- Jade Esteban Estrada
- Erica Campos: Accused of not being a "real lesbian"
Perennially cast in the background of the annual Pride family tableau and arguably the most quietly misunderstood of the four-lettered acronym wavers, there stands the self-identified American bisexual.
Caught between a long history of Eurocentric and national heterosexism and the growing might of Bravo TV-infused lesbian and gay influence, contemporary members of this tribe have continued to use their age-old powers of invisibility to weather the wrath of haters.
This month, as we commemorate New York's 1969 Stonewall riots with a yearly worldwide Gay Pride celebration, some bisexuals feel the time has come to reclaim their place in the march for social equality under a pink umbrella that they say should have enough room for everyone.
Coming out as a lesbian was certainly a challenge for SA's Erica Campos, 37, but "coming out as bisexual was a whole other process."
She recognized she didn't know much about bisexuality when she began her civic engagement in the local LGBT community, but what she had heard wasn't good.
"Bisexuality is a bad word in the gay community," she said. "Lesbians saw it as disgusting. They didn't want to be with a woman who was also with men."
Because she knew some gay people still experience discrimination, she expected lesbians in her circle to be more "tolerant" when she came out. Instead, she got a lesson in social pecking order.
"Gay people generally look down on [bisexuality] because it gives them the right to look down on someone. 'I may be gay but at least I'm not bisexual,'" she remembered someone once told her.
Campos was attracted to men but she found it difficult to find guys with whom she could establish an emotional connection. She gained new clarity after attending a seminar on bisexuality.
With every given question that ranked her attraction to male and female subjects, she landed smack in the middle. She related with the speaker, right down to the fear of discussing bisexuality, which she learned was common.
"It was a defining moment for me [yet] it was something I always knew," she says. "It wasn't until then that I felt a sense of wholeness and realness."
After coming out to a "very prominent woman in the gay community," Campos found it unsettling to hear the luminary tell her that her bisexuality claim was "just a cop-out."
It was but one more critique bisexuals have become accustomed to hearing: "Oh, that's not real." "You can't decide." "You're promiscuous." "You're just going through a phase." "Oh, you're straight." And the list goes on.
But Campos vehemently defended her right to celebrate LGBT Pride Month as something that belongs to her, too.
"Who am I to tell you what your identity is? I don't belong in the straight world. I don't belong in the gay world. I belong in the middle," she affirmed.
Even though Campos is now monogamously married to a man, she doesn't think that should take away from her coming-out experience: "There's no better feeling than being true to yourself."
When asked where he falls between the gay and heterosexual worlds, Matt, who's in his early 40s and agreed to an interview on the condition of anonymity, lets out a heavy sigh.
"Both sides give you shit because you don't pick a side," he said. His secret to survival is to just "go with the flow."
That means playing the field accordingly, mostly keeping a low profile.
"That's when I go to the gay place in my head and work from that table," he said. "When I'm with people who are predominately straight, I work from that table. In a mixed crowd, I let the chips fall where they may."
For a bisexual male, the inevitable result will be a polyamorous relationship, Matt said. He feels fortunate to have a boyfriend and a girlfriend who are pretty happy with the arrangement.
As far as he sees it, bisexual women have an unfair advantage being out. "If you tell a man that his girlfriend is bi, 'that's hot'," he says. "[But] if you tell a woman that her boyfriend likes that dick, too? All hell breaks loose."
- Jade Esteban Estrada
- Diamond Mason: "Bisexuality is a bad word."
Unlike Matt, Diamond Mason isn't keeping quiet about her bisexuality.
"I think clarification is necessary," she said. "I'm not going to shut up about it just because someone doesn't understand."
Mason, 22, was recently accused of not being "a real lesbian" because she's ignorant of the issues they have to deal with.
"I think that statement in and of itself proves how much of a struggle bisexuals go through, because we're not completely accepted by the lesbian community and we're questioned by the straight community."
So, basically, it's like being left in a no man's land — or no woman's land, take your pick.
When she goes to a Pride event with her boyfriend, people assume she's a straight ally. "But if they know that I'm a bisexual with a boyfriend?"
Well, she just doesn't feel like dealing with the jokes or questions.
"Those are comments that people think are not offensive but they really are."
Because bisexuals can sometimes weave in and out of social circles, they can effectively avoid such subcultural warfare with little effort. The price of admission to the LGBT big top is a visibility that strips them of their stealthy powers.
Whether losing that cultural anonymity is worth it or not would depend on the individual's need for inclusion within the established post-Ellen world.
"People really need to stop worrying about what consenting adults do," Matt said. "As soon as people get their head around that [idea], we're going to be a happier species as a whole."