For this year’s Bi Visibility Day, Joy Chia, Astraea’s Executive Director, asked me to write a piece on what bi visibility means to me. Unlike most of my writing projects, where I marinate for a few days and then I can easily write it, this assignment had me stuck. I’ve been bi since my first girl crush in 1999. Before queer was common parlance and reclaimed proudly, bi was what felt right to me. I liked boys, I liked girls, and I had yet to meet people who identify as gender non-conforming. I quickly realized that bisexuality isn’t simple and that being constantly asked, “Are you really bi?” or “Are you dating a man, or woman or GNC person now?” is draining.
Through my coming out process, I figured out not only my sexual orientation, but also my gender. I’m high femme. For me, that means wearing clothes, jewelry, make-up and reclaiming physical trappings of femininity. The overlap of these two identities quickly left me with not more visibility, but with a kind of double invisibility. I quickly realized that “who I was” to others was being defined by who I was dating. It has taken me many years and a lot of support from my femme community – trans and cis – to push aside the bullshit and stand as myself.
Our movements are working to transcend binaries and break down these rigid boxes. but we continue to live in a world where who we are, and what rights are accorded us, is defined by litmus tests set by other people. We are asked to contort ourselves, shrink parts of ourselves, bend uncomfortably, just to be seen as being part of ill-fitting spaces. At Astraea, we fund organizations and movements that are breaking those binaries, that are helping people be seen as they are versus how others define them. Our grantee partners do this by changing the narrative, building power, and challenging normative assumptions.
Both the joy and challenge of feeling free to live outside of the boxes that people put us in is that we get to define who we are. We get to upend expectations and embrace fluidity. We get to choose what is important to us, choose our kin, and choose how we live our lives. Yet, it’s also a lot easier for us as humans to fall into the habit of using boxes (for ourselves and others). It’s easier to define ourselves by what we are opposed to, rather than what we stand for and who we are.
Bi visibility means celebrating my queerness, my bi-ness, my femme-ness, regardless of who I am in love with or in bed with. Bi visibility matters to me, not only because it’s how I see myself, but also because it’s how I want to be seen. Not just parts of me, but all of me.
Vice President of Programs