You see, a lot of monosexual people within LGBT and feminist movements regard me with suspicion, because I claim queer identity, yet I'm in a long-term relationship with a man. Apparently this means I have across-the-board heterosexual privilege.
It's taken me a long time to sort out my thinking about privilege in relation to my sexual orientation. (For those of you unfamiliar with privilege as a term, I suggest you go here.) On the surface, being in a long-term relationship with a man does give me some of the benefits of heterosexual privilege. I can talk about my partner openly in mainstream society without fear of hate speech or violence. I can go to any mainstream venue with my partner, hold hands and kiss in public, without fear of hate speech or violence.
But heterosexual privilege isn't just about that.
Here is a heteresoxual privilege questionnaire, which I have amended to test whether bisexuality gives me heterosexual privilege. (It's long. Feel free to skip to the bottom! I found it here.)
( Behind a cut tag, because it's long. )
So, that's a definite YES to just 2 out of 40 questions, i.e. according to this questionnaire I have just 5% heterosexual privilege. So why do so many 'radical' feminists - and a fair number of normally apolitical lesbians - insist on telling me that I have it in spades?
I think it's because that's what they see: they see me being able to go anywhere with my male partner, hold hands, kiss in public, talk about him at work, get married (if we wanted to), be treated as human beings in mainstream society, without reserve.
But what they see is only a tiny part of the picture of my life: they see me passing in public as heterosexual, whether I want to or not. And passing? Passing is not privilege. It is a daily, grinding reminder of how much I don't fit in. It confronts me with and rubs my face in all of the ways in which I am not understood, all of the ways in which there is no place for me in either mainstream or queer society, except as a travesty of myself.
It's no accident that bisexual people have much worse mental health than either our heterosexual or our lesbian and gay counterparts. The dissonance between what we know ourselves to be and what we are perceived to be and is projected on to us - even if we are continuously and loudly OUT - can be unbearable. And when all our attempts to be out are met with reassertions that we are either gay or straight, the effort can become too much.
Even in academia, in a social science/research environment, where people should really know better, my friends have talked to me as if they believe that they are greater experts in my experience than I am, that there is no alternative to 'choosing' between gay and straight, between women and men (never mind all the other gradations and expressions of gender which exist).
My very existence is daily erased. And this is something I share with my trans sisters.
The same 'radical' feminists who tell me that I have heterosexual privilege are busy telling trans women, loud and long, that they have male privilege. And it strikes me that trans women, and genderqueer people assigned female at birth, are in a similar position in this to bisexual women.
Because when trans women are born, right up until they transition and beyond, they are passing as boys and men, whether they want to or not. (If you doubt that, I refer you to Lana Wachowski's moving HRC Visibility Award acceptance speech:
(Here's a link in case the embed doesn't work.)
The same applies to trans men, of course. And passing, if one goes on mental health experience, is much more distressing for trans folk than it is even for bi folk. Because while sexual orientation is an important aspect of identity within society, sex and gender are foundational. We don't need to know why or how or when those aspects of identity emerge or are shaped to know that.
Passing is not privilege. It corrodes our sense of ourselves. It stymies our attempts to be and feel part of society, whether mainstream or queer. It eats away at our sanity. And people who claim the personal is political as their watchword need to recognise that.