I’m From Seattle, WA.

by heather murphy

1.) I am a woman. 2.) I am married to a man. 3.) I work to defend queer youth rights and fight victimization. 4.) I am queer. 5.) I am bisexual. Most people hear the first two and assume that I am straight. They hear the third and wonder why a straight woman is working for the queer community. They hear the fourth and are confused. And when they hear the fifth, it all comes together in an eye roll. Bi-ignorance and bi-phobia are issues that I deal with every day of my life.

When I say that I am a woman, I mean female biologically and in my gender expression. On the continuum of gender expression, I mostly reside on the feminine side. I like to wear dresses with high heals, make-up and jewelry, carry a purse, shop at Victoria’s Secret, and get my nails done. There are of course the days that I am in men’s basketball shorts and wear my hair up to where it is shaved on the underside, but most people take one look at me and think that I am very feminine. When I first began working with queer youth, one of the questions I was asked was, “You don’t identify do you?” These kinds of assumptions followed me all the way to a date with a woman who actually asked me on the date if I were gay. I grew so tired of this that I decided I would change my appearance so that people could take one look at me and know that I was queer. I cut and buzzed my hair. I then had my nails taken off and I stopped wearing the dresses and carrying a purse. I completely altered how I looked, and it worked. I could walk into a room of queer people and no longer felt like an imposter. I was no longer asked questions of why I chose the line of work that I did. I felt completely accepted into the gay community. Only one problem, I hated to look in the mirror. I was feeling forced to express my gender in a way that was contrary to who I was, just to feel accepted. But even all that change to my gender expression was still not enough.

I could only get so far in the queer community based on my altered gender expression because it would all change the moment I said that I was bisexual. Once those words escaped by mouth, the bi-phobia from within the community would emerge. I had women not want to date me because I was tainted having been with a man. I was told that bisexuality did not exist; you were either one way or another. I stopped identifying as bisexual and started calling myself queer. I avoided ever talking about an ex-boyfriend and stopped seeing a lot of my straight friends. I felt like some sort of mutt, trying to hide my straight side and displaying only my gay pedigree. I couldn’t escape the bi-phobia. I would try to watch the L Word, hoping to see a bisexual character that I could identify with, but instead would watch her being asked to “make up her mind.” Several seasons later, she started identifying as a lesbian. I gave up the losing battle against other’s bi-phobia and realized the only thing left to do was fully embrace within myself being bisexual.

Embracing who I was felt good, and I started to date a wonderful woman who was supportive of my identity and encouraged me to put back on the dresses and high heals. I began to call myself bisexual again, this time with pride. I stopped thinking of myself in terms of my gay side and my straight side and realized that I was letting other’s perceptions cause me to divide myself. I came to realize that I wasn’t one-half gay, one-half straight, that I was all bisexual.

That relationship came to an end and the next person that I met was a man. Falling in love with and being in a serious relationship with a man brought back all of my insecurities. How could I bring him now into my queer world? He was fully accepting and wanted to go with me to my usual places, but I felt ashamed. I imagined eyes glaring at me, questioning me. It only got worse when he asked me to marry him.

Marriage was a hard decision for me. On one hand, it was a “no-brainer,” he was and is the love of my life. On the other hand, I felt like a hypocrite marrying when if by chance I had fallen in love with a woman, then marriage would not have even been an option. It was a long process to come to a place where I felt comfortable accepting the proposal. I discussed this at length with my queer family and friends. They told me that denying myself marriage, although a noble gesture, really did them no good. In fact, they said that they would rather see me happy and were glad that I had this opportunity. The general consensus was, why have one more suffering queer person out there if they don’t have to be? One optimistic friend told me that her time would be coming soon. A lesbian friend performed the marriage ceremony, and I felt as though I had the queer community’s blessing. All of my family and friends, both straight and gay, were there to help me celebrate.

Being married only added to my feelings of queer invisibility. When I talk about my husband, everyone assumes that I am straight. Add that to my feminine gender expression, and there is no doubt in anyone’s mind. I actually had a queer coworker complain to me that she was the only queer person at our work. I find myself wanting to scream out in meetings or in circles of new friends, “I’m queer!” It is funny because one of the criticisms I have heard of bisexuals is how easy we can blend into heterosexual society. If only those who made such statements knew how desperate I am to not fit in, to be noticed and recognized for who I am.

