3 min

From one closet to another

Why many lesbians judge bisexual women

I’m a bisexual woman who mostly dates other women. For the past six months or so, I’ve been seeing a man (“Dan”) I met through work who also identifies as bi. He has mostly been with women but has a boyfriend he’s been dating, though not exclusively or very seriously.

We both want to keep our dating and work relationships separate. Though we work for the same company, we do not work in the same office, so that’s possible. We stay out of the gossip mill.

I’ve met Dan’s boyfriend, who has always been friendly and respectful, as have Dan’s other friends. I always feel welcome and included with them.

The problem lies with my lesbian friends. I cautiously told a couple of them that I was seeing a guy, and I got a boatload of judgment. They cautioned me that “real” lesbians wouldn’t date me anymore, and I have indeed gotten some cold shoulders.

I hate it that I am accepted in the gay community but feel the need to keep my bisexuality a secret within my own community. Whenever I meet a woman I’m interested in, I have to deny my attraction to men or risk being erased from her “possible” list.

This is so unfair! Why is the men’s community so much more open than the women’s? I struggled so to come out as a lesbian. Now that I’ve acknowledged my attraction to both sexes, am I doomed to staying in another closet?

No Lunch in This Town


Dear No Lunch,

I’m glad you’ve written, as I think your concerns are felt by a number of people in your situation.

Even though we are careful to include the “B” in LGBT, bisexuals have a fainter voice in our community than they deserve.

Bis are suspected in both the straight and queer worlds of not being brave enough to really come out, or of being somehow selfish in wanting the perks of the straight world along with the excitement of being sexual outlaws.

For a community born of resistance to judgment, gays and lesbians can be cruelly intolerant of diversity.

Where does this come from? 

Those of you who grew into your sexuality after Stonewall (1969) and its resulting gay Pride movement may not understand how hard your queer elders had to fight for social acceptance, or what this struggle cost many of them. If you think it’s difficult being gay now, listen to the stories of those who lost their families, jobs, homes and sometimes lives to make homosexuality just another option. Given that context, bisexuals who could dodge social censure were easily distrusted.

I don’t condone this attitude, but I do understand it. We’re taught from an early age to distrust and judge other people’s sexuality. We always have a designated pervert to fear and hate. As gays/lesbians became more accepted, kinksters moved into that place. And so it goes.

Why are gay men more inclusive than lesbians?

History addresses this as well. The gay Pride movement grew alongside women’s liberation. We all needed to figure out the interplay of gender and power, and this pitted women against men while we sorted it out.

While Dworkinesque philosophy promoted isolation from men as an acceptable resolution, lesbians’ heterosexual sisters had to learn to separate issues from relationships, oppression from oppressors. Remember, it was primarily straight women who converted their macho men into SNAGs (sensitive new-age guys) and raised the generation of boys who are now feminist men.

Still, it was a long, hard struggle for lesbians to establish their own vibrant, connected community. Women who love women viewed those who continued to relate to men romantically with suspicion and sometimes derision, not realizing the problem was primarily social rather than sexual.

We don’t choose our orientation, nor can we control or direct our desire. As simple as this seems, it is a complex concept to understand. Sometimes we see wolves in the woods where there are none.

Then again, though lesbians must deal with an epidemic of herpes, they’ve skirted AIDS. Many still see it as a gay man’s disease and believe limiting sexual contact to the distaff side will protect them.  While untrue, it is understandable.

Why are gay men more accepting?

Because men’s sexual orientation is less fluid than women’s, and because gay men outnumber gay women two to one, they have a larger, more cohe-sive community. Women are seen as allies and friends, not threats. Because sex is not an issue, genuine, uncomplicated affection can develop.

Given this climate, it’s unsurprising that men accept dalliances with women, judged as individuals rather than representatives from a hostile camp. We would all do well to take a leaf from this book.

The solution? Not until all sexuality is accepted will sexual diversity be embraced.

Personally, you can help this happen by being proud of your bisexuality, and by reassuring your lesbian sisters that your desire for men is compatible with your support for them. Keep kicking open closet doors until we all accept sexuality for the beautiful kaleidoscope that it is.