Love, Life Stories

Misogyny and biphobia made my high school years hell

Our society is built on a fear of female sexuality, and when girls express sexual fluidity, we are targets.

I don’t know what bi pride even looks like.

As I prepare for the parade next weekend, I feel like an impostor, because there are still days when I wish I wasn’t queer. My sexuality has caused me more pain than being out and open has caused me joy. I have been the target of violence by men who think that my desire for more than just one gender, means that I am available for anyone to use. My carefree, sexually liberal teenage days, singing Rent’s “Take Me Or Leave Me” with my friends and never policing the words that came out of my mouth resulted in a reputation that I was a slut – I was fair game.

[bctt tweet=”I have been the target of violence by men who think that my desire for more than just one gender, means that I am available for anyone to use.  ” username=”wearethetempest”]

When I was 15, I was completely unconcerned with labels and made jokes with all my girlfriends that made it clear that I was unconcerned with who I might become romantically entangled with. I recently found a recording of us all, preserved on Myspace, and I can hear the girl I started out as. Sex was positive and sexuality was fluid. Despite warnings from my culture and my church, I felt no need rein it in. My hormones were raging and I leaned into all of those desires, feelings, and curiosities. It didn’t seem to matter- until it did.

[bctt tweet=”My sexuality has caused me more pain than being out and open has caused me joy.” username=”wearethetempest”]

One day after school, a much older friend of mine came on to me and when I rejected him, in a moment of rage, he took the cigarette from his mouth and put it out on the pale underside of my arm.  The scar is still there. At the time, I didn’t understand why I was being singled out. Why would he expect my compliance? Only now do I see that my freedom and ease with myself was making me an easy target.

Our society is built on a fear of female sexuality, and when girls express sexual fluidity, we are targets.

When another upperclassman friend of mine cheated on his girlfriend and blamed it on me, the girl screamed that she would beat me up if she ever saw me outside of school. She was on my water polo team so I skipped the rest of the season out of fear. I didn’t get my varsity letter. I moved away from that school, and I finally understood that it was my openness that made me the perfect scapegoat. So I learned to be quiet, be invisible, be “straight” and celibate. I learned to feel shame that I had ever been a sexual being at all. That’s when the depression came.

[bctt tweet=”Biphobia, though, is more than just a kind of homophobia- it is something different.” username=”wearethetempest”]

My first bout of depression was confusing to myself and my family. I was no longer acting like myself. I was chronically afraid of making friends. I was officially in hiding. I didn’t even know what I was hiding from, just that part of me that felt so intrinsic to who I was, was unwelcome in the world. 

When someone openly hates you or discriminates against you because of your sexuality, that is homophobia and bi+ people can absolutely be victims of that. Biphobia, though, is more than just a kind of homophobia- it is something different. It is a constant feeling of marginalization and being on the outside, it is the synonymity of our sexual identity with so-called sluttiness and only now do I realize that early abuse was an example of it.

That was ten years ago, and in the past decade, I have been closeted. I referred to that time in my life as my “slutty period”. I had internalized the worst kind of biphobia. I was depressed and anxious. I was extremely mentally ill. The closet was a dark, weird place. I still fantasized about women, I still found myself attracted to queer people of all genders. I didn’t give it a second thought. After all, I figured everyone was that way.

These stories aren’t here to make you feel bad for me, they illustrate the reasons why people who identify as bi+ women are at record high risk for mental illness and sexual violence and why many of us stay closeted our whole lives.

[bctt tweet=”The closet was a dark, weird place. I still fantasized about women.” username=”wearethetempest”]

A few years ago I came out, timidly to my boyfriend. Years of shame were lifted, I told him about every time I denied my own desires in order to maintain my identity as a straight passing woman. I thought I was protecting myself, but I was lying to the whole world about who I really am. He responded with love, with joy that I was free of the shame. He wasn’t threatened by my sexuality. I didn’t even know that was an option, really.

Why? People ask, did I only come out after meeting my long term partner? Isn’t that a cop out? The easy choice?

My answer is, if I’m honest, yes. I feel guilty for waiting because I can never get that time back. But also, I didn’t feel safe as a bisexual woman in the world. Being partnered ensures a level of safety I did not have before. Men will never respect me, or my boundaries. I know that I will hear biphobic and homophobic comments wherever I go, but at least if Ben is nearby, then I have a better chance it won’t be followed with violence.

That’s very attractive to a girl with cigarette burns on her arms.