And who I am is bisexual. When I was with girlfriends, I was bisexual. Currently married to my husband, I am still bisexual. From my morning shower to brushing my teeth at bedtime, I am bisexual. It was never a phase, never a thing I did in college, never something for fun. It isn’t an identity that I tried on like a party hat. It was and is who I am. I don’t need to make up my mind. My mind, heart, body, and soul have been made up for a long time. I am bisexual.

I recently said to a young girl who proudly exclaimed that she is bisexual to be prepared, that it is a hard road. I hope that when she reaches my age, the bi-ignorance and bi-phobia will have dissipated. In the meantime, I will strive to educate all those whom I come in contact with that a person can be 1.) A woman. 2.) Married to a man. 3.) Work to defend queer youth rights and fight victimization. 4.) Queer. 5.) Bisexual.

20 Comments:

  1. Hey, I am a bout to board a plane to head from Hartford to Seattle, WA where I will perform my play about transgender Bible characters. You can check out the details at my site. You sound very cool. Would love to meet up and talk about being an ally for transgender youth and adults.

  2. Thank you so much for sharing your story!

    I was so lucky to meet another woman like you and me a few years back, and it was so great to be able to talk with someone who understood that just because we were both feminine looking, and in relationships with men, that somehow nullified our desire for women.

    Thank you for sharing your story, as it helps the rest of us bi queers know we’re not alone!

    *hugs*

  3. Thank you so much for sharing this. While I obviously know there are other women in my shoes, it’s very easy to feel alone and so misunderstood by everyone. It’s always good to hear I’m not the only one.

  4. BEAUTIFUL. I love you! You are beautiful and wonderful and YOU. Be YOU baby! You go girl!

  5. Thank you. I’ve been wrangling a lot over these issues since breaking up with my bisexual boyfriend awhile back.

  6. You have waged a hard battle. I, on the other hand, am a married (to a male) female who is a lesbian. The fact that I am married to a male and have no intention of leaving the marriage (for several reasons that make sense to my husband and me), make it impossible to find any females who will express interest in me.

    Re. the whole bi-thingy, I see and hear people all the time make the “shit or get off the pot” statement. I have seen and know legitimately bisexual people, and those that make the ignorant statement have no clue as to what’s going on. You are to be congratulated!

  7. Certainly the fact that so many questioning teens self-identify as “bisexual” as a stepping stone to “gay” doesn’t help. I was “bisexual” until I finally was able to admit to being all-out gay. The weird thing is that even people who fully embrace the idea of a spectrum will make an initial assumption that someone claiming to be bisexual just hasn’t accepted themselves yet.

    It’s nice to know that when being gay loses its stigma, fewer people will wrongly identify as bi, which will help legitimize the idea of bisexuality to everyone else. But it’d be even nicer if we as a community could figure that one out on our own.

    A lot of members of any minority tend to think that because they’ve faced discrimination and ignorance, they’re not capable of being ignorant of any other group. This just makes it easier for them to do exactly that and then not recognize it. Thanks for telling this story; I hope the right people read it.

  8. A story that needs to be heard. We have to educate people about the true identity of “bisexual”. Thanks for the great input that is often forgotten when we’re talking about GLT issues and supporting the community!

  9. Thank you thank you thank you thank you for taking the time for writing this! As a bisexual male, this explains so much how I feel and what I go through. It’s always been upsetting to me how much so many people MUST label someone.

    And yes, it is hard when you’re talking to someone about a girl and they think you’re straight or vice versa, and then you have to go through the whole deal of explaining yourself. Again, thanks for posting this.. I’m going to be bookmarking it.

  10. Well written, it basically boils down to embracing the freedom to totally be yourself and expressing that in what is right for YOU

  11. I love you the way you are. Always have, always will. You know the problems I’ve had “fitting in” with lesbians until I got to the point where I just accepted that I’ll probably never fit in that “group” and went on with my life. If my friends are gay/straight/bi, doesn’t matter. As long as they love me for me (like you and B and Sam and everyone else I love dearly) then it just doesn’t matter. I’m glad you’ve accepted yourself wholeheartedly (and I’m glad the “girl” well, I’m glad you have your hubby). I love you so much and you’re so brave and eloquent and you make me proud.

