This is the second post in a 2-part series featuring the voices of a diverse sub-group of folks connected with Generous Space. Some are gay, some trans, some queer, bi, or pan, but they share one thing in common: they tend to be mistaken as straight and cisgender at least partly because of the people they’re married to.
You can find Part 1 here.
(For brevity, we’ve condensed responses and/or chosen a representative selection from among the responses for some questions. All emphases/bolding are ours.)
1. What are the biggest advantages of being in a relationship that’s presumed to be straight/cisgender?
One of the advantages is that it can give me access (at least initially) to places/conversation where other queer voices would immediately be shut out. (Jamie, bisexual)
I have so much privilege as a person who is assumed to be straight. I can choose to be known as a queer person or not depending on the safety and comfort of the situation. I will never feel unsafe because I’m holding my partner’s hand in public. I wasn’t forced to come out to my unaffirming family when I discovered I was queer because I was still married to a man. When I do eventually come out to my family, they likely won’t think I’m completely condemned because I will still be married to a man. (Aileen, queer)
I want to say that as a gay man, there are no advantages of being in a straight passing marriage. But I would regret saying that, because I have 4 beautiful children. I hold immense privilege every day “fitting into” a heteronormative world. People do not stare at you in public because you are not, on the outside, part of a minority group. For the most part, I do not have to worry about my safety. (Jordan, gay)
The advantages are mostly social acceptability and the ability to live a “normal” life. I can try to have biological kids with my partner. My partner and I are both welcome and our marriage is acknowledged at most Christian events, family events, events with friends, etc. (though my queerness and the fact that he is a Muslim do still mean that there are Christian spaces where we are not welcome or where our presence makes people uncomfortable). (Tara, bisexual)
Any path with less “resistance” is easier… My wife and I used to go to this hotel in Niagara Falls every Valentine’s Day, then we skipped a year for my transition and surgery. When we went back the year after, we noticed that people were nicer to us, acknowledging our existence by saying hello in hallways. After the trip it hit us both that the only difference was how we presented that time as a cis-straight couple… But I can’t speak to that without also speaking to the discrimination that comes with being in an interracial relationship that is visibly black and Arab. The complexity of intersections is very important. (Caro, trans/queer – see photo)
2. What are the biggest disadvantages?
The only way someone will know about my sexuality is if I tell them (or if they read my blog, lol). This is great because I can hide in plain sight from people who are unsafe, but this privilege is also a disadvantage. Someone can know me very well and not know that I’m bisexual. I don’t want to be in hiding. I constantly have to throw off the weight of people’s assumptions. It gets old real quick. … But perhaps the worst thing is coming out to people and getting poorly thought-out responses like “You’re married, who cares?… What does your husband think of all this?… So are you going to leave your husband?… Are you going to cheat on your husband?” (Bethany, bisexual)
I love the uniqueness of our relationship, but it’s so hard to describe this to people who think we are a “normal” hetero couple. It sometimes feels like you are always keeping a big secret, even though it isn’t a secret, but in order for people to understand you have to do this big reveal every time. (Aleesha, queer)
We’re not fully seen as a couple or individuals; it feels necessary to come out to people in our own community; and we’re sometimes subject to indirect homo/bi/transphobia, because people don’t realize we’re queer and think we’ll sympathize with their prejudices. (Erin, bi/pan – see photo)
It’s hard to feel like you’re fighting to be seen as “legit” in the LGBTQ+ community, while you are also not accepted by the cis/straight world…. People always ask me why I bothered to come out at all, and they always ask me what my husband thinks (which actually feels kind of invasive). I even had one pastor tell me that she would never have expected me to come out because my coming out would hurt my husband. People just assume that my bisexuality must be bad for my marriage… And people in straight-passing marriages can and do still face discrimination for being queer. I got banned from teaching in my church and pushed out of my denomination because I came out as bisexual. My straight-passing marriage didn’t save me from that! (Tara, bisexual)
It is exhausting to have to come out over and over again, to be contradicted about my own identity, to be considered a “safe queer” because my marriage is assumed straight even if I’m not. In queer circles, my partner and I have had folks ask us “What is queer about your relationship,” which is an important and understandable honest question, but it can feel like even if we are accepted as individually queer we still have to justify ourselves in the context of our relationship. (Marie, queer)
When we attended Pride this year, we were so excited because we had just come out and I felt like “yes! I get to be there as a fellow queer person that is wholly loved and accepted!” The first thing we did was go to a special rainbow pancake breakfast… We sat down at this table with our kids and we were incorrectly labelled by this group sitting next to us as allies. I was so irritated as I was so excited to belong and to have the LGBTQ+ community recognize us, and yet I felt like the very first thing that happened was that I was told that I wasn’t queer enough to be included. (Aleesha, queer)
Passing as straight has, in the long run, been far more of a disadvantage than an advantage. The biggest disadvantage is that I tend to be too queer for straight folks and not queer enough for queer folks. (Jamie, bisexual)
3. What would you most like other LGBTQ+ people, and people in the church, to understand about you and your partner?
I’d like us, as 2SLGBTQ+ communities, to acknowledge that evaluating someone’s credibility based on how ‘queer’ they look is divisive and undermines our relationships with each other. (Erin, bi/pan)
I would like the church to stop making assumptions about me and my sex life based on the fact that I identify as bisexual. I am married to a man and we are completely monogamous, and the fact that I am bisexual does not in any way make it hard for me to be monogamous. I would also like the church to understand that this is an important part of my story – being queer shapes how I see and experience the world, and that can’t just be erased and ignored because I “look straight” based on my marriage. (Tara, bisexual)
I wish the wider queer community, especially the lesbian & gay portion, would recognize the pervasiveness of bierasure. Further, I would want them to realize that as the largest group in the wider community, bi/pan/+ folks are a sleeping giant of support, influence, resources, etc. in the work for inclusion, not to mention a significant addition to the dating/marriage pool. (Jamie, bisexual – see photo)
I would love for the church to know that mixed orientation relationships are NOT the answer to the “LGBTQ topic.” Some people choose to be in mixed orientation relationships but that doesn’t mean that this “fixes” any partner that identifies as LGBTQ. We are not the only type of relationship that LGBTQ Christian people can participate in, there are many pathways for people to choose and each is unique and beautiful. (Aleesha, queer)
I would like the LGBTQ community to understand… that it is harmful to suggest there is only one way to look at mixed orientation marriages (MOMs) and how they “end up” (aka divorce). Ask questions and don’t assume someone’s relationship status, sexuality or gender identity. Be a person that comes alongside a MOM relationship and supports that couple no matter what choice they make. (Jordan, gay)
I want everyone to understand that I know I have a ton of privilege, and I’m doing my best to figure out how to use my privilege to help this community. The truth is that I also struggle with feeling invisible, feeling “not queer enough”, and feeling guilty. (Aileen, queer – see photo)
I want the non-affirming church to know that they should assume there’s someone queer in every space they’re in. When they say those hurtful, scarring, exclusionary things, we are listening. I am listening… I am not going to sit by and let them exclude and shame queer people. I’m not going to let the church wipe its brow and say “Phewf! Well, at least she’s married to a man!” I will not be pushed into their “straight and going to heaven” box. I’m queer, I’m not ashamed of my sexuality. I will do my best to throw off the weight of the church’s straight assumptions, but it would be great if the church created a space where people never had to do that in the first place. (Bethany, bisexual)