I love my partner, so why can't I call him my boyfriend?

the voice and vision of a new generation
Photo credit: Miles Joyner

I love my partner, so why can't I call him my boyfriend?

February 15, 2018

My partner's name is Chris. Chris and I met on Tinder in 2015 a little while after I found myself on the bad side of a breakup. I had downloaded Tinder, and other dating apps like Brenda and LezPark, hoping to finally break my long running pattern of dating men. I've been out as bisexual since I was 15 and now at 22 I have yet to actually have a relationship, or anything really, with a woman.

I went on a grand total of 4 dates with women and women-aligned individuals before going on my first date with Chris, and, almost 3 years later—well, here we are.

I love this man with every fiber of my being. I wear a promise ring to show that, but something is wrong with our relationship that I often try to ignore.

Being with Chris makes me feel like a bad bisexual.

I hesitate to use the term “boyfriend” when talking about our relationship in queer spaces. I use “partner” frequently, as a way to disguise the fact that I am in what’s seen as a heteronormative relationship from my queer community.

I'm not ashamed of him—he's my biggest ally and my strongest supporter. I will never view him as the cause of my struggles with my identity. Rather, I view my journey with these struggles as the symptom of a much larger and consistent force in the lives of bisexuals engaging in heteronormative-appearing relationships.

I have spent years of my life swimming in a sea of stereotype-fueled accusations and constant questioning; so much so, I've begun to question and doubt myself. I've internalized the very same gaslighting and biphobia I work so hard to fight. Despite my activity in queer communities, I don't feel like I have a right to take up space in them. All because I’m dating a man.

Honestly, I wish I had the ultimate answer on how to maintain queerness in relationships assumed as heteronormative. As a bisexual struggling with their own erasure and internalized biphobia, I have some guidelines I follow to reaffirm my identity within myself, because without community, bisexuals have nothing.

Here are my five pointers:

1. Absorb and collect the art, media, articles, and general content that features bisexuality or is created by bisexual people. Immersion in bisexual content is not only chicken soup for the bisexual soul, but helps with overall visibility and financial backing for bisexuals, themselves, a community that receives practically no funding. By staying current with all forms of bisexual content, you'll not only feel connected to the community, but you'll be helping other bisexuals along the way.

2. Use your voice. Bisexual communities don’t often have the resources to make our own physical spaces, so we do what we can to thrive in the spaces where our voices are often ignored, or we are simply scared to use them to promote our issues and our needs. We need visibility, and if you can provide just a small amount of it, it will mean the world to the larger population.

3. Be willing to educate your partner regarding the issues facing the bisexual community. Let them know about the disparities that will affect you, and the way in which certain language, actions, and beliefs negatively affect you. I wrote a piece on how partners should work to validate the identities of their BTQIAP+ partners in order to properly support them, but ultimately your willingness to educate your partner should be a starting point for their own independent research into your community.

4. I’ve felt strongly about for a while - bisexuals need to take their different gendered partner to LGBTQIAP+ Pride events. I don’t mean take them and blend into the crowd of allies and confused pedestrians. I mean take your different-gendered partner, wear your bi-pride loudly and proudly (if it is safe for you to do so in such a public space), and take up the space that you deserve as a member of the LGBTQIAP+ community. Do not let yourself be erased in these spaces. Remember, a bisexual woman organized the first pride parade. You are, and always will be, queer enough to go to Pride (and if you still don’t feel queer enough after reading that sentence, I’ve got some more tips for you).

5. Please continue to challenge the ways in which you view your own bisexuality. Refuse to allow yourself to internalize the gaslighting and biphobia we continue to receive. Actively work to undo the beliefs that have already affected the way in which you view yourself. Don’t hide yourself away from the larger bisexual community just because of the gender of your partner, and don’t allow your partner to erase your bisexual identity against your consent. We need bisexuals to be visible, the community relies on visibility and is still struggling to get it. Your visibility, and your self-love, might be what another bisexual needs to see to embrace their truth in a way they’ve otherwise been scared to do.

Remember, you’re still bi, no matter what.

Miles Joyner is a GLAAD Campus Ambassador and senior at the University of South Carolina where they are studying History. Miles is the creator of Miles the Bisexual and also leads a monthly Bi+ 101 class open to the public.

the voice and vision of a new generation