MY ASSIGNMENT FOR THIS STORY was to find Portland's bisexual underground. I searched, but mostly found silence.
Save for a lightly trafficked internet forum dedicated to Portland's female bi community (gettingbipdx.com), I found nary a blog or support group, a tweet-up or dance night, or even so much as a flash mob meant for bisexual men and women. What I did find on the Getting Bi Portland forum were discussions of marginalization from both the queer and straight worlds. If anyone needed an underground, you'd think it would be bisexuals.
Gay men, lesbians, and transgender people have worked hard to develop community and resources. There need to be safe places to drink, dance, talk, and be proud. However, it can often feel like even in a community with seemingly endless sub-classifications (ethnic queers, bears, sporty lesbians), bisexuals are given the cold shoulder—especially if they happen to be in a committed relationship with someone of the opposite sex.
I came out fairly early. I knew by the time I'd reached my teens I had no gender requirements when it came to sex. I was as comfortable making out with boys as I was with girls.
When asked today, I identify as bisexual. But I've found in the gay community, that doesn't count for much. When dating a woman, a bisexual man going for a drink at a gay club means being marked as either traitor or trophy trick.
It's reasonable for gay men and lesbians to be disdainful of bisexuals' ability to assimilate into straight culture. More than that, a bisexual can take advantage of something quite precious: the right to legally wed. Two years ago, I took advantage of that right. It didn't help any of my gay and lesbian friends win marriage equality, and I suffered considerable guilt about my opposite-sex union being recognized by state and federal governments. It's difficult not to feel like I've forfeited any hope of further camaraderie with the gay community.
But being in a monogamous relationship with a woman doesn't mean I've stopped being attracted to men. It doesn't mean I've suddenly forgotten all the words to A Chorus Line or that I no longer mince about and sing along loudly to "Dance 10, Looks 3" when I play the original cast recording. It doesn't erase the five-year relationship I had with a man, or the horrors of watching him approach the brink of death when his HIV infection developed into full-blown AIDS, just as it doesn't erase the relief of watching him respond to a drug cocktail, which eventually made the infection undetectable.
Being married also doesn't make things magically easier. I still identify as bisexual. By writing this, I'm essentially coming out yet again, and when my wife's family finds this piece online, we'll have to deal with their reaction.
Living out is a constant struggle for all queers, but for bisexuals in a heterosexual relationship, it requires being proactive. Oregon's openly bisexual (and married) Secretary of State Kate Brown has written for outhistory.org of being called "half-gay" by her gay friends, and living with the feeling of operating between two worlds. But even as the country's highest-ranking bisexual holding political office, she's still off the radar: I only learned about her bi status recently from a gay colleague.
Obviously my experience isn't unique among bisexuals, and maybe that's the true underground. Perhaps there are more like me out there, who watch from the sidelines during Pride, not sure how they fit in the gay community anymore, living in heterosexual relationships: too queer for the straights and too straight for the queers.
I don't want this to sound like a complaint. I'll take my camaraderie where I can get it. In the meantime though, I'll stay away from queer events where I feel my wife and I wouldn't be welcome.
That doesn't mean I'll live quietly. It doesn't mean that I'll hide behind the cover of a marriage. I will live out and proud as bisexual. And even though some of my gay and lesbian peers might look at me with disdain, I'll continue to fight for their equal rights. I might not be invited to their party, but that's not going to keep me from standing outside and dancing my ass off.