Are you bisexual? Congratulations! It’s amazing, despite the occasional (okay, frequent) bouts of imposter syndrome that often enjoy creeping into any queer person’s brain. And while there’s no one way to be bisexual (the LGBTQ+ spectrum is, in fact, a spectrum), I’ve found that many bi people, myself included, have experienced some form of feeling “not queer enough.”
If you can relate, know that your feelings about being a “queer imposter” say less about you and more about our historically heteronormative environment. Bierasure, or bisexual invisibility, is a very real issue in which the existence of a person’s bisexuality is questioned, mislabeled, or straight-up snubbed. And the pervasiveness of this unfortunate social phenomenon can happen in subtle (but v frustrating) ways.
When I grew up there were virtually no three-dimensional queer characters on TV. The glossy magazines that slipped into the hands of teen girls (Tiger Beat, J-14, you remember) were painfully heteronormative and made it seem like crushing on the opposite gender was the only course of action. At my high school, the two gay boys were stereotyped, the one lesbian ostracized. Forget anything in between. And so, I did what I thought all “normal girls” were supposed to do—I pursued boys.
But in retrospect, the crushes I felt toward those who weren’t cishet males were equally frequent, just as deliciously lucid as the ones I experienced with those who were. I’m confident that my first inkling of bisexuality happened when I was 15 and at a sleepaway theatre camp, a breeding ground for sexual awakenings. I befriended a girl in my cast, and her frosty blue eyes and mermaid-length hair ignited foreign feelings of both desire and admiration. We spent nearly every afternoon with one another, sharing Chipwiches at the Canteen and counting stars from the picnic tables during evening rec. I knew she was crushing on one of the boys in our play, so I was nonplussed when she mentioned her ex-girlfriend.
“Wait a minute,” I said, brimming with internalized biphobia and heteronormativity. “You can like both?”
“Well, yeah,” she said. And while my ignorance likely shattered any remaining chance I had with her, something inside me began to shift. Though it would take me years to finally work up the courage to date girls, in the back of my mind, I knew I had the option. It wasn’t until a few years ago, after a gut-wrenching breakup with a man, that I decided to translate my bi-curiosities into action and start dating women. Through sex-positive dating apps, threesomes, and conversations with my newly formed bi community, I learned that sexuality was more nuanced and fluid than I had ever imagined.
And yet, when I started dating a cishet man (again), I began to wonder if my queerness was no longer valid. Perhaps the media had been right and my bisexuality really was just a phase. I no longer believe this, but all of that internalized biphobia really got to me.
Fortunately, I had already built a community of fluid folks, many of whom were also still navigating their place within the LGBTQ+ spectrum. Over mimosas and through DMs with other queer friends, I’ve learned that I was not alone. “Queer imposter syndrome” or feeling “not queer enough” affects more than just bisexual people, though that’s where most of my familiarity with it lies. Even the LGBTQ+ community, as wonderful as it is, often contributes to feelings of imposter syndrome through forms of “gatekeeping” or suggesting that a person needs to behave a certain way in ordered to identify as queer.
Unfortunately, this combo of gatekeeping and bierasure are major contributions to imposter syndrome. Maybe you think your sexuality is less valid because your partner is straight, or because you’ve never hooked up with someone of the same sex. Maybe you’ve simply internalized the (very false) notion that bisexuality is nonexistent/a phase/insert other annoying and harmful descriptors. In whatever case, don’t believe it, bb. Bisexuality is simply being attracted not exclusively to people of one particular gender, and these other genders could include people of the opposite sex, the same sex, or non-binary or trans folks. You don’t need to hook up with anyone or date anyone to prove this attraction, because queerness isn’t defined by our relationships or our actions. It’s about our values, our identity, and how we choose to show up in this world.
That said, imposter syndrome suuuuucks and is often linked to depression and anxiety, so it’s important to take it seriously. I’m only one queer person with one experience. Yet, I want to share some of the things that have helped me cope with not feeling enough and that have encouraged me to embrace my beautiful fluidity.
