Trying to Be Seen: Bi Visibility Day 2015

Wednesday was Bi Visibility Day. It seems to have crept up and gone by fairly unnoticed, even by my fellow queer people. If I did not follow the bisexual subreddit, I probably wouldn’t have known about it. But I’m glad I did. This was the first year I knew about it at all! Even though it was a work night, I wanted to celebrate in some small way.

A couple of weeks ago, I met up with some former coworkers for drinks. None of us worked at the old company any more, and it was nice to catch up and poke fun at the less-than-stellar workplace we had all survived. After some crack at the attractiveness of a person in the office, it came out that I was bi. Most of the table was already aware of this fact except for the girl sitting right across from me. It’s getting easier and easier to say or hear the words out loud, but something still catches in the back of my throat whenever someone new finds out that I like anything other than straight men. Especially a woman. Thankfully, Monique immediately gushed that she too was interested in women, but was having trouble locating the “scene” in the area and finding girls who liked girls to date. In the bar, we downloaded the app Her. It had nothing but rave reviews from the queer women forums I frequent, but I had been hesitant to set up a profile as a bi woman in a non monogamous relationship with a man. I didn’t want to invade on what I perceived to be a lesbian-looking-for-monogamy space. When I viewed the profiles in our area through Monique’s phone, however, I saw that this was not the case and took the plunge myself. I also offered to show Monique the gay bar in our area and take her to the Lady’s Night that happens every Wednesday. She enthusiastically agreed, and I felt a small amount of pride for being able to help another bi woman find her way into the queer community. I don’t know any other women who identify as “bisexual.” I know a few who choose “queer,” as well as a few lesbians, but having someone on my team made me feel less alone.

We made plans for the first Wednesday we both had available, and I realized on Tuesday that this would align with Bi Visibility Day. I excitedly reminded her of our plans, and she confirmed with me. Come the night of the 23rd, however, she cancelled, citing tiredness from work. The bubble of excitement I’d been inflating all day popped. I had worn my subtlety pride-colored shirt and the pink-purple-blue necklace to work, but didn’t feel like I had made myself any more visible today than usual. The shirt is in my normal rotation of work clothing, and I wear the necklace with regularity since receiving it in a recent Reddit gift exchange. I opened up the Her app to see what other women were posting about their Bi Visibility activities. I was gladdened by the official Bi Visibility Day logo at the top of the app feed, but did not see much else about it. I was considering posting about the bar’s Lady’s Night when I saw that someone else already had.

“Anyone down for girls night at [bar] tonight? It’s 18+” – Catarina

I replied, and we made plans to meet at the bar. From her profile, I saw that she was a lesbian studying abroad from Australia with soft, inviting eyes and brown, straight hair framing smooth olive skin and a playful smirk. She was five years my junior, but I was intrigued. I ordered my ride on my phone before I could convince myself out of it.

At the bar, I got a drink and settled in at a table, trying my best to exude confidence and total comfort in being at a bar by myself. The dance area behind me was empty, but there was a few groups milling around the bar. I slyly investigated the people around me, but in the dim light it was hard to tell who was who. In my last message, I had told Caterina what I would be wearing, so I waited to be seen.

After twenty minutes, I decided to take a lap of the place. As I was headed towards the door, I heard my name being called from a table fifteen feet from where I had been sitting. I turned to meet Caterina and her roommate Alex, who Caterina introduced as “the supportive straight friend.” I joined them at their table and ran through the general getting-to-know-you questions as the place began to fill with people.

I couldn’t help but bring up the fact that it was Bi Visibility Day. If I couldn’t say it aloud here, to another member of the queer community, who would I be seen by? Neither women knew “that was a thing,” and I admitted that I only knew because of my subscriptions to various bi media.

“The Her app had an official feed question about it, but that was pretty much all I saw,” I continued. “A lot of gay men and lesbians don’t like to include bisexual people. Or like them at all.” I was taking the chance that Caterina was not one of that group. I figured she had glanced at my profile, and she had not recoiled on the reveal of my bisexuality.

“I don’t understand why people in the gay community insist on being against on of our own!” she said with feeling. “We get enough shit from the rest of the world without throwing it at each other.”

“Yes, thank you!” The small amount of empathy in her automatic inclusion touched me. I wondered if the gay community was different in Australia. Perhaps biphobia wasn’t a problem there. Or maybe she had just not encountered it as a lesbian. I told her a bit about coming out to my mother recently and becoming more comfortable in my identity. She shared her experience of total rejection from her parents. They had deeply snooped in her life to “catch” her as a lesbian only to reject who she was only days before she came to America.

