Phil: Hey this is Phil aka Corinne,
Alex: And I’m Alex Berg. And you’re listening to…
Phil: The I’m From Driftwood Podcast.
Evonna: My name is Evonna and MacDonald and I’m from Baltimore, Maryland.
Amelia: I’m Amelia Meigs. I’m from Issaquah, the Seattle area of Washington,
Evonna: It was the summer going into high school. I decided to explore my sexuality.
Amelia: I was in grad school. I had just transferred to a new school in St. Louis and I had never really been in the LGBTQ community.
Alex: So Phil, today we are talking about one of my very favorite most near and dear topics.
Phil: Indeed. I cannot wait to get into this. This is going to be pretty cool.
Evonna: A really close friend of mine in middle school, we started really hanging out eighth grade year and then during that summer, she shared with me that she was gay. So as the summer went on, we got even closer. We decided to be in a relationship.
Amelia: I was going to join the LGBTQ club there. And so I went to a meeting. And so I sat down, kind of started talking to a few people. I mentioned that I had a boyfriend and kind of immediately, you could tell that people were confused.
Evonna: The fact that we were really close friends really made it easy for me to feel safe where I’d explore my own sexuality. And so maybe about a couple of months into the relationship, I met her friend at school one day and she came up to me and she just was, like, so excited. And… “I’m so happy, you know, that you are lesbian and you’re in this relationship with my friend…”
Amelia: One girl in particular said to me, you know, “Just so you know, this club is for gay people. It’s… you don’t belong here if you’re straight.” When the girl said that to me, I kind of felt so embarrassed that I didn’t want to correct her and to tell her that I was bisexual.
Evonna: It just kinda got throughout the school that Evonna is a lesbian. And it just was something that was defined for me.
Amelia: You know, I think at the time it didn’t even occur to me to try to fight for my place there or try to say, No, this is where I belong, because I had expected the community to just welcome me with open arms. I never thought that anyone would say something like that to me.
Alex: One thread that runs throughout, which is the assumptions people operate under, I mean, even within the LGBTQ community…
Phil: There is this thing that happens in the queer community that you’re on your way to being this, that, or the other thing, like this is just a stop along the way to being lesbian or stop along the way to being gay. It’s like, yeah. No, actually, maybe this is my destination and maybe that’s fine. Right? There’s no stop along the way. I’m not in transition. This is where I land at.
Alex: Like, and I respect that if that is a piece of someone’s journey, I think that people should… their identities should be able to change and it shouldn’t be questioned when they do change.
Evonna: And so my senior year, maybe like towards the end of senior year, I was single. This guy was interested in me, you know? Okay, cool. I was like, Well, we can exchange numbers. And so we did. And so we started talking and I really liked him.
Amelia: I remember this one week, there was three different people in one week who told me in different ways that I wasn’t gay enough or didn’t look right. At that point, I kind of said, Okay, something has to change. I’m not doing this right. I started Googling lesbian outfits and trying to see what. You know, what is a typical stereotypical lesbian look like? And how can I look like that?
Evonna: Graduated high school and in college, another moment where a good friend of mine, we became close throughout freshman year and sophomore year, we were doing something, getting ready for a party and doing our makeup and stuff. And she was just like, Oh, you know, Evonna, I’m so glad that you talk to girls because I wouldn’t like you if you dated guys.
Amelia: I tried anything I could think of that would make my outside look like my inside.
Phil: We take some of what we’ve learned from outside of our community. Like this whole idea of being othered. It’s like sometimes bisexual people, asexual people are othered within our community. So it’s like, okay, as a queer person, as many queer people, many, many of us know exactly what it’s like to be othered. And then we bring that othering into the community and it’s like, what is happening? I think there’s one person in the story that says, I love that you date women. You know, if you dated men, I wouldn’t like you as much. It’s like she gets pushback for being attracted to both men and women.
Alex: I felt like this was one of my big takeaways from the story was just the pushback and then also the assumptions people operate under. I mean, even within the LGBTQ community, people operate under the assumption that your sexual orientation is one way based on your partner. And this is something that happens all the time to bisexual people. I mean, it is constant depending on if we are in air quotes, straight-appearing relationship, if you’re in a relationship with someone of the opposite gender, or if you’re in a same-sex relationship as well.
I mean, this is just constant people operating off of that assumption. And then it gets really hard, I think, sometimes, and you have to correct people over and over again. I mean, that’s just exhausting ‘cause in a way you’re coming out to them repeatedly. And then you are also coming up against various kinds of stereotypes that people have about bisexual people.
Evonna: It really made me upset and I just went off on her and I was just, was like, you know, “How dare you? You wouldn’t like me or we couldn’t be friends or something to that effect If I… because of who I date.” That was the moment where I just was like, No, I’m not going to just kind of shrink every time someone says this or has this identity about me and not speak up for myself. And say, you know, No, I’m not a lesbian. No, I don’t just date women. I date both, you know? And I’m okay with that.
