Gender, Social Justice

I pass as a straight woman in Trump’s America – here’s why that’s a privilege

I could easily oppose this administration without having to say, “I’m gay” and making myself a target. My LGBTQ+ friends do not that privilege.

President Trump’s administration has made their position on LGBTQ+ issues pretty clear. And in case it wasn’t clear enough, when he officially took office, the LGBTQ+ issues webpage disappeared from the whitehouse.gov website. LGBTQ+ identifying people took to the Internet to express their rage at being erased from this Administration.

LGTBQ+ people have been enraged and terrified since the election results came in.

President Trump and Vice President Pence pose an actual danger to the LGBTQ+ community. Their administration has talked about repealing gay marriage. They support the trans discriminatory bathroom bills that are being passed throughout the county. Mike Pence has even admitted that he believes in using electroshock therapy to ‘treat’ gay people, because he believes homosexuality is a disease. There are plenty of reasons to be angry and scared.

In a time where identifying as LGBTQ+ is so scary, it’s easy for straight passing and cis passing people to hide behind their straight privilege. Before the election, I was guilty of this all the time.

I am a bisexual woman who is married to a man. I have been with that man for over five years and it’s been a long time since my bisexuality was noticeable. In fact, there are people in my life who didn’t know I was bisexual until the election.

There are many reasons for this, including my own struggle with internalized bi-erasure. It’s very common for bisexual people to have their sexuality lost under other labels. When I was dating women, I identified as a lesbian. When I started dating my current husband, I questioned my sexuality entirely. There was a time when I never thought I’d date a man again, so I was completely confused by falling head over heels for this guy.

I experienced some harsh alienation from the gay community in my area when I started dating a man after years of dating exclusively women. The general consensus was that I was a ‘hasbian’, a woman who had gone through a lesbian ‘phase’ then gone back to men. At the time, I was so confused about my own sexuality that I began to believe their narrative. Maybe I had never really been gay at all. Maybe it was just that time in my life. Maybe I really was straight.

It was easy for me to believe that I was straight because I was living a completely straight life. People that met me after my current husband and I started dating had no idea that I’d ever dated women, and I started avoiding talking about the fact that I had. When talking about my exes, I used gender neutral pronouns. I started erasing the fact that I had ever dated women because I was beginning to believe that it wasn’t a part of my sexuality.

But the more I told myself that dating women had been a phase, the more inauthentic I felt. Deep down, I knew I was lying to myself about my sexuality. I had no desire to stray from my current relationship with a man, but it was undeniable that we both checked out a beautiful woman when we saw one. And I still thought about women from time to time, in the private of my own bedroom.

I was still attracted to women.

I was confused all over again. By that time, I was pretty sure that I was going to marry this guy I was dating, which meant I would probably never date a woman again. How could I identify as gay if I was never going to date a woman again? If I was going to be in a straight relationship, hopefully for the rest of my life?

It was around this time that I started to read articles about bi-erasure, the phenomenon of denying someone’s bisexual identification based on their current relationship status. These articles informed me, in no uncertain terms, that sexuality and sexual orientation have nothing to do with the person I’m currently dating. I’m not a lesbian when I’m dating a woman and straight when I’m dating a man. I am always bisexual, regardless of who shares my life and my bed.

I began to embrace my bisexuality. I used gender specific pronouns when I talked about my exes. I talked openly about dating women. When sexual orientation came up in conversation, I identified as bisexual. I corrected people who labeled me as straight because of my current relationship.

When Trump was elected, I felt some of the pain of my LGBTQ+ brothers and sisters.

But I realized immediately that I did not feel it as deeply as they did, because I was not currently living my life in a homosexual relationship. I was not walking down the street holding hands with my girlfriend or wife. My marriage was not in jeopardy. My safety wasn’t threatened if my husband and I kissed in public. If I wanted to be safe from this anti-LGTBQ+ administration I had the option to hide and be safe.

The day after the Election I chose not to be safe. Though I spoke openly about being bisexual to those in my life. I had not written about being bisexual on my blog or in any of my published work. In fact, I had purposely avoided it. I was still scared of identifying as bisexual on such a large stage. On November 9th, I published an article proudly stating that I was bisexual and that I refused to hide from this administration.

It would be so easy to spend the next four years staying quiet about my sexuality. There are other things to fight for: reproductive rights, Black Lives Matter, access to healthcare. I could easily oppose this administration without having to say, “I’m gay” and making myself a target.

My friends in openly gay relationships do not that privilege. Their day to day lives put them in danger. I refuse to use my straight privilege to avoid the negative consequences of this administration, and I urge other straight passing people to come out and stand up to this administration as well. We should be putting our lives on the line with all our LGBTQ+ brothers and sisters.