Guest post

Guest post: exploring your queer identity as a bisexual person

I first encountered biphobia before I was even out to myself and a woman at a gay bar in Montreal asked my sexual orientation. When I said I wasn’t sure, she scoffed and said women who “weren’t sure” always defaulted back to men. (Ma’am, who hurt you?) It bothered me at the time, but I didn’t know why.

Now I’m proudly bisexual. I’m also in a relationship with a cisgender man, and there’s been no revelation that I was straight all along. In fact, it’s made the need to connect to my queerness stronger–not to compensate or prove something, but to nurture parts of myself that are vital to who I am, regardless of my partner.

When I asked other friends in “straight-passing” relationships, they said the same thing. They want to express and explore their queer identity, but aren’t sure how. It can be a challenge for any 2SLGBTQ+ person, but especially for those who feel excluded by others in the queer community or erased by the world at large. So how can you engage with and cultivate your queerness? With some exploration, I’ve found ways to embrace, as bell hooks put it, “the self that is at odds with everything around it.”

Engage with queer art. 

Nurture yourself with 2SLGBTQ+ culture. Read works written by queer folks about queer folks (fan fiction counts). Watch movies or shows where 2SLGBTQ+ people are realized characters who aren’t killed off for the drama. Listen to queer music artists. Hang queer art on your walls. You might even be inspired to create for yourself!

Learn about queer history.

Queer history is your history! Deepen your connection to yourself by reading up on 2SLGBTQ+ events and people from the past. Understanding queer history in Canada and globally can help you appreciate how far we’ve come—and understand where we need to go.

Volunteer for a cause.

If you have the privilege of time and energy, putting it to use helping an 2SLGBTQ+ cause is a worthy and warming use of it. There are lots of non-profits focused on a variety of queer causes, so find one that speaks to you and put yourself out there. 

Find personalized community spaces.

My boyfriend, best friend, and I play video games together. One game we like allows you to add a Pride flag charm to your character’s outfit. When you see other players wearing the Pride charm, it’s customary to do a little dance by crouching to acknowledge each other. The tiny spark I feel as I tap the CTRL key—I see you!—is weird and special.

Participating in queer spaces can be affirming and validating when you find ones that suit you. Luckily, the recent Zoom boom (sorry), means events are becoming more accessible for all. Organizations like Spectrum have support groups online and off, and also host seminars and social events. So get out there and find your own video game Pride charm crouch dance!

Riley Wignall is a writer and a total nerd from Waterloo, currently being queer as h*ck in Hamilton, Ontario.

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Guest Post: performing bisexuality for others

This month’s guest post was written by Julia Cowderoy.

When I was 19 I posted a status on Facebook that said “when people ask me about my sexuality, I’m just going to start saying my thirst knows no bounds’. While that’s obviously hilarious I understand now that I was using humour as a faux shield against any kind of scrutiny (real or imagined). During this time I felt I had to “prove” my bisexuality in order for it to be valid. The irony of writing an essay to prove that I don’t have to prove anything is not lost on me, but just bear with me. 

I’ve realized that not feeling “queer enough” is a common theme within the bisexual community. Why is that? I’ve noticed that bisexual men are assumed to be gay, whereas bisexual women are painted with a broad brush as straight girls who drunkenly make-out with their friends for the enjoyment of their googly-eyed yokel boyfriends. In both instances, the attraction of men is the underlying motivation for expressions of sexuality.  

While I can’t wholly speak to the experiences of bisexual men, I will say that I’ve had straight men view my sexuality as a performance for their pleasure. (“Performance” is a useful word because it implies we are actors and bisexuality needs to look a certain way in order for it to be valid.) While trying to come to terms with my own sexuality I was influenced more by external sources than I understood at the time. 

I’ve had people in my life question my sexuality because I’ve never dated a woman, and recently my best friend even told me I was “90% into men”. She didn’t mean this maliciously; I’ve only dated men, so the judgement was based more on how I’ve presented than how I feel. The reality is that my attraction to people is more fluid rather than a rigid percentage. This interaction sent me into an anxiety spiral wondering if I was just cosplaying as a bisexual person this entire time.

