Why Passing as Straight Is Not a Privilege

It's not something I purposefully turn on and off, my masculinity. I'm naturally androgynous, enjoying both "typically" masculine and feminine activities. However, my gender expression is dependent on the setting and with whom I'm interacting. This isn't a conscious thing, as if I'm trying to purposefully conceal my femininity around straight people or amp up my femininity around more flamboyant gay men. I'm not ashamed of acting more effeminate or masculine, regardless of the circumstance.

I do, however, act masculine when around straight men, because they elicit my masculine side, and not in a hypermasculine, let's one-up each other type of way. We're not discussing how many women we've "conquered" or how much we bench, but we also don't chat about how Rihanna and Queen B should totally create a joint album together. I have different conversations when I'm with my straight male friends, and there is undoubtedly a particular tone. It makes sense. They are straight. They've lived different, more privileged, lives than queer men.

When I'm with my gay friends, the "Yass queen" emerges, and it's simple why: I'm around other men who use the same vernacular. Being around gay, more effeminate men, elicits my more stereotypically feminine attributes.

I love it. I love both parts of me. And I love being able to have straight and gay groups of friends.

Now when I date a woman, and we go out together in public, people assume we're straight. Because of this, I'm able to hold her hand in the street without fear of being judged. I'm not afraid a passerby is going to verbally or physically assault me for my sexuality. While riding the train, I can kiss her on the lips, confident that no one is going to bat an eyelash. In the regard, yes; there is a benefit in "appearing" straight and masculine and complying (albeit accidentally) to gender norms. But while it's a benefit, it's a jump to claim that all bisexual men and women (in same-sex relationships) have "straight privilege."

Bisexuals' identities are constantly assumed, either gay or straight. After clarification as bisexual, our sexuality is then put into question, not accepted at face value. No one ever questions a flamboyant gay man, "Are you sure you're gay? How do you know?" Alas, the only reason they don't question him is because they are assuming his gender expression and sexual orientation must be connected. Since he's feminine he must be gay, as this complies with their preconceived notions of gender and gender norms.

Bisexuals, on the other hand, are often asked, "How do you know you're bi?" "Have you ever dated an [insert gender here]?" "Have you ever loved an [insert gender here]" "Aren't bisexual men just gay men who haven't accepted it yet? I've never heard of a bi man leaving his husband for a woman, but I do see bi men leaving their wives for men. What do you think about that?"

Bisexual men and women live daily with their sexual identity first incorrectly assumed, then subsequently questioned, judged and finally, dismissed. However, mainstream society doesn't know where to box bisexuals. Since many people wrongly believe masculine = straight and feminine = gay, where does that leave bisexuals?

On the outskirts of both gay and straight communities, with people constantly making false assumptions about our identities. And people wrongly assuming something about who you are, is not a privilege.

In fact, it leads to anxiety all the fucking time.

Every novel social situation with gay or straight men/women is a struggle. We have to battle the desire to justify who we are with every new person we meet. We have to decide whether we want to correct you, when you mislabel us as straight or gay, and if we're in the mood to have a conversation about ourselves because often, we don't want to talk about our personal lives, especially with someone we just met.

We have to deal with additional factors while dating both men and women, as many men and women don't want to date bisexuals. They believe false misconceptions about us. We can't be monogamous, we're indecisive, we're sexually greedy, we're in denial of our "full-blown" gayness. Or, we're fetishized, guys thinking that we're "hot" because we sleep with women. That's also not a privilege, despite the fact that it's people "liking" us.

The rates of anxiety, depression, drug use and alcohol abuse are consistently as high (if not higher -- depends on the study) for bisexuals than gay men and women. Bisexuals face additional challenges, even when in different-sex relationships. And while I might not fear walking down the street holding hands with a woman, that doesn't mean I have "straight privilege."

Because at the end of the day, bisexuals aren't straight. We're bi, so "passing" as straight, in essence, deleting a fundamental part of who are, is not a privilege.

So before saying that passing as "straight," or anything else for that matter, is a privilege, please reconsider. People mistaking your identity is not a privilege. People conflating your gender expression with your sexuality is not a privilege. Coming out perpetually to every new person you meet is not a privilege. Your anxiety is not a privilege. Feeling confused regarding which community you belong, is not a privilege. Feeling the need to hide your identity is not a privilege. "Passing" is not a privilege.