Today I marched in Portland’s Pride Parade as a member of Bi Brigade. It was my first time marching and certainly won’t be the last! For once, I wasn’t just open about my orientation; I was proclaiming it from the city’s streets alongside my fellow queers and our allies. “Empowered” is a word that I never quite understood before this afternoon.
Invisibility has always been a problem for the bi community. Pew Research Center reports that there’s plenty of us, but people tend to pay no mind. There’s a number of factors causing this issue, but the biggest is that we’re too often content being the silent majority, leaving the world to wonder “Who are these people?”
That’s one of the reasons it took me so long to accept my orientation – I had no idea what it meant or what a bisexual “looked like.”*1 I found myself attracted to folks all along the gender and sex spectra, but squashed any desires that weren’t cast from some preconceived mold of how I was “supposed to feel.” Predictably, this led to years of internal strife.
I’ve been done with that nonsense for a while – now I’m out and marching, proud of my identity! Yet many problems persist after emigrating from the closet, as one of today’s onlookers demonstrated.
When Bi Brigade walked by, he waved his arms and called out “We love you bisexuals!” Out of gratitude for the support, I ran into the crowd and gave him a big hug. But as I left to rejoin the group, he said “Come back later! I’ll turn you gay!”
In the moment, it was difficult to process my anger. The interaction grew into a lonely cloud, casting its shadow on an otherwise glorious day. His poorly phrased flirtation struck a nerve: bisexual erasure.*2 He claimed the ability to rearrange my orientation on the very day set aside for celebrating it! There wasn’t time to verbalize this frustration, so I just replied “Good luck!” and hopped back into step.
The rest of the day was fantastic and filled with creative displays of rainbow and leather. I spent the afternoon relaxing at the festival with Bi Brigade’s other members and my thoughts wandered under the sun’s heavy gaze. I struggled to keep this “ally” off my mind, but his flippant remark kept resurfacing…. until I remembered the kid who jumped up and down as we approached, yelling “Yes! We exist! Those are my people! WE EXIST!”
That’s when I realized marching felt great because it wasn’t just for myself; it’s also for the bisexual community, especially its invisible members. Getting vocal and fighting for equality is essential for ourselves and for future generations. That’s what I’m choosing to take away from my first march and why I’m taking a more active role in growing our community. Care to join me?
(Footnote 1: There is, of course, no answer because our community is so beautifully diverse. But I didn’t know that and am guessing many others are in a similar boat.)
(Footnote 2: Claiming that bisexuals don’t exist, as summarized by the phrases “it’s just a phase” and “get off the fence.” Erasure is disappointingly common, even within the queer community.)