June is Pride Month, and as most of you know, it’s in June because that’s when the uprising at the Stonewall Inn occurred. Of all the of the important lessons to learn from that watershed moment for the modern queer rights movement, the biggest may be its proof that visibility is key to our progress and our future.
I was born gay. In retrospect, everyone in my life agrees: I was gay from jump. But all that behavior, aka my personality, was discouraged. I was systematically taught to hide that part of me, to create my closet. Closets may as well be coffins for what they do to us and make us do to each other.
When we come out, often it is not all at once. We have to come out again and again throughout our lives. To sexual partners, friends, family, coworkers and eventually the world. Hopefully, you reach a point that you are mostly just out all the time and that is your life: A state of visibility.
The experiences of visibility are vastly different among LGBTQ people. For me, I feel as out as I have ever been in my life. I’m nightly talking about my life as a queer person at comedy shows, but I still have people tell me they were surprised that I was gay after shows, or that I don’t act “gay,” which is not the compliment they think it is.
For the record, I think I am very obviously gay. My father used to tell me I had “Flamboyant Hand Gesture Syndrome” as a child. Any time I’m talking, my hands are like two hummingbirds trying to escape my body.
And make no mistake: It’s not just straight people who fall all over themselves when they meet a queer person who doesn’t fit their stereotype to a tee. We run this game on each other within the queer community, most frequently on folks who identify as bisexual.
Many people on the queer spectrum love to tell bisexual people about themselves. Maybe it’s because some of us or someone we knew identified as bisexual on our way to how we now identify. Maybe it’s because we think our “gaydar” is never wrong. Most commonly, it happens because the bisexual person is not in a same sex relationship.
Often, the word ‘visibility’ fails bisexual people. Somehow queer people have assumed agency of what it means to be visibly bisexual. We act as if bisexuality is somehow the tableside guacamole of sexuality, and we all are entitled to sit back while they prove they are actually bi while we sip on margs and judge.
The number of bisexuals who are out is growing, and it looks much like the rest of the LGBTQ queer alphabet looks: not like the majority’s stereotypes of us. Sometimes bisexuality is going to appear heteronormative, but to treat a person who identifies as bisexual who is not in a same-sex relationship as straight makes a queer person the instrument of enforcing the hetero norm.
Instead, embrace that person as part of the community. Know that by their visibility, our numbers are increasing. Just because you think their presentation is straight, expand your mind on what it means to be queer.
Visibility is about using all your senses, not just your eyes. If they tell you they bi, they bi. K bye.
Ian Aber is a standup comedian, show promoter, columnist and queer culture sponge living in Atlanta. This column was inspired by his talk about femme-hating gays with legendary ‘Kids in the Hall’ comedian Scott Thompson.
This article originally ran in Q magazine. Read the full digital edition below, and pick up your hard copy around town.