  12. wow I dunno how I stumbled across this but it was definitely a good read. thanks google haha.

    as a 20 year old virgin I identify myself as bisexual. and I could really relate to a lot you talked about. it’s very hard for me though…still because I have not came out as bi to any of my friends or..my family. i have this huge weight on my back and I’ve tried to commit suicide a couple of times..and the thoughts still seem to linger. with the family I have…and with me still not comfortable to share this part of myself with them drives me insane. I can’t be myself. and I feel like when it comes down to it I would end up shattering my family if they ever found out. there’s no gay uncles/aunts in my family. and i think i wouldn’t have the same close relationship with my family if I told them. i say that because of the terrible things they say about the gay community….it hurts because they have no idea. that’s why I sometimes wish I was straight. it’s hard when you’re sexually attracted to both sexes…even harder when you can’t really act upon any of the inner feelings. I really quite honestly feel like giving up. I’m getting older day by day. I don’t bring girls over to sleep with like a man slut and I don’t bring guys over like a gigalo.
    when I have feelings for someone they go real deep. and it just fucking sucks when you can’t do anything.

  13. Thanks so much for your story. I’m in the same place – dated men and women before, happened to fall in forever-love with a man. And it’s so hard to, on the one hand, feel that my bisexuality is an important part of me, and on the other realize that there’s no easy way to out myself to new people. So many people think that your bisexuality becomes irrelevant when you’re in a monogamous relationship, but just tell that to all the girls i look at as i walk down the street!

  14. Heather,

    Bravo!!

  15. Heather,

    great article! Thanks for putting your story out there. I’m going to send a link to a dear friend of mine who identifies as bi and expresses some of the same frustrations you have with bi-phobia. I agree that the gay and straight communities by and large don’t know how to accept bisexuality. Maybe it’s what Rafi mentioned above–that so many questioning people temporarily identify as “bi” as a stepping stone to “gay”/”lesbian”. Hmm.

    I remember hearing a bi woman interviewed on NPR once and she discussed her frustration getting both straight and gay friends to accept that she is bi. She had an interesting take: she said people usually assume bi men are gay and usually assume bi women are straight. I wonder if you’ve found that to be the case as well. She said she thinks that is due to our latent paternal culture–an assumption that all “true” relationship desires involve at least one man. Hmm.

  16. I know this has been a struggle for many years for you. I am glad you were able to express what life really is for you, the difficulties I know you have gone through. This was not only important for you to do this, but look, this has been help to others as well. The need to sort and lable things is what we all need to get over. I am so thankful for you and being able to express what someone who is bisexual has get over, not being able to always find a soft place to land, when that is something you need the most.

    I love you so much. I thank god everyday for you.

  17. This is so great! I self-identify as bisexual. I told a few of my friends, but it isn’t really something that comes up often since I am the type to go through long periods of dating no one and then finding someone amazing. One of my biggest problems with bi-phobia is that it causes me to question myself. In my head/heart, In me, “bisexual” fits. Sometimes its a guy. Sometimes its a girl. However, because adolescence lasts ’til around mid-20s, I find myself wondering if I will finally “choose.” This feeling that I need to choose one or the other sucks because I know that, for me, it depends on the person and that I never really choose who I have feelings for. I don’t know how to express that in a way that would make sense to people, especially my family. Thank you so much for posting this. It gives me hope that some day I will not feel so divided.

  18. Thank you!
    It’s always reassuring to see your own story in print- or at least something pretty similar. I haven’t been very actively involved in the queer community, mostly due to the effort needed to create the opportunity, but I remember very clearly never mentioning I was bisexual for fear that I would lose what little connection I did have. Certainly being single at the time was helpful in that. Being as I’m currently in a relationship with a man (and one that I could see being permanent) when my sexuality does come up in conversation it’s an admittance that’s usual met with some form of shock and/or confusion. I suppose having a personal outlook that separates the concept of committed/faithful and monogamy doesn’t help much, but if only one thing changes I’d like to hope we can erase the bi-phobia in the queer community if nowhere else. We owe it to ourselves to be able to stand united if we want to make any significant further strides- but areas of racism also still need to be addressed there as well…

  19. Heather,
    Thanks so much for sharing your story! I moderate I’m From Driftwood’s blog on Tumblr, and I posted your story three days ago (01/19/2013), and it’s been received with so much love and gratitude. In just three days, your story has been reblogged and “liked” over 150 times, and that number continues to grow. I took over IFD’s blog in October of 2011, and this is the greatest response we’ve had to any single IFD story posted on Tumblr thus far. One blogger said this in response to your story: “People like you give girls like me a voice. Thank you.”

    Your story is great affirmation for femme and/or bisexual & non-monosexual folks, and is a reality check for straight, “visibly queer”, and/or monosexual folks. Thanks for speaking up!

  20. I’ve gone through virtually the same experience, and I’m also in Seattle. If you’re interested in getting together sometime, get in touch!

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