When I volunteered with Big Brothers Big Sisters as a peer mentor, I encouraged conversations about gender and sexuality. I marvelled at how accepting much of this younger generation is of sexuality and how they realize it isn’t static and doesn’t need to appear a certain way to be real. When I was that age I thought sexuality was something predetermined and permanent, and as such I had a lot of confusion surrounding my attraction to women since I considered myself straight. 

I’ve come a long way in understanding my sexuality, but there is still work to be done. I hope as a society we can come to a place of understanding that sexuality and gender are more complex than scientific definitions. And, like any sexuality, bisexuality isn’t some hypothesis that needs to be tested, experimented, cross-examined and held to rigorous scientific standards — it simply exists.

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Early in 2021, SPECTRUM surveyed our volunteers, program participants and the community at large. We heard from several people who self-identified as asexual, aromantic, bisexual, and/or pansexual that they sometimes felt “not queer enough” to attend Pride events or visit LGBTQ2+ spaces. Wanting to do a better job of understanding the needs of traditionally underserved members of LGBTQ2+ communities, SPECTRUM partnered with the Waterloo Region Rainbow Coalition (WRRC) to run three focus groups during Pride month:

• June 8, 7-8:30pm: “Not Queer Enough” (Ace/Aro)
• June 15, 7-8:30pm: “Not Queer Enough” (Bi/Pan)
• June 22, 7-8:30pm: “Not Queer Enough” (Ace/Aro and/or Bi/Pan)

We would like to thank all of those who took part in these discussions for their willingness to be open and honest about their experiences, and for providing ideas on how organizations like SPECTRUM and WRRC can work to improve queer spaces in our community for bisexual, pansexual, asexual, and aromantic people. The information we gathered will help to inform the development of future events, programs and services.


14 people participated across the three group sessions. They identified themselves as: Aromantic, Asexual x4, Bisexual x10, Transgender, Non-binary x2, Queer x5, Pansexual, Omnisexual, Demisexual, Demigirl, Other.

1. Have you ever been told that you are not “really” queer or not “queer enough” to be in a queer space because of being Ace/Aro/Bi/Pan? (Yes/No)
11 of the 14 participants answered “yes” to this question.

2. Have you ever thought about leaving or chosen not to attend a space because you did not feel welcomed/safe/included because you are Ace/Aro/Bi/Pan? (Yes/No)
11 of the 14 participants answered “yes” to this question.

3. What contributes to LGBTQ2+ spaces feeling unsafe? Unwelcoming? Exclusive?
Many of the participants shared very difficult memories about feeling unsafe or unwelcome in LGBTQ2+ spaces. Some noted that because of this history they now assume queer spaces are unsafe unless proven otherwise. Some noted that while the organization providing the space claims to be welcoming, other participants are not. Frequently, people make the assumption that everyone is interested in sexual or romantic relationships. The language they use and questions they ask exclude asexual and aromantic people. The often used Pride slogan “love is love” excludes many people.

Amatonormativity is the assumption that the traditional view of romantic relationships: a monogamous relationship where the parties are married, live together, and have children in a nuclear household, is the highest form of satisfaction one can achieve in life, and that all people strive for this type of relationship.

Some participants noted a lack of understanding of what bisexuality is. Sometimes people make the assumption that if someone is married they cannot be bisexual. Some participants who are in “straight-passing” relationships feel they cannot attend events or activities with their partners. They are assumed not to be queer couples. Participants with children noted similar assumptions — their families were seen as “not queer”. A strong theme amongst participants was a feeling that their individual identities were dismissed or doubted based on current relationship and/or family status.

4. In what types of spaces do you most commonly experience not feeling welcomed / safe / included?
Some participants noted that online queer spaces were especially unwelcoming and even hostile towards asexual, aromantic, non-binary, and trans people.

Many participants shared that sometimes a space is labelled “queer” or for “LGBTQ2+ people” but the reality of their experience in those spaces is that they are really just for gay men or lesbians. Some people use “gay” and “LGBT” interchangeably which means that bisexual and trans people will show up to an event and find themselves excluded.

5. What contributes to spaces feeling welcoming? Safe? Inclusive?
Participants noted the need for explicit signage and symbols in queer spaces that identifies them as welcoming to bisexual, pansexual, asexual, and aromantic people. This might include flags, posters, and written statements. Participants noted that these explicit symbols must be coupled with education so that people understand bisexual, pansexual, asexual, and aromantic identities and do not use language that excludes them.