Be skeptical of the stereotypes.
Like many (if not all) groups on the LGBTQ+ spectrum, bisexual people are often lumped into troublesome stereotypes. They are often labeled as exceptionally horny or more likely to cheat; our bisexuality is dismissed as a phase or being secretly gay. Even seemingly harmless stereotypes or microaggressions (like asking someone how they know they’re queer if they’ve never hooked up with someone of the same sex) can make you feel less valid in your sexuality.
Ask yourself where you first heard this messaging and if it’s trustworthy. Most of the time, we learn of these stereotypes from television or word-of-mouth from someone who doesn’t know what TF they are talking about.
Comparison is the thief of queer joy.
If you’re newly stepping into your bisexuality, there’s a chance you’ll compare the attraction you feel toward same-sex, trans, or gender-fluid folks to the desire you’ve previously felt to cis people of the opposite sex. If these attractions don’t feel similar, you might question your bisexuality. For example, when I went on my first real date with a woman, I also experienced waves of kinship and admiration that I hadn’t felt when I dated men. These foreign feelings sent me into a tailspin, and I thought, “maybe I don’t wanna make out with her.” (Spoiler alert: I did, we hooked up, and it was great.)
Remind yourself that bisexuality isn’t a combination of hetero and homosexuality—bisexuality, and any identity on the LGBTQ+, is its own very cool and unique thing. Ditch the comparison and be proud of yourself for being your own brand of queer.
Find ways to build your queer community.
I’m not saying you need to go to a Pride event, get drunk on rainbow cocktails, and make out with as many people as you can find. (Though TBH that sounds sort of fun.) I mean get out there, either digitally or IRL, and try to connect with other bi or queer people who can empathize with your experience.
Though Instagram certainly has its shortcomings, social media is a tool for expanding your network and bearing witness to the various looks, lifestyles, and relationship configurations within the queer community. (@shegotthepink, @haleyjakobson, @most, @gabalexa and my account @cozycaravan are all very safe spaces for bi people!) Personally, I’m a fan of bi Reddit—it’s a super supportive online community where you can sync up with other bi ppl who will validate your experience. (Plus online anonymity gives off major Gossip Girl vibes.)
If you’re ready to connect with people in the real world, then reach out to trusted friends or people you know in the queer community and see if they want to hang. When I started coming to terms with my sexuality, I realized that there were so many other queer folks out there who could empathize with my negative self-talk. We were able to validate one another, and then, in turn, ourselves.
Tell the haters in your head to fuck off.
Okay, I know it sounds cliché and a little annoying—but you’ve got to validate yourself. Combating negative self-talk is a practice, so try to get into the habit of acknowledging any self-criticism. When you have a thought in your head telling you that you aren’t queer or bi “enough,” take a step back and say something like “That’s interesting. Why do I believe that?”
If therapy is available to you, finding a queer-affirming therapist or counselor can be wildly beneficial in building tools so that you can start to collect more methods in coping with bouts of imposter syndrome. I’ve also found comfort in unlearning my internalized biphobia by consuming books, films, and television shows with nuanced, queer characters. Euphoria, Feel Good, Insecure, and Crazy Ex-Girlfriend are all examples of shows that are demonstrating a more fluid (and honest) portrayal of queerness and bisexuality.
I’ve found that approaching my negative self-talk with curiosity rather than judgment or shame offered some emotional distance from the thoughts, and allowed me to redirect my thoughts towards something validating.
Ignore this entire list.
Honestly, ignore all of the advice I just gave you. I’m just one person and only know so much about being bisexual. You could literally do nothing on this list and still be “bi enough.” There are no benchmarks for queerness, only queer people. In whatever messy, fluid, and beautiful ways we might exist.
Images: Sharon McCutcheon / Unsplash