One of the things some people in the closet may not realise is that once you’re out, you have to keep coming out. All. The. Time.
Really, this is true of any sexual identity, even the 100% straight and the flamboyantly gay stereotype. And really, in the long term, it’s a good thing if everyone has to do it. It shows that we’re moving past our assumptions, like we are by asking people what pronoun they would like to be referred to by, or whether or not they like chocolate cake (you’d be surprised how often that’s an assumption).
And you know, heteronormativity isn’t just an inconvenience. It hurts. It hurts because the erasure of parts of your sexual identity shows on your friends’ faces; that they don’t recognise parts of you, like that part belongs to an imposter, or worse, a poser. I imagine this experience is not unique to me, and not unique to identifying as bisexual, but I’m just going to speak for the experience I’ve had.
Heteronormativity hurts all the more for the femme, bi woman. Or just that bi person who doesn’t dress towards the gay stereotype for their gender. Why? Because the ability to participate in society, in your family life, in your social life, as a person attracted to the traditionally opposed gender makes you (the real you) feel all the more invisible to those you love, all the more guilt ridden, all the more fake, all the more closeted, all the more sidelined in the event you make yourself explicit.
One of the symptoms of this, which many bi women I know suffer from, is Man-Guilt: the guilt you feel from seeing, dating or sleeping with someone who identifies as a man, because of the conviction of self-imposed erasure you place upon yourself. You feel like you are betraying all the effort you’ve put into coming out. Personally, I don’t suffer heavily from Man-Guilt thanks to the loving long-term relationship I’ve been blessed with, and all the support and security that has come with it. However, this is not a mild symptom; I have comforted some friends through seriously depressing periods of this guilt, which, coupled with the insecurity of externally imposed erasure, can come out pretty debilitating.
Having part of your identity placed as subordinate to it’s other half, in my opinion, is worse than having that whole aspect ignored completely. I would rather be viewed as a puritanical victorian prude woman (read: does not have a sexuality) than as simply straight with that extra bit that we don’t talk about (ssssssh).
So when you’re next faced with a heteronormative challenge, whether it’s coming out to whom feels like the millionth person, again, or having your family ask you when you’re going to bring a nice <insert traditionally opposed gender here> home, spare a thought for those who might have less certainty, less security than you in that same circumstance; I know I’m sparing a thought for you.