I pass for straight. This is not my choice. It's an assumption people put on me, because I'm a cis woman wearing makeup, a long haircut, and clothes from the women's section of the store. It means I am dramatically less likely than a more stereotypically "queer-looking" woman to be attacked on the street by someone who doesn't know me.

People have told me that this is privilege. And that...just ain't so.

Privilege means hate speech against LGBTQ people is not about you. But if someone starts talking about "those fucking dykes," I know she means me, even if she doesn't. I have to worry about what will happen if she finds out, especially if she's in a position of power. I don't have the privilege of walking away at the end of the day and putting it out of my mind. And it's harder to fight back against hate speech when it's about me; it takes emotional energy that I might not have, and the stakes are higher than when I fight back against racism or transphobia or some other form of hate that doesn't go to my identity.

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Also, bisexual women like me are at a disproportionately higher risk of sexual assault, substance abuse, anxiety, and depression than straight women, possibly even more so than gay women.* So there's that. We don't know much about it yet, but I suspect it has to do with lacking full acceptance by either straight people or gay people (femme women and bisexuals are told we're not queer enough all the fucking time. ALL THE TIME, GUYS), a lack of community support, and systematic stereotyping as sex objects. That doesn't look like privilege from where I'm sitting. And yet bi invisibility is very, very similar to femme invisibility; for me, they're inseparable.

This post has been about orientation and gender presentation, but something similar happens when I pass for abled. I don't think there's a similarity between being queer and having a disability — I think the similarity lies in how marginalization works. That says more about our wider society than anything else.

*Can we all agree that being bisexual isn't a choice for most people? Okay, identifying that way, maybe, but you don't start out straight or gay, and then turn bi because of...depression or sexual assault. That's just offensive. And silly.

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ETA: You guys. I am not saying that there aren't benefits to passing; nor am I saying that the oppression that comes from "looking queer" is somehow less of a problem because there is also oppression that affects queer people who don't "look queer." I'm just saying that it's a different animal than straight privilege. So different, in fact, that calling it "privilege" feeds a hierarchy of queerness, and legitimizes certain forms of oppression and not others. Kyosuke's called it "conditional privilege." Some people use the term "passing privilege." I just use "passing."