I’ve not been out as a queer woman for a terribly long time, so I’d not spent much time politicizing my sexual identity until I moved to the Bay: politiqueerness was something I’d actively avoided.
My body and identity as a black woman was already a minefield.
The first major thing I was forced to engage was a racialized femmephobia that exists at the intersections of the queer community’s devaluation of femininity and anti-black misogyny (also known as misogynoir). Where masculinity as androgyny is a more acceptable AFAB (assigned female at birth) expression within the whiteness of politicized queer spaces, my red lipstick and button downs are significantly less so.
I’ve walked into predominately white queer spaces where everyone gave me elevator eyes but no one spoke to me, and it wasn’t until I’d passed the politiqueer litmus test and spouted some approved and appropriately “radical” theory that my right to share space was affirmed. This has never happened when I’ve shared spaces dominated by queer black folks.
My femme identity is critically important to me; black womanhood is automatically queered when cis white womanhood is consistently presented as normative.
I don’t have the opportunity to be fully agentic in my femininity because black womanhood is monstrously hypersexual, my queer black womanhood even more so. I’m confident, grounded and stable, in my femininity.
The second major thing I’ve had to confront is biphobia—this I have been and constantly am unprepared for. There’s an unseriousness of bisexuality (and here, bisexuality means “my own and other genders” as opposed to “both genders” because there are more than two) that compounds the inauthenticity of my femme identity and the trope-centric understandings of my black womanhood.
Flipping through Tinder, I was surprised/frustrated/disgusted to see lesbian profiles containing “lesbians only”–presumably womanhood and queerness should be enough for attraction? I was shocked when a few lesbians who messaged me on OKCupid stopped interacting after finding out that I was bisexual (my bio said “queer”).
I’m hypersexualized and accepted by couples who need a unicorn for their porn-y MWW threesome fantasies; I’m hypersexualized and rejected by women who figured or feared I’d cheat on them or leave them for a man. This has forced me to confront the deeply internalized idea that my sexuality is somehow less real: that I’m really just a heteroflexible straight woman who’s one lesbian sleepover experience away from “picking a side” and deciding to either be straight or gay.
Needless to say this is a complete denial of my sexual agency as a bisexual woman: the framing of my sexual desire as something to be forced, swayed, or seduced in one direction or another. It erases the capacity for fluidity that is supposedly so integral to non-straight identities and communities.
The only people who have really affirmed my bisexuality thus far–in either authentic or artificial ways–are cisgender heterosexual men.
Incidentally, this is why I’ve never been with a woman or AFAB femme or genderqueer person: fear following semi-frequent rejection.
I was talking to my best friend, a fellow (gender)queer black femme, about this. She made an important point that we (the queer community) don’t make adequate space for women we’d label as straight to investigate their sexuality and sleep with other women. Take, for example, girl crushes. They often feel like a woman’s expression of desire or attraction for someone of the same gender—a hesitant exploration of queerness—with a big “NO HOMO” disclaimer attached to reinforce heterosexuality.
I hear frequently “I’m so comfortable in my heterosexuality that I can appreciate other women’s beauty.” This is all well and good, and I won’t attempt to dictate anyone’s sexuality, but who are you trying to convince here? Who is the intended audience of that performance? Are you reassuring others as to your identity, or yourself?
For all its supposed liberating and contrarian qualities, the ironic rigidity of queer identities really constrains my ability to freely have sexual relationships with women when and where there might otherwise be interest.
There hasn't been much of a context for me to investigate outside of the “straight/bicurious girl getting turned out” trope—I’m nervous to the point of fear of sexual intimacy with any identity outside of cishetero masculinity. Frankly, I’m scared I’ll be bad at it. But why have I never been afraid of having sex with cisgender men? Where do I learn how to “queer” sex?
There’s infinitely more space for me to learn how to be “good” at heterosexual sex than there is for me to learn how to stimulate a clitoris or please a person with a penis who isn’t a cis man. So much of the cunnilingus narrative I’ve come to understand as a woman who sleeps with cishetero men reinforces hegemonic masculinity: it implicitly equates “real manhood” with your ability to bring your woman to orgasm. This is not a sexual paradigm that I’ve any interest in, and it isn’t one that applies to me.
As we embark on a politiqueer politic of decolonizing gender and sexuality, we ought to be careful with constructing and policing identity boundaries as we imagine new fluidities. Are these liberatory identities or identities that are shaped and either affirmed or rejected by new normativities? How do these imaginaries potentially constrain the kinds of partnerships we actively seek?
Biphobia is a component of monosexism, the structural privileging of behaviors associated with single gender attraction and desire (i.e. being straight or gay). In understanding bisexuality as artificial or less valid than attraction to a single gender, we perpetuate cisheteropatriarchal norms that ultimately call any “deviant” gender or sexuality into question.
This reproduction of whiteness’ gender coloniality has no place in subversive and so-called “radical” politics, particularly when it comes at the expense and exclusion of queers of color.
I’m a lot less pressed about biphobic folks not being into me. My pussy still pops severely with or without their approval.