Bisexual/pansexual erasure is weird. I was married to someone with a penis for 11 years, a man when I met them and a woman when I left. When my spouse was a man, people were constantly surprised that I was in a “straight” marriage. Regardless of what gender I’ve identified as over the course of my life, I’ve always looked like what many cishet people think a lesbian looks like.
Oddly, when I identified as female and was dating mostly men, I had a number of gay people get mad at me because they assumed I was a lesbian. Like I was co-opting the look of queer women. Um… wasn’t trying to look gay, just went with what I felt comfortable with. Also, I dated women as well. But, you know, bisexuals don’t exist. (I called myself bisexual until a few years ago, when the word pansexual started to be better known. As someone frequently attracted to those outside the gender binary, it seems more fitting.)
A few weeks ago I started sleeping with a cis woman. She is also pansexual, but we get perceived as a lesbian couple when we’re out and about. I started thinking about this last night, when we were at a birthday party for a friend of hers. Her friends know she’s pan, so it’s not that they were jumping to conclusions. But we were being physically affectionate, and it occurred to me that most people would assume things. I don’t particularly care about being perceived as a lesbian, although I find it hilarious because I’m not even a woman, but the fact that bi/pansexual erasure exists does bother me. Most people see two female-presenting people being affectionate and assume “lesbian”. That’s irritating.
But, then, I sort of did it too. There were two women at the party who were obviously infatuated with each other, and seemed like a perfect couple. And I was surprised later to find out neither had dated women before they got together. One of them came across as pretty butch, you see, and I jumped to a conclusion about her myself. And then had to laugh, because I’d done the same thing I get annoyed at other people for doing to me.
Life is a constant learning experience, isn’t it? Or at least it should be. I got a gentle lesson in making my own assumptions, so it makes it a little easier to understand why others assume things and how much I need to work on myself. So thank you, universe. I needed that.