Life + Love, Life Stories

I wear the scars of your biphobia on my arms

My sexuality has caused me more pain than being out and open has caused me joy.

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 body being for more than just their gender, means that it is available for anyone to use. My carefree, sexually liberal teenage days, singing Rent’s “Take Me Or Leave Me” with my friends resulted in a reputation that I was a slut – I was fair game.

I have been the target of violence by men who think that my body being for more than just their… Click To Tweet

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 family 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.

My sexuality has caused me more pain than being out and open has caused me joy. Click To Tweet

One day after school, a friend came on to me and when I rejected him, 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. When an upperclassman friend of mine cheated on his girlfriend and blamed it on me,the girl screamed that she would beat the shit out of me if she ever saw me outside of school. She was on my water polo team- 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 got the message. Be quiet, be invisible, and no one will target you. That’s when the depression came.

Biphobia, though, is more than just a kind of homophobia- it is something different. Click To Tweet

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 the part of me that related to romance and sex was unwelcome in the world where I lived. 

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 sexuality identity with so-called sluttiness and only now do I realise that early abuse was an example of it.

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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 internalised 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.

The closet was a dark, weird place. I still fantasized about women. Click To Tweet

Why? People ask, did I only come out after meeting my long term partner?

My answer is, if I’m honest, I don’t feel safe as a single queer woman in the world. Being partnered with a man 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.

Katherine Kaestner

Katherine Kaestner

Editorial Fellow Katherine Kaestner is a writer, photographer and marketer currently based in Germany. She is passionate about wine, farmer's markets, unapologetic feminism, and foreign policy. She is a nomad who's lived in 12 countries and cities around the world and doesn't really know where home is.

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