'I'm married to a man, but I'm still bisexual': Queer women speak about erasure

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Illustration photo by Getty Images
Illustration photo by Getty Images
  • There are a lot of stories about how bisexual women only date other women for attention, and it is just a phase.
  • Queer women address the stories and want to educate people on preference.
  • Lindi, Fiona, Melinda and Joy share how they have received criticism when they came out as bisexual, but still date men.

'Bisexuality isn't real'

Lindi Mokwena, 35, says she always knew she was attracted to women, but only started using the term bisexual in her late 20s, after a relationship with a woman.

She says she's been told things like: "I'm not bisexual because I'm married to a man. I only had a relationship with a woman for attention. Bisexuality isn't real.

"I've experienced biphobia from both [straight and queer] communities. The most biphobic people from both communities tend to be transphobic as well - B is right next to T for a reason, I guess.

"I think people who aren't comfortable with themselves and their own sexuality look for ways to attack other people to make them feel better. I'd suggest they seek therapy."

READ MORE | Tongues & other taboos: Why queer sex ed is good for everyone

'Hand in your bi-card'

Fiona Plum, 36, says she's almost always had the feeling that she's queer. She's mostly dated men, as she realised it would be the "path of least resistance", but when she was in school, crushing on, or having a relationship with another woman, had to be kept discreet.

"If I was younger, I probably would have latched onto the term pansexual because I am attracted to people, not genders or genitalia," says Fiona. "But growing up when I did, it felt like you only had three choices: straight, gay or bisexual, so I used 'bi' when asked."

Fiona grew up in a small town in the Eastern Cape and was relieved to go to university, where being bisexual was seen as less taboo. She did, however, meet and fall in love with a cishet man (who knew of her sexuality) not long after starting uni.

"But that was also my first experience of bi-erasure. Many of my new varsity friends were gay and out, and made fun of 'first-year bisexuals,' suggesting that it was merely a phase," she says.

"Sure, it is for some. But now we know that's because sexuality is more a spectrum (like gender) and journey than a fixed point or destination. So – minority opinion here – we also shouldn't be shaming those who do 'go through a phase'. It's just a dismissive name for a valid experience: exploring your sexuality. Experimenting should be celebrated, not mocked."

Fiona says some people she knew asked to see "your credentials", aka they wanted to know how many women you'd had sex with, and another gay friend of hers told her to "hand in your bi-card" when she had been with her then-boyfriend for a few years.

"Imagine asking a person to prove they were gay by telling you what 'base' they had gone to, with whom, and how many times? Like, is there a minimum threshold for 'membership' suddenly?" asks Fiona.

READ MORE | OPINION | Not everyone is male or female – the growing controversy over sex designation

'How do you know who to like?'

Melinda Jacobs, 40, says: "My family will always talk about 'finding a guy'," she says, while she rolls her eyes because her family doesn't recognise her sexuality.

"But, more recently, I asked if I could bring a friend to the work's year-end function and was told that, yes, I can bring a male friend."

Melinda realised at university that she was attracted to people of the same gender - and, from there, it grew to people of any gender.

She's had many instances of people from the straight community erasing her sexuality, but she says: "There was one conversation I had with a lesbian, where she asked me how do I know who to like when I told her I was bisexual."

As if liking someone is only about their gender.

Her advice to biphobes? "Broaden your horizons a little and try not to assume a person's sexuality."

READ MORE | ‘I’m polyamorous but my boyfriend isn’t, this is how we manage my relationships with other people’

'You're lesbian lite'

Joy Malope, 32, only came out a few years ago after a sexual experience with a female friend. Before that, she says, she was in denial and convinced that she was straight.

"I had a traumatic experience when I was younger that made me think that I could never be attracted to women, but that incident changed my mind," she says.

"I'm still not out to everyone, but my boyfriend and most of my friends know. I even joked with my colleagues that it was a shame that I had to work over pride weekend as a queer person."

But Joy has experienced biphobia from straight friends and even one other bisexual friend, who told her that she shouldn't comment on queer things because she didn't "look gay".

"I've had other queer people joke that I'm 'selectively lesbian' or 'lesbian lite' because I'm attracted to both men and women, but only had serious relationships with men. It really hurts to have my identity made fun of that way. My journey is valid, and I don't apologise to anyone for coming out late or not kissing as many girls as they would have liked me to," she says.

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