6. How can community organizations better serve you and reduce barriers to inclusion?
• Participants noted the need for bisexual and pansexual groups and activities to be created and offered by organizations like SPECTRUM. Participants also noted the need for groups and activities for racialized queer people.

• Participants shared that they would love to see inclusive queer parenting groups or activities. Groups with names like “queer moms” can be unwelcoming for trans people, and they exclude non-binary parents.

• Participants noted that groups for people questioning their sexuality or gender identity could be helpful.

• Participants suggested “living library” events where attendees could ask questions of people with various identities to help with understanding. They also suggested having “ambassadors” of various identities to welcome participants to new spaces or events.

• The suggestion to provide educational events or sessions to help people understand bisexual, pansexual, asexual, and aromantic identities was made.

After one of the sessions, we received feedback that polyamorous people are another underrepresented community. For some, their polyamorous identity is inextricably linked to their queerness.

The above is just a summary of some of the key points captured in these focus groups. Before the end of each session, the participants approved notes taken during the discussion. To view the complete notes please click on each session below.

• June 8, 7-8:30pm: “Not Queer Enough” (Ace/Aro)
• June 15, 7-8:30pm: “Not Queer Enough” (Bi/Pan)
• June 22, 7-8:30pm: “Not Queer Enough” (Ace/Aro and/or Bi/Pan)

Once again, SPECTRUM and WRRC thank all those who participated in these valuable discussions. The comments and suggestions made are already being taken into consideration in discussions of programming and service offerings, and of the design of our physical spaces. We encourage other organizations to make use of the feedback generously provided by the participants of these discussions to support safer, more welcoming, and inclusive queer spaces.

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IDAHOTB 2021: Together resisting, Supporting, and Healing

IDAHOTB 2021: Together resisting, Supporting, and Healing

Created in 2004, the International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia, and Biphobia exists to draw attention to the violence and discrimination experienced by LGBTQ2+ people. It is observed on May 17th to commemorate the World Health Organization’s declassification of homosexuality as a mental disorder, which did not occur until 1990.

While strides have been made with regard to equality for people with marginalized sexual orientations, LGBTQ2+ people still do not have equal rights. And while people have grown more accustomed to gay and lesbian relationships, discrimination against Bisexual and Pansexual people is still shockingly rampant. Bisexual people experience higher rates of violence and are less likely to receive critical health screenings than gay men and lesbians.

People attracted to multiple genders also have much lower social support than gay men and lesbians. Bisexual people are significantly less likely to be out to everyone in their lives. There is also still widespread distrust of Bisexual and Pansexual people as potential romantic partners, even within the LGBTQ2+ community. This inter-LGBTQ2+ discrimination means that Bisexual and Pansexual people both experience more severe marginalization and have less access to the social support needed to deal with that marginalization.

The escalation of hateful rhetoric over the “trans debate” in the United States and the UK is another painful reminder of how far we still have to go. Politicians fan the flames of transgender and non-binary hatred by “debating” their existence and pushing legislation aimed at banning them from public spaces and public life.

In the United States, more than 100 anti-trans bills have been proposed in 33 states banning things like trans participation in sports or even transition-related medical care. And while Canada, a notable haven for “rainbow refugees” and one of the first countries to legalize marriage equality, conversion “therapy” is still legal in half of the provinces.

There is no scientific evidence that a person’s gender or sexual orientation can be changed through “therapy”, and a wealth of evidence to support that people who experience conversion “therapy” experience lasting and irreparable harm. A third of men who survive conversion “therapy” go on to attempt suicide. And yet, there are federal MPs who are currently advocating against efforts to fully outlaw this outdated and unspeakably cruel practice.

This May 17th, LGBTQ2+ people need your support more than ever. LGBTQ2+ people have disproportionately suffered the economic and health impacts of COVID 19, and are doing their best to get by during a cultural moment in which it’s seen as acceptable to debate their very existence. So please ask yourself: what direct action can I take to support LGBTQ2+ people in my community, and what might that look like?

Whatever you decide, remember that silence is not an option if you truly care about the safety and well-being of LGBTQ2+ people in your community.

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