In two weeks, I will celebrate my second wedding anniversary to my best friend on the planet. Our life together is everything I could ever have asked for, and I can’t imagine ever having any regrets, or growing old with anyone else. Yet sometimes when I’m meeting someone new, I cringe a bit to myself when I include him in a story: “My husband and I…”
I was never a particularly feminine girl, and I came out as bisexual pretty much the second I stepped foot on my undergraduate campus. My career has been partially driven by my passion for queer issues and the push for equality under the law. I keep my hair short and my wardrobe tends toward oxfords and ties (although I also have an addiction to red lipstick). I drool over girls with tattoos who rock menswear. At the Pride parade after New York passed marriage equality in 2011, I cried.
And then, two years later, I married a man.
My husband and I are polyamorous, and I have female partners as well as male. Sometimes I feel like I bring this up in conversation less out of any particular relevance and more as a defense mechanism—“See, I’m not straight, I like girls too!” Before we began exploring polyamory, I didn’t even dress as androgynously as I do these days—I wanted to, but I was afraid of being accused of appropriating someone else’s culture. Or, perhaps more truthfully, I was afraid I would be appropriating someone else’s culture. Did I have the right to call myself queer while I benefited from all the perks of living like a heterosexual? I had vague visions of outraged lesbians calling me out and saying I was misleading people, that I was misrepresenting myself, that I wanted credit for something I hadn’t earned. From my conversations with friends in similar situations, it seems like this isn’t a terribly uncommon fear for bisexual or queer women who “marry straight:” the fear of taking the easy path, of “passing,” of not being gay enough to label yourself in the way that feels true to you.
The issue of “biphobia” is one that comes up in the media and in queer-centric conversations from time to time. Bisexual celebrities continue to baffle media outlets, who refer to Kristen Stewart’s girlfriend as her “gal pal” and who tell Anna Paquin, to her face, that she “used to be bisexual” because she married a man. (Props to her, by the way, for shutting that right the hell down. It was a proud moment.) In my own life, I’ve encountered my share of these attitudes, from straight and gay folks alike. I was welcomed with open arms into my college’s LGBT group, until the day I got a steady boyfriend. I was never explicitly uninvited from anything—but the temperature of my interactions with other members noticeably cooled, and I stopped going to meetings shortly thereafter. In the single dating days of my early twenties, before I met my husband, I went on more than one date where the woman gave me the distinct vibe she was testing me. When it became clear that my most formative past relationships had been with men, I could almost watch their interest dissipate. Obviously this attitude isn’t universal, but when you encounter it enough times, as with any other prevalent social attitude, you start to wonder if maybe people aren’t right about you.
As I’ve gotten older, I’ve gotten a bit more comfortable in my skin, and am less likely to define myself by other people’s expectations. I love my husband (and also my other partners)—and how that all works, and what I “consider” myself, isn’t really anyone’s business but ours. Most days, I’m pretty good at remembering that. I spike up my hair, put on my tie, and head to work, where pictures of me in a long white dress grinning at my husband-to-be have a place of honor in my cubicle. Most days, if I were asked outright, I would have no issue identifying as a queer woman, and raising a disdainful eyebrow at anyone who questioned my right to do so. Most days.
But some days I still wonder if I’m quite gay enough.