Amelia: So my friends had kind of been hearing about these stories. A new friend was telling me, you know, “Hey, you don’t need to change. You’re fine just the way you are.” And I kind of dismissed her. I was like, No, it’s, you know, this is what I have to do to fit in.
I remember I was watching an episode of Queer Eye and Jonathan Van Ness kind of just said, offhandedly, “I don’t want anybody to ever feel like they’re too gay or too straight.” You know, I watched the clip about a hundred times and cried and I don’t think it ever occurred to me that I was enough the way that I was.
Alex: For me, I’ve been bisexual for the duration of… since I was out. This is it. Like, this is… for me, this is my static, permanent identity. And I think something that’s also really key is just the misconception around what bisexuality means in general, which is oftentimes of course, bi references the binary, bisexuals are attracted to people of all different genders. And that we acknowledged that there are probably an infinite number of genders or something, like, you know, ones that we can’t even count.
Phil: Do you feel though, being bisexual, have you had experiences yourself where like Evonna, where it was just like people who were women that only dated women kind of invalidating your sexuality because they just couldn’t understand that?
Alex: Yeah. This was something that really resonated with me about Evonna’s story was that I’ve literally had lesbians in lesbian- or queer women-centric spaces, be like, “I would never date you. I would never date a bisexual.” And I’ve had people really close to me in my life who know me and have known me for a long time who even buy into some of these ideas about bisexual people.
So, I mean, this has absolutely happened to me. And I can remember once being in a lesbian bar and somebody verbatim was like, “Oh, you’re Bi. I wouldn’t, I wouldn’t date you. I’m not going there.”
Phil: It’s so hard to listen to that. I mean, I’m going to out myself right now. I myself have been totally guilty of that same sort of thing, but I think it’s really important to have discussions around that.
And I think that some of the thinking is like, okay, so the issue is that people are afraid that someone’s who’s Bi may not also be monogamous. Again, not a problem if you’re not monogamous, but I think the discussion needs to be had, like, what exactly are you looking for? Right? If you’re looking to date someone and be monogamous, you could easily date somebody who Bi and be monogamous. There’s a lot that gets assumed about a bisexual person that is not actually true,
Alex: Like, among bisexual people, there is that idea of double discrimination: the discrimination that you face among straight people, and then the discrimination you face within the LGBTQ community. Other folks of different identities also experience that too. It’s kind of funny how sometimes we take these models that are from straight people and then we take that bad behavior and do it ourselves.
Phil: Yes, we do.
Alex: You know, even though you may not identify as Bi, have you ever had one of these experiences where someone jumped to an assumption about who you were and they were wrong?
Phil: So I think that because I’m masculine of center, there is always this need for people who are masculine of center to make sure that we’re being masculine enough. There’s this whole idea that I have to do these things so that I could identify as this thing. And I’m coming to a point in my life where I’m like, I don’t really want people to make those decisions for me.
Alex: It’s almost a sense of like gatekeeping around certain identities and who gets to be a gatekeeper. And Amelia tells us one story that really jumped out at me, which is when she is in grad school and she joins the LGBTQ club and she is literally told by someone else in that club that she shouldn’t be there because she mentions having a boyfriend.
You know, to me, it’s like there are few more clear cut illustrations of the kind of double discrimination that bisexual people can face than literally going to the LGBTQ club, the club that purports to also represent bisexual people, and being told that you do not belong there.
Phil: Right. Right. And instead of having – I feel like that would have been a perfect time to have a conversation, but they just shut her down. There was no conversation had, you know? She was clearly like, you know, trying to find community and to go there and to be shut down like that. That was terrible.
Alex: I love that you mentioned that this is, it’s like a great opportunity for conversation. Truly, like, maybe it could have been a really productive moment to talk about some of their assumptions and ideas and stereotypes that they had listening to her.
Phil: Talk about Googling, you know, what does a lesbian wear, she really thought, like in order to be accepted in this community, or to be seen as one of, I have to really change what I’m wearing. I have to change my look. Why does being queer have to look like one thing? Like, when did that happen?
Alex: Yeah. I mean, I think that it gets to this idea of again, about gatekeeping, I guess. Like, never being enough anywhere outside of our community. And then having maybe some kind of social currency within the community and using it to police people’s expression of their own queerness and identity.
Phil: It was really lovely to hear the end of the story, that she was able to be comfortable within herself, that she finally stopped and really realized that the best way for her to move forward was to be a bisexual woman showing up in the world the way she felt most comfortable,
Alex: Something that’s also so interesting about this is that bisexual people statistically comprise the majority of people in the LGBTQ plus community. We are made up of both cis and trans and all different kinds of people. One of the reasons why you might not know that we are actually the majority of the LGBTQ community is because we are just about the least likely to come out in these situations. And there is a real translation from a lot of these attitudes towards bisexual people to actual health outcomes for bisexual people. Bisexual people have some of the worst mental health outcomes. And even there have been some studies, I think, that have been done that show that bisexual people have a higher rate of smoking cigarettes and of using other substances like alcohol, so…
Alex: Yeah. So actually there’s like – this is not just this idea around interpersonal relationships and where you feel accepted into spaces. But then there is like for so many people, this real direct translation of these attitudes to the kind of negative outcomes and the impact that happens when you do feel marginalized or alienated from people that you’re looking for to be in your own community.