“When you come out as bi, your parents can still can hope that you’ll end up in a straight relationship,” she sighed. My heart went out to her. I wanted to brush her hair back from her face and hug her close, but I didn’t feel comfortable doing so in front of Alex, who was listening intently. A small, petty part of me wanted to tell her that I was just as likely to marry a woman as I was to marry a man, but I couldn’t. I had known others to say the same phrase in an attempt to point out the privilege I have in being able to “pass” in some of my relationships, as if I could choose who to love. As if I could shrug off my same sex attractions just to convenience myself. But she did not speak from that place. She spoke through the lens of her own recent pain of total rejection, as if she wished she could give her parents any hope at all of being the daughter they had wanted to raise.

Before I could ask her more about it, she shook off whatever emotions she was feeling and looked up to see a couple walking through the door in front of our table. They were in their mid to late forties, and dressed for a club. They entered confidently, in a way that drew attention. The woman was petite with Latino curves that were emphasized by her well fitted dress and low neckline. The man was tall and dark, wearing a black suit. His skin, eyes, and hair were all a deep brown, except for where the last greyed at the temples. His companion gently pulled his arm, and he leaned over to hear what she had to tell him. He nodded, and she made her way into the crowd of the dance floor without him. After scanning the bar area, he approached our table.

I sucked in my breath, waiting for a lecherous line. The last time I had come to this very bar on a Wednesday, I had been approached by an aggressive, pungent older man, and I was expecting more of the same.

“Do you mind if I stand at your table for a minute? My wife is using the bathroom.”

“Uh…” I started, not sure how to say ‘no.’

“Sure!” said Caterina. She leaned forward on the table, friendly and open.

‘I used to be like that,’ I realized with a slight shock. When did I get so automatically defensive? Somewhere between the fifth man not taking a hint and the fiftieth, I imagine.

The man turned out to be Danny, a pilot from New Mexico. He and his wife were just visiting the area, and had chosen this bar because of his wife’s interest in women.

“We’re swingers.” he said unabashedly.

“I’m also in a non monogamous relationship!” I blurted. It was rare that I met anyone offline that had made this sort of relationship work.

We continued to chat as his wife danced closely with multiple women on the dance floor. He revealed himself to be the same age as my mother, but I didn’t see fit to share that with him. The only time his age became a real part of the conversation was when he began asking Caterina and I about how women have sex with each other.

She patiently explained how sex can be performed without a penis, emphasizing the importance of oral sex.

“I don’t really go down on my wife any more. Is that bad? She says she doesn’t need it.”

“That means you’re bad at it!” Caterina proclaimed, laughing at him. I nodded in agreement. “What exactly are you doing?”

“Well, you know, I just go down there and lick around the outer labia, then start kissing her thigh…”

“What?!” Caterina exclaimed.

“The OUTER labia? Around…it?” I repeat, puzzled.

“How can you be forty-eight years old and not know how to give oral?” Caterina continued, sharing in my state of mystification.

“She gets off plenty!” Danny said, trying to regain some of the esteem he’d lost.

“I mean, I believe you,” I said. ‘At least I believe she tells you that,’ I added in my mind. “But you could really improve her experience if you did that…differently.”

“How?”

Caterina began to explain with such a tone of authority that I found myself leaning in to hear her explanations better over the music.

I added in the name of a video I had seen mentioned on several sex forums in which a porn star teaches the audience specific tips and tricks, and illustrates them on another women.

He listened to us, enthralled, and thanked us for our help. His wife emerged from the crowd of dancers, flushed and out of breath. Danny went to join her, thanking us again for our help and handing Caterina his card.

After dancing ourselves for the better part of the night, we waited outside for our ride-share cars. I had suggested we meet again to go to West Hollywood, a gay destination she had been wanting to visit while in America. Though I warned her against being too cavalier with her possessions, I told her of the good experiences I had there even before I turned 21. The events of the night had me seeing things through newer, less cynical eyes. I wanted to see and explore West Hollywood with someone who hadn’t before, someone who had travelled thousands of miles to see it. When their ride arrived, I hugged Caterina goodbye and waved to Alex before heading towards home, grateful that I’d decided against spending the night on my couch.

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