the voice and vision of a new generation

What it's like dating while bisexual on a historically conservative campus

September 20, 2019

Being bisexual often makes me feel as though I’m always trying to balance the scales of queer and non-queer presentation when I’m in public. I’m constantly thinking about my presentation, and whether I am visibly queer to the people around me. I love being queer and make a conscious effort to be visible; both to attract any queer classmates around me as possible friends and to shut down this same possibility with anyone who might have a problem with my queerness. I have found that since starting school at Texas A&M, a historically conservative campus, this scale of presentation has only grown more erratic. 

The year prior to me starting school, A&M topped a national ranking of the most conservative student populations. This only added to my pre-existing fear about how I would be perceived on campus. While I have fortunately not experienced much outward homophobia on campus, I do still feel like I am trying to walk the line every day of trying to be visibly queer to other queer students while not inviting negativity from the more conservative part of the student population. I’ve found that this issue becomes even more complicated when it comes to dating.

Almost immediately after starting my first year at A&M, I entered a committed relationship with another woman. This was exciting for me for a number of reasons, but it also brought on a lot of anxiety for both of us - especially when it came to PDA (public displays of affection). I  wanted people around me to know I wasn’t straight, but PDA with my girlfriend was more visible than I had ever been before, and I began to notice the subtle ways that the more conservative side of the student body made itself known. One of the more ‘harmless’ ways were the looks that we would get when walking across campus holding hands. One time a woman yanked her child away from us, as if we were contagious. Perhaps the most brazen way was when our peers  heckled at us when we kissed at a football game. 

Dating her made me feel simultaneously “queer enough” in a way I hadn’t felt in previous relationships with cis men, and suddenly “too queer” for a lot of my classmates. Our relationship guaranteed queer visibility but also increased our fear of experiencing open homophobia. Of course, dating a woman is not a requirement for me (or anyone) to be queer, it just helped me deal with and unlearn some of my internalized biphobia at the time.

Now that I am single again and trying to get back into casual dating, I’m finding myself trying to combat the idea that I have to experience a certain type of attraction to be considered queer enough. Though I know that bisexuality means being attracted to genders like my own and genders unlike my own, I still feel guilty - like I’m letting down my queer community - when I am attracted to or go out on dates with cis men. I find myself worrying that if I mention a guy I’m talking to in a conversation with someone who doesn’t know me well, they will make false assumptions about my sexual orientation. I have also found myself worrying about the potential of me trying to date someone who - albeit unintentionally - will make me feel uncomfortable or bad about my identity. I am constantly over-thinking and planning my interactions, and it can get tiring. I’ve tried to limit this by finding ways to bring up my bisexuality early on in conversation, or by putting it and my pronouns on online dating profiles, but I still often find it difficult to feel at ease. 

I don’t know exactly how much of this discomfort is caused by my college environment, but it is a significant contributing factor. However, the more visibly queer people and queer allies there are in an environment, the more likely that same environment will become more accepting of these identities. Although I do not fully know how to approach this issue in a way that benefits both me and the community of students around me, I hope that by trying my best to be unapologetic about my sexuality I am helping in some small way. 

Dorothy McIntush is a GLAAD Campus Ambassador and a senior at Texas A&M University studying English with a minor in Computer Science. She is involved with feminist activist groups on campus and works with Young Dems to register local voters.

the voice and vision of a new generation