By: Aru Kaul
I was 14 when I first kissed a girl. I was dared to do it. It took me over two years after that to come to terms with my bisexuality. I continuously told myself that the dare I did at 14 was just that; a dare. I spoke it into existence. I was straight. I was as straight as an arrow - never mind that I was attracted to both boys AND girls. It didn’t mean anything. I just thought girls were pretty. I was straight.
At 16, I was still trying to shove a straight agenda down my own throat. It was around this time when I learned about heteronormativity, and realized that was exactly what was happening to me. I guess I should have known something was up when I was deliberately picking boys in my classes to have crushes on.
Even with the music I consumed, so many love songs were men singing about their admiration of women or their bodies; usually just their bodies. This led me to believe that my ultimate goal in life was to be loved by a man. I dressed for the male gaze. I suppressed my loud, talkative, confident personality because boys like shy girls. I pretended to be someone I was not.
I eventually came to accept that I identified as a queer woman. A queer South-Asian woman, to be exact. Though I didn’t really know how to feel about that second part. Queer South-Asians experience an erasure of their culture and this is exactly how I felt coming into the community. How could I be queer, South-Asian and a woman when I had never seen those things belonging together?
As a brown girl, I came to Canada when I was very young and Bollywood was a huge part of my childhood. I enjoyed dressing up, singing, dancing; I was a very dramatic kid. Bollywood movies and songs allowed me to express myself. By the time I was 7, I had already memorized every single line to what is still my favourite movie to this day!
However, I never grew up seeing queer brown representation in the media that I consumed. Queer people or queerness are almost never central to the plot of a Bollywood film, Any representation they do get is almost always as the butt of a joke, although that has been changing.
I didn’t know anyone else who was like me. So, I asked myself, was I just doing all this for attention? But, how could it be for attention if hardly anybody knew I was bi? I didn’t always understand references to queer pop culture either. Imposter syndrome would always take over me and make me feel like a fraud. Not straight enough to be accepted in society, but also not queer enough to feel like I belonged in the LGBTQ+ community.
Often, both in and out of the community, I would have people ask me about my “straight-to-gay percentage.” I wasn’t sure if my percentage was 50/50. I wasn’t sure if I even had a percentage.
When I found out I was bisexual, to me, it just meant that I loved everyone. Could it be that I was just a really good ally? The straight-to-gay percentage concept really got in my head. I decided that if I wasn’t going to be 50/50 or have a preference then I needed to pick a side once and for all.
I didn’t know it at the time, but this was my internalized biphobia coming out because I just wanted to fit in. This is one of the most common myths that contribute to the erasure of bisexuality. The assumption that bisexual people are 50 per cent straight exacerbates the myth that we, “don’t have it as bad.” We absolutely do. We literally get stereotyped as greedy, promiscuous, unfaithful, incapable of monogamy - because we are bisexual.
To me, my percentage was, and still is, just a number that I spat out on the spot for the purpose of answering the question. All I know is that I am 100 per cent bisexual.
In 2019, I created an Instagram account, @youreveryday.tea, to be a voice for marginalized communities. This began as an outlet for my thoughts, but I continue to work towards turning it into a safe space for all marginalized people. I have become a lot more open about my sexuality and can say without hesitation that I am a woman of colour in the LGBTQ+ community.
I used to think that picking a side would be the solution to my problems. Since then, I have learned not only to accept, but also to embrace who I am. I wish the same for everyone who sees themselves in this story - because queer people deserve a much better life than one spent sacrificing their true selves for the comfort of society. And just so it’s clear, I still haven’t picked a side!