‘Should I join the bi community? Everyone is more enthusiastic about it than me but I just want to be bi by myself. Does that make me a “bad bi?”‘
I’m out to my friends and family but don’t feel the need to make a point of being bi to anyone else, and don’t feel a major urge to join the bi community. I understand the importance of pride month, but everyone seems so much more enthusiastic than me. I don’t feel like my sexuality is a defining feature of me, or that it’s something that needs attention at all. I don’t feel the need to come out to anyone else. If I prefer to be bi mostly to myself, does that make me a “bad” bisexual?
First of all when ever I hear the word should I think, hmmmmm. That sounds like someone, or some people, or even me, are telling me to do something I don’t want. It’s always useful to listen carefully to a ‘should’ because I reckon it has a critical tone of voice. Maybe we could all replace our shoulds with coulds.
You doing you
The point of choosing to come out to friends and family is that you are doing you. You are making choices and you are asking other people to see you and respect and love you for who you want to date/hang out with/do sex things with. So this particular ‘should I join the bi community’ is like giving up one kind of should (being straight) for another should (being the perfect bi, or bi enough). So what’s the point of ‘you doing you’ this way, if you are just going to find another way where you are not allowed to do you.
Many other people feel the same way about community as you do, not just about bi stuff either. There are a lot of gay, lesbian, queer, and trans people who don’t go to Pride, or don’t go to meet ups, or events for their group too. There are lots and lots of reasons for that. It can feel too scary or vulnerable for people. They might disagree with what the community are doing, or there are people in the community they don’t want to hang out with. Sometimes there can just be too many people. Or, as you say, their sexuality or gender identity is not important enough to them as a person that they want to hang out with other people.
So, you do you, and if you want to just be out to your friends and family and not get involved in a community that’s fine. I’m going to chat a bit more here about community and what you could do if you wanted to. This is just to inform you and my other readers about different ways of thinking about it and other options, it’s a could not a should.
What you can give
One way of looking at community events, marches, meet-ups, organising, is that you might be able to give as well as get. The thing about communities of people is that the people are all very different: they have lots of different backgrounds, experiences, and different levels of privilege, or power to do things. Communities bring different people together in order that they can gather together their available strengths, skills, talents, and resources to be able to help those people who need it. And people sure do need it. Homophobia, biphobia, and transphobia are still with us, here in the UK and also around the world and it kills people.
So although you might not see yourself as getting a great deal out of being involved in this kind of thing, you might be able to give other people some of your clout, your ooomph, your energy, your joy. Often the more politically minded groups are as much in a community for other people as much as they are for themselves. This is what solidarity means.
Just being there, with your excellent outfit, a funny woke placard, singing Club Tropicana (fun and sunshine/there’s enough for everyone) can bring a lot of joy to people too.
Bringing your joy to others, and them bringing their joy to you, is a way of feeling seen, valued, and loved in a way that transcends the day to day. It also helps to fill the hearts of people who need it and the activists who need them.
Think of parties that you may have been to, did you enjoy those? Did it bring you joy to dance about and see other people dance about, and see the smiles and the laughter? Were there good vibes and a sense that everything was great, even if just for a bit? For many people that’s what pride is about.
Being seen and seeing others
It’s very hard for a lot of people to be bi because they might not have been able to come out or might not have had much support or love when they did. If people are told that their sexuality or gender is unloveable, not worthy or support, or not valuable then it can be very hard to feel loved or valuable. In addition to that, being visible as bi is a particularly difficult thing because of biphobia.
Being bi can be very difficult for a lot of people because it’s hard to be in a straight space and be affectionate with someone of the same gender as you (because that’s ‘too gay’). But it can also be difficult being in a ‘gay’ space with someone of a different gender to you (because that’s too ‘straight’).
So because bi folk are read as either being straight or gay, bi folk are made invisible by society – and there are more bi folk than gay or lesbian folk. There are also specific slurs, insults, and prejudices directed at bi folk, more about that here. So just showing up (in whatever way) can be an important political act for many bi folk.
You might like to read this about going to Pride marches by Huw Lemmy (though note the content note before you read it)
Pride and visibility days and vigils can also be about sharing other feelings collectively too: like sadness, or anger, or frustration. Feeling this with other people is another example of a different kind of love, agape and also philia (they are ancient Greek terms, more about different kinds of love here). But feeling connected to humankind, and also feeling part of a team are kinds of love that you can’t get just from your relationship with yourself or your friends or you family. So being part of things in that way give a lot to you personally, even if it’s not something you were expecting. Also, you might make new friends, which can be wonderful.
But you do you
As you can see, there are some pretty powerful arguments to join the bi community or Pride community. However, that doesn’t mean that this should be a ‘should’, it’s still a ‘could’. Anyone who made you feel bad, or tried to convince you into being involved at a community level would not be behaving very consensually towards you. I think it might also be a good idea for people in a community like this to think more about whether this is a ‘should’ or a ‘could’ and what they get and give.
I think a way of thinking about this is to think about what you could do, if you wanted to. ‘Should’ is a yes or no thing, a binary. But ‘could’ opens up lots of possibilities and options of doing both, or somewhere in between.
If you’re an online person you could share lots of articles about bi and amplify the voices of people talking about being bi online. You could share things with more friends for example, or get one of those ‘bivisibility’ things for your social media avatar. You could also join a facebook bi group if you prefer to do things online.
There are lots of different kinds of IRL community activities you could do. There’s more than one bi community and there’s more than one LGBTQ community. As well as Pride marches or Bi marches, there are vigils you could go to. Or there are meet-ups, or picnics. For example, look at this cute website for London Bi Pandas (not actual pandas).
You might also be able to get a lot of the stuff I was talking about above from other kinds of activism or community involvement. Perhaps the other things that are more important to you than being bi might have communities you can get involved in. For example the climate strike protests, or joining a political party (no, not that one). You might already be in a community and not realise it.
Also, it’s probably that you’re going to be around (and Bi) for a long time, so be gentle on yourself and just try to be curious about how involved you want to get and how out you want to be. Don’t give yourself a hard time over what you’re doing and what you’re not doing.
Hope that helps
© Justin Hancock, 2020.
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