*tap* *tap* Is this thing still on?
Okay, for obvious and terrible reasons, the dangers of being a sexual minority have been at the forefront of the public consciousness for the last couple of weeks. I’ve tweeted and retweeted and facebooked about the tragedy a *lot* in the last week, so I’m not going to rehash that here, but there is one peculiar thing that this atrocity and the incredible community response to it has brought to light for me.
Elle Dowd wrote a fantastic and touching article about biphobia, passing privilege, and bi invisibility. It’s absolutely worth a read. One of the core points she makes is describing how her personal circumstances - a mother, femme, married to a straight guy - make her question whether she’s “gay enough” to feel like she has a personal stake in the Pulse massacre. Her conclusion, and the message she has for everyone in the community, is that yes, you are, and no, you’re not alone.
My experience is different than hers, but I’ve been noodling about the same questions lately because, to put it bluntly, as bi people go I’m a freaking tower of privilege.
I’m very mindful of how open I am about being poly and to whom, because I’ve been directly touched by anti-poly bias. I’ve been judged, to my face and behind my back. I’ve had a situation at work where my job was potentially in jeopardy. That sort of thing. But as far as my orientation goes? Not a thing.
See, I get to be bi in Easy Mode. I’m a middle-aged, middle-class, cis white guy who’s happily married to a woman, which makes me just about the most privileged demographic in the US right off the bat. I never had to deal with the stress, angst, or challenges of growing up as a sexual minority because for the simple reason that for the first 43 years of my life I was straight. I'm still a newbie.
When my orientation shifted, I had the easiest coming out experience imaginable. zensidhe is the only straight hordeling (now) anyway, and I’d spent literally half of my life as an ally for friends and loved ones. For years, almost half of my social circle has been non-straight, and the other half is just awesome. Granted, my bio family doesn’t know, but they’re all far away. Honestly I think any adverse response my parents might have would be overshadowed by our political differences. I suspect my sister would be totally cool with it, but I’ve never had occasion to discuss it with her.
My work environment has a 100% HRC rating and has events to actively celebrate Pride Month, but I’m only out to one or two people there because, frankly, discussing what and who I like to put in my mouth with co-workers seems rather… uncouth. ;-)
In other words, I live in a bubble of love and acceptance. I know about gay bashing, of course, but my worldview never included it potentially applying to me. Maybe it’s my privilege showing. Maybe I just haven’t been bi long enough for it to be fully integrated into my self-identity. Prior to Pulse, I’d only ever consciously thought about personal safety once, when I casually kissed my boyfriend in public and felt him tense up. That was literally the first time I’d ever given thought to discretion.
I realize now that this is an attitude that could conceivably get me or, worse, someone close to me killed. That’s not okay. I still don’t feel any visceral sense of potential danger, but I nevertheless have an obligation to be more mindful. Or is the greater obligation to be more “out there”, in the hope of furthering the cause of equality and acceptance? Probably a little of both, depending on the situation.
Hell, I don’t know. I’m still figuring out what to do with a guy in bed (yay, practice!), and yet figuring out what to do out on the street seems like the more complicated and important issue. How does that even make sense?
Anyway, I don’t want this to seem like I’m jumping on the bandwagon or trying to somehow appropriate the recent tragedy. I have nothing but respect for those who have been directly dealing with these issues longer than I have - which is basically everyone else in the LGBTQ community - mad props, you guys. My life is better because of you all, and I’m proud to be in your company.