to try and empathize with someone in that position. To see what is in some ways a very similar identity struggle to the one I grew up with in someone who is so vastly different from me. I know it’s not a great example and I’m definitely not using the show to make judgments or assumptions about the transsexual community, but it is a place to start to think about it.
The real eye-opener for me has been something that is much more difficult for me to talk about because I feel as though I have no place at the discussion table. I have some friends and an increasing number of people I’m following on Twitter that are very vocal about the racism in America and, more recently, the shocking and unbelievable (to me, but sadly all too unsurprising to them) displays of racism surrounding the Trump campaign for presidency.
One friend in particular posts articles and comments about white privilege that make me, as someone who likes to think he “gets it,” uncomfortable. Things that trigger the knee-jerk, “But not me,” and, “being so aggressive to people who support you isn’t helping,” response in my own mind. Thankfully, even before taking this time to consider it I understood that my response wasn’t appropriate or worth sharing with him. It wasn’t until recently when I read a beautifully written article over at Eponymous Fliponymous about anger-shaming that I recognized what my reaction was and why I knew, even subconsciously, to keep my mouth shut.
My knee-jerk reaction towards his statements are an unintentional, but still real attempt to invalidate his justified frustration. He’s simply saying that white people, and only white people, enjoy a distinct advantage in nearly every aspect of life simply because of the color of their skin. My feelings are not more important than his, and he shouldn’t have to use even one sentence qualifying his anger so as not to offend anybody before he can voice his frustration.
I don’t really have any insight into what this will ultimately mean for me, but I’m grateful that I’ve found myself in a position where I can look at these issues and think about them. I don’t think I “get it” anymore and maybe I never will, but I’m trying to learn what I can. If that means I have to be uncomfortable along the way then that’s the least I can do after asking people to try and understand me and my sexuality in a similar way
So if being a bisexual has had any positive affects for me I believe that one of them has been opening my eyes a little to the world around me and putting me in a position to learn more about it.