Yay, I'm Bisexual! How Can I Block Out All the Negative Messages & Stereotypes I Hear About It?
Mo Ranyart replies:I recently acknowledged to myself that I've liked girls as well as boys for a while now. I often find myself frustrated when people assume that my romantic interests in other women "don't matter" because women get romantic feelings for each other all the time, that girls don't count when it comes to sex and kissing, that because I say I'm bisexual I'm secretly straight and will end up with a guy in the end. I'm afraid of being fetishized. I hear men laughing about how hot Asian women are, how much they'd want a threesome with lesbian Asian women, and it just makes me so angry that I don't know what to do. I want my love to be for me, and I want other people -- my peers, family, friends -- to recognize and respect that, but I know that I live in an imperfect world where the ideal isn't always reality. I don't want to be a angry, bitter person all the time. How can I make sure that the relationships I pursue are for me and my partner only, when I feel frustrated by all the stereotypes that surround bisexual women, particularly Asian women and their supposedly submissive nature?
Congrats on becoming more aware of your own sexuality! Sadly, you're right: some people do harbor misconceptions and sexist notions about bisexual women. Racism and sexism added to the mix make the issue even thornier; as you said, there are a lot of harmful stereotypes about Asian women being sexually passive and available, and it stands to reason that many people who believe one set of stereotypes will subscribe to the other. It can be tough to feel comfortable with your sexuality when those negative messages are the loudest ones you hear.
I think a good first step would be to do what you can to make sure you're not only hearing those negative messages by seeking out some form of bisexual community, whether that's in person or online. Maybe you can investigate to see if your school has a GSA or other LGBTQA organization to join. Many cities have queer community centers with social and/or support groups; you may find one near you that's targeted at bisexual women or youth, or one created specifically for Asian LGBTQA folks. Even if you don't click with an entire group, you may find some bisexual or bisexual-friendly friends in these spaces who can be a source of support if other people in your life are not giving you the support or respect you need.
There are also several online communities, blogs, and other resources you might find helpful; I'll leave some links at the end of this post for you to check out. Online support can be just as important as in-person allies, and depending on where you live you might find it easier to connect with other bisexual people this way.
In terms of making sure your relationships remain yours and not treated as public property, I think that comes down to being able to shut down or leave conversations with people making unwanted comments or suggestions about your personal life.
When you are confronted with negative assumptions, rude comments, or unsolicited invitations to threesomes, how you react might depend on your relationship to the person, or how you’re feeling at the time.
If you aren't in the mood to have a big conversation with someone, especially a stranger or other person you don't know well, it may be best to say some unprintable words in your head and leave the situation without engaging. If you have the energy to let someone know that their comments are untrue or rude, that’s fine, but if you find yourself feeling cranky and bitter afterwards (for good reason; I’m not judging you if you do!), then it might not be worth it. An icy stare and an exit from the conversation - or even the room - as soon as you can manage will also get the message across to many people that you don't appreciate what they've said, and that’s a great response if you can’t think of a comment in the moment. Just slowly shaking your head back and forth as a no with a firm, disapproving look can do the trick sometimes, too.
When talking with strangers, it's never your job or obligation to be a one-person traveling biphobia educator. If you find yourself with the mental energy to educate a bit and it seems appropriate, that’s entirely fine! But in many cases, quickly shutting down that line of commentary and exiting the situation will be your best bet and cause you the least amount of stress.
With close friends and family, if you’re out as bisexual to them you could just remind them that any comments they make about bisexuals are about you specifically. You may feel more willing to do some explanation and educating with people you feel close to, and these folks are probably more likely to listen to what you have to say and take your feelings into account. Still, though, if you feel like taking that time is mentally exhausting or just making you frustrated, it's all right to ask people not to let a topic drop and leave it at that.
It's hard to know beforehand if having a conversation about this with someone else will do much to change their mind or their behaviors. You might find it empowering to talk to loved ones about your identity and remind them that stereotypes about bisexuals are often untrue and hurtful, or you may just get frustrated explaining and justifying a basic fact about yourself over and over again.
Ultimately, while you can ask people to be respectful and explain how their actions can hurt you or make you uncomfortable, you can't control how anyone reacts to your sexuality. If you find that some people just don't get it and continue to say disrespectful things to you, then that might mean it's time to fade out that friendship or, with people you can't ignore completely like family members, classmates, or co-workers, rely on keeping interactions as politely superficial as you can. Maybe you'll exchange pleasantries about the weather with these people, but you'll know they're not the folks you can trust with personal issues.
Is it lousy to lose friends over their words and actions? It often is. And while that can be a bummer, I'd suggest that it's better to have a small group of fantastic and supportive people in your life than a bigger crowd of folks who won't respect your sexuality or any other part of who you are.
In terms of keeping your sexuality and relationships as just for you and a partner, I think a big part of that is having your voice and your story be the loudest one in the room. So, I think if you can find a small core group of supportive friends who accept your identity at face value, you’ll feel a lot more in control of your personal narrative.
Here are some links you may find helpful:
National Queer Asian Pacific Islander Alliance
Bisexual Resource Center
The Bisexual Index
Queer Women of Color Media Arts Project
Queer Women of Color on Tumblr
Bisexual Books (a blog about books with bisexual authors, stories, and characters)