Phil: I definitely think that there’s this feeling of like, okay, so if I date somebody who’s bisexual and you know, we’re in a relationship, I’m concerned that I won’t be enough for that person. They don’t want more than what I can provide. It is a really valid fear that I’ve seen a lot of people express, myself included.
Alex: I also think that, like, one of the things that made me think about are also all of these stereotypes that we have, especially about bisexual men. Like I’m talking about this as a bisexual cis woman, and it feels more largely accepted. That women can be more fluid in general. And so I actually think that bisexual men come up against even more stereotypes and assumptions about them and about – they’re eventually going to be gay or that they’re especially promiscuous or that you can’t trust a bisexual man around sexual health.
It just reminded me that there are, like, so many… what you were saying, there were like so many layers and even I think among bisexual people, there can be different assumptions and stereotypes based on your gender.
Phil: So true. You know, I have a friend who is a bisexual right now. He’s married to a woman and we had this conversation about how invisible he feels in the queer community as a man that’s married to a woman. It’s as if like his queer identity has been completely erased. It’s not there. No one’s – he doesn’t read as queer now. It’s like, it really made me think about how we can – one – make these assumptions, two – from these assumptions, completely erase someone’s identity. And it’s… it’s really sad because it’s like it’s as if he’s lost the community, you know, but he’s still part of it. Very much still a part of it.
Alex: Yeah. I feel like there have definitely been times when, because of someone’s partner, I have also assumed their sexual orientation and been wrong. And as somebody who has like lived this and, you know, and I, it just… what you’re saying about your friend’s experience, it’s just a reminder that you don’t just one time say that you recognize a person’s experience or identity. You don’t just, like, one time say that you want to stop making assumptions about these things. It’s actually something you constantly have to be doing and constantly have to be reminding yourself of every single person that you meet, that you need to give them the space to self-define.
Evonna: Even though it hurt in those moments, it was painful, it really strengthened me and it helped me to fully just own who I am and own my sexuality as a bisexual woman. I’m just much more sure of myself. I can’t be confined or restricted to someone else’s, like, thoughts or someone else’s perspective or their opinion, you know, or whatever your paradigm is. Like, I can’t be confined to that. I have to be free. I have to be who I am. And if I, you know, allow someone’s, like, small way of thinking or small perspective define that for me, I wouldn’t be fully who I am.
Amelia: So after that, I stopped trying to, you know, look a certain way or act a certain way and just kind of accepted myself. And so, I found the reaction to that to be, you know, so much more positive than before. I think once I accepted myself, other people could accept me too.
Even within the queer community, we look at each other and normally we’re such an accepting group and we’re stereotyped as an accepting group. We need to get more involved with people who don’t share the same letter as us.
Phil: You know, when I think about boxes and people going to the box people into things like, just like we’re both of these stories that we talked about today, I always think about like, okay, so when you put a box around someone it’s as if you created the structure that they have to follow. And the question I always think is like, why do you get to set the standard for the structure for another individual? Why does your checklists have to be what they follow? I just… I never could understand that.
Alex: Because we’re having more rich conversations about gender, about the binary, about people being attracted to many different genders, I actually feel like that has helped legitimize bisexuality, even more. One of the big points is just that you are enough and that nobody is in a position to tell you that you aren’t enough. The whole point of visibility is just so that other LGBTQ people can live their lives and just be how they want to be. Like, I feel like the point of us even having these conversations is just to make that kind of space that people can just live their lives and be whatever kind of person they want to be.
And that that’s enough.
Phil: The I’m From Driftwood Podcast is hosted by Phil aka Corinne
Alex: And Alex Berg, and is produced by Andy Egan-Thorpe.
Phil: The Podcast is recorded as part of I’m From Driftwood, a worldwide nonprofit LGBTQ+ story archive, and is funded in part from TD Bank and Heritage of Pride New York.
Alex: I’m From Driftwood was created by Nathan Manske to help queer and trans people learn more about their community, help straight people learn more about their neighbors and help everyone learn more about themselves, all through the power of storytelling.
The IFD Program Director is Damien Mittlefehldt. The stories you heard today are available in their entirety, plus thousands more. And imfromdriftwood.org
Phil:. Please follow us on Instagram, Facebook, and YouTube. And our score is provided by Elevate Audio. Be sure to subscribe to our podcast wherever you get your podcasts.
Alex: Thanks y’all for listening.