No, We’re Not All “A Little Bit Gay”
A couple of days ago, I was having a conversation with one of the women I live with.
We were talking about LGBTQ culture. I haven’t lived with her long; in fact, she just moved in about a month ago, so we haven’t had much of a chance to get to know each other too deeply. And actually, that’s how the conversation came about — because as we were laughing and joking about our past relationships, it occurred to me suddenly that she had no idea I was bisexual. The whole time she had been telling me horror stories of old boyfriends and crushes and asking me if I had stories about my weird ex-boyfriends. Suddenly, the heteronormativity of her questions became clear. Ex-boyfriends? How could she assume I had only dated guys?
Part of me did not want to fault her for this. She grew up in a very small, conservative town where she had little to no exposure to LGBTQ culture, and she only recently had begun to step out into a more diverse environment — after all, she just moved to the city recently. I decided that it was the fault of ignorance for letting this happen; not just her ignorance, but the ignorance of her town, her family, and society for not educating more about LGBTQ culture.
Luckily, she is in no way homophobic, and actually has quite liberal, progressive views for someone coming out of such a staunchly conservative family (all of her relatives are voting for Trump, which speaks for itself). So when I informed her that I was bisexual, she was actually extremely enthusiastic and accepting. “I don’t know if I’ve ever really met someone who was bi before,” she said. “I mean, I had a really close friend at my school who was gay, but he was, like, one of the only ones. I’m sure there were more, but my town wasn’t exactly accepting of that stuff.” And yeah, I could have guessed that.
I explained to her how I was bisexual with a preference for men, and how my attraction to women was mostly physical rather than emotional or romantic. I talked about how in the past, I’ve only had relationships with men, and I have yet to meet a woman who I feel interested in being in a relationship with (rather than just casually dating). She was totally invested in the conversation and since she hadn’t learned much about bisexuality before, she apparently was not aware that bisexual people could have a preference for a specific gender or that bisexuality was more of a spectrum rather than a 50/50 pie chart.
But one thing that she said stuck out to me: after I got done explaining how I was mostly physically attracted to women but physically and emotionally attracted to men, she said, “Yeah, but aren’t we all? I mean, all women are a little bit gay, right? That’s what my friends and I always say.”
Not wanting to react too quickly, I asked her to clarify. “What do you mean by that?” I asked.
She shrugged. “Just that I feel like most women are attracted to each other. I mean, I’ve only talked to a handful of girls who aren’t attracted to girls sometimes. So, like, we’re all a little bit gay, I think. Or a little bit bi, I guess.”
I wasn’t mad at my roommate for saying this. Mostly I was curious. Curious about who had put this idea in her head in the first place, and curious how we lived in a society that allowed this narrative to persist without being addressed. Because it wasn’t the first time I had heard someone say something like this. We’re all a little gay has been a notion passed around by the heterosexual population for ages.
And here’s my take on it: we’re not all “a little bit gay.” We’re either LGBTQ, or we’re not. Saying that we’re “all a little bit gay” delegitimizes and diminishes the LGBTQ community and all of the struggles that we’ve gone through to get where we are today. Saying that we’re “all a little bit gay” seems sometimes, to me, as a way for straight people to fit in with being LGBTQ, as if it’s a trend that they can participate in rather than an actual identity and group of people. It’s not some sort of club. It’s who we are. And by continuing to spew messages like these, straight people are turning this into an opportunity for them to once again monopolize the movement. The bottom line is this: if you’re experiencing attraction for another gender or more than one gender, that’s not being “a little bit gay,” that’s being LGBTQ. It’s more than just looking at a woman and thinking she’s pretty or developing a “man-crush” on a guy you admire and wish you could be. It is true attraction felt in any sense. And when it is felt, it’s not just being “a little bit gay.” It is so much more.
Now, to clarify: there are plenty of straight people out there who do not have this narrative. There are plenty of wonderful straight allies who seek to uplift and support the LGBTQ community rather than invalidate it in any way. And I’m not directing this message towards any of them. I’m directing it, respectfully, to the people who still believe “we’re all a little gay” is a truthful statement and continue to talk about it.
I’m not mad at any of these people. I’m not angry at my roommate for what she said. I’m not even annoyed. I’m just in awe. It’s completely unacceptable that we live in a society that allows this to go on, and yet in some ways it’s also totally believable because we still have so much work to do as far as acceptance, justice and education in this world (and especially in this country). It inspires me to have more open discussions like the ones I had with my roommate. It inspires me to share my experiences with others and encourage my LGBTQ friends and family to share theirs. It makes me realize that there is still so much about the LGBTQ community is misunderstood.
We deserve better. So let’s move forward — and unapologetically demand something better.