By Gabrielle Blonder, BRC Board Member
About a year ago, I left a company I’d been with for a few years and have been doing a combination of temping and job searching since then. This is my first time job searching as an openly bisexual person, and since the Bisexual Resource Center is now such a large part of my life, my first time job searching with the word “bisexual” written on my resume. The biggest thing I’ve noticed since this change is how few potential employers have been willing to say the word “bisexual.” Either that part of my resume is emitted from questioning entirely, or I get awkward, vague questions about the work I’ve done with “the…center”.
A few months ago, on a Monday, I started a new temp job. I was genuinely excited about this assignment – the company seemed great, and everyone I met was super friendly. On Wednesday, I was asked to cover the front desk reception area while the main receptionist (we’ll call her Debbie) was on break. During that time, an interviewee showed up to meet with the head of HR. The reception computer is logged into a generic ‘operator’ account used by anyone currently at the desk (90% of the time it’s Debbie). When I opened up the internal chat client to let the HR director know about his visitor, the rest of the chat history showed up in the window as well, timestamped as the Friday before I started working there. For the sake of delicate readers, I won’t transpose the content of the conversation here. Suffice it to say, it was lewder than you can imagine. The HR director talked about how hot it would be if Debbie (the straight lady receptionist) hooked up with her “new friend,” who would be starting work on Monday. Debbie, being a straight woman and also being aware of appropriate office behavior, turned down his every idea and even reminded him at one point that “you know I can’t delete this, right?”.
That “new friend” being oh-so-casually objectified was me.
My bisexuality is reflected on my resume in the form of organizations I am, and have been, highly involved with. It is also reflected, like a cracked fun-house mirror, in the disgusting nature of these comments.
In one instant, I was made to feel ashamed of and gross about an integral part of my identity. The rainbow necklace I proudly wear now feels as though it’s burning a hole in my chest. I’m reminded that my experience with women is something dirty, an object of male lust even in the abstract. My crushes, my relationships, and my heartbreaks have all been reduced to one idea of a “hot” encounter.
This is why I do the work I do. Because for every woman who is struggling with their own desires and identity, there’s someone ready to fetishize bi girls. Because my sexual identity is immediately assumed to mean I’ll hook up with anyone willing (and sometimes, those unwilling).
It’s taken me years to even start to shake off the shell of insecurities and internal biphobia enough to begin to feel safe being myself. I debated for ages whether or not to put the (considerable) work I’ve done with the Bisexual Resource Center on my resume and Linkedin, knowing that this information would immediately out me to future employers. But I did it, and let me tell you, it felt freaking great. I felt invincible; staring down my interviewers, daring them to express discomfort. Encounters like this one make me want to crawl back into the closet and bar the doors.
But I won’t. I can’t. Heading back into the closet would be a betrayal of all the self-work I’ve done, and quite the waste of the anxiety/emotional turmoil I’ve gone through in my (many) coming-outs. Even if I wanted to, a quick Google of my name (or a quick scroll through my Facebook page, for that matter) pulls up multiple references to bi-related projects I’ve been involved in. And, honestly, I wouldn’t have this any other way.
If you have ever been in a situation like this, know in no uncertain terms that YOU ARE NOT ALONE. The more I came forward about my experiences, the more people responded with similar stories of their own. I was equal parts amazed and saddened by how much support and commiseration was waiting for me. If you feel like you don’t have anyone to talk to, talk to me. I will listen to you, empathize with you, and rage with you. And if you’re an ally, speaking up when you see things like this is probably the hardest thing to do. If you can’t (and trust me, I don’t judge whatever your emotional limits are), just be there for those who have been hurt. We need it, and it means more than you know.
Gabrielle is a member of the board of directors of the BRC, as well as the leader of the monthly young bliss group. She spends most of her time crafting, doing aerial silks, and writing cover letters.