A lesbian and a non-binary bisexual in love: On language and queer solidarity
By: Alex Creece & Amelia Newman
Alex is a cis lesbian, writer, poet, artist and Archer’s very own online editor. Amelia is a trans non-binary bisexual person, writer, dreamboat and theatremaker extraordinaire.
Here, Alex writes about her personal sexuality journey with insights from Amelia, and they discuss how their respective identities intertwine to create a loving home full of queer goodness.
As a baby queer, I came out slowly, clinging to scraps of heteronormativity and conditional acceptance. I dipped my toes into the queer water – not yet daring to make waves.
I know myself now to be a lesbian, and yet my partner isn’t a woman. Funny how that works, huh?
In this weird, wonderful, seemingly contradictory space, I’ve become more comfortable and self-assured than ever. As a bonus, I can sense the impending TERF rage coming my way, which feeds my queer, defiant soul. Yum yum!
Image: Amelia (left) and Alex (right). Photo by Jessica Craig-Piper
I came out as bisexual over a decade ago. As a perpetually single, incredibly shy and awkward person, this probably didn’t mean much to anyone. We all knew that I wasn’t magically going to become a suave, sexy d8r boi (or a sk8r boi, despite my giant childhood crush on Avril Lavigne).
I noticed that people’s main takeaway of my sexuality was a sense of relief that men were still an option. I internalised how much value was placed on this ‘heterosexual’ attraction, and so I willed myself to feel it – and failed stupendously.
I didn’t have many openly queer friends at this time, but the ones I did have were all bisexual. I was overwhelmed by my queer attraction – in the best and worst ways – as I searched for my place in the world.
Naturally, I fell in love with the bisexual community – how could you not?! – and I put a lot of pressure on myself to belong to it.
Six years later, I met Amelia at a bi-centred crafting event. They were cool, cute and kind – and proudly bisexual.
As they recall: “When we met, you identified as bi and I identified as a woman, which seems absurd now! We became genuine friends and I had no idea how hard I would fall for you.”
On that day, Amelia and I made bi and pan themed Hama Bead ornaments that are still rattling around in the bottom of my backpack (I have serious executive function issues). We then started going on group outings with fellow queers, calling ourselves The Queer Sparkly Pals.
Bisexual pride became part of our personal origin story and our history. Amelia and I wouldn’t have met if it weren’t for this humble little Midsumma crafternoon, courtesy of the bi-focused radio show Triple Bi Pass.
Of all things, this probably made it the hardest to leave bisexuality behind. I was torn between my personal identity and my community connections.
But ultimately, I couldn’t deny it: I was (and am) a lesbian.
From having slept with men – albeit a mere handful of times – I’ve done the research to confidently say it’s not for me.
Misogyny trapped me in the belief that maybe I’m not supposed to enjoy sex, or that my inability to derive any pleasure from it was my own shortcoming (excuse the cummy pun!). This sex felt unnatural and painful, and I still experience sexual dysfunction due to these adverse experiences – and thanks to a healthy dash of trauma.
I’ve never had a proper relationship with a man, I’ve never enjoyed their romantic pursuit of me, and I’ve never felt at home with them.
By contrast, Amelia has the capacity for enriching relationships with men, and their attraction to men feels no different from their attraction to people of other genders. Amelia is still beautifully bisexual.
“When dating boys in high school, some relationships felt wrong, while others felt inexplicably right,” my hunky honey explains. “Now when I think about being attracted to men, I think about running my hands over a man’s beard and scratching his chin. If that isn’t attraction, I don’t know what is!”
I can’t happily see a romantic or sexual life with men, but my lesbianism is foremost about me and who I am attracted to, not my lack of heterosexual attraction.
My lesbianism is much more than an absence of men, or something I’m perceived to be ‘missing’. It’s also – clearly – more than an exclusive attraction to women.
With Amelia, I feel nurtured in my body, mind and spirit. There is nothing missing; this love is full and complete.
When I eventually acknowledged my lesbianism, I worried that I’d betrayed my bonds with the bisexual community. But it also felt right.
The definition of bisexuality varies from person to person, but I can say for certain what it is not.
Bisexuality is not an anxious bid to keep the heteronormative options open, even if they make you miserable. It is not begrudgingly trying to tolerate men’s advances, wondering why this doesn’t feel good. Bisexuality is not forced; it is freeing.
On reflection, my identification with bisexuality was never a genuine fit.
I called myself bisexual based on having slept with multiple genders – despite the fact that past sexual behaviours don’t necessarily equate to your sexuality. Anyone can have bi-curious dalliances to explore their sexuality; from mine, I just learnt that I was plain ol’ gay.
I’ve untangled a lot of compulsory heterosexuality throughout this journey. I was initially reluctant to let go of the “bisexual” label, which had become a trusty old friend, a comfort object like one of my many Squishmallows.
For a time, I felt that bisexuality and pansexuality were the ‘best’ or ‘most inclusive’ sexualities to have, which was certainly based in internalised homophobia and a desire to seem open and nonjudgemental.
But there’s nothing judgemental about lesbian attraction, or experiencing attraction in a way that’s influenced by gender.
A ‘hearts not parts’ mentality – which is what I adopted in my youth – is far more judgemental in the implication that gay and lesbian orientations are based on ‘parts’, or that others don’t care equally about hearts too.
I rarely experience physical attraction, and when I do, it’s not about genitals, because, of course, someone’s genitals don’t inform their gender! Gender and self-expression are factors in my attraction, and it took me a long time to accept that this doesn’t make me closed-minded. It just makes me gay.
In Work in Progress, the protagonist Abby calls herself a “queer dyke”. This resonates with me – depicting a lesbian with space for different types of queer relationships beyond solely women loving women, beyond cis-normativity.
I enjoy the word “dyke”, but I’m also trying to actively say “lesbian” – a label that doesn’t get enough love or pride. Instead, it gets bogged down by discourse, or used as a tool of gatekeeping and transmisogyny. This makes it even more important to use “lesbian” in positive, inclusive contexts.
The “gay” label isn’t treated as restrictive and antiquated, so neither should the “lesbian” label.
Loving Amelia doesn’t make me less of a lesbian, nor does it make them less non-binary. Maybe it just means we’re both renegades! Love itself transcends binaries – unless it’s a love between robots sexting in binary code.
Love isn’t experienced in discrete black-and-white categories, but in full colour – our most magically human moments.
“My gender identity is robust and isn’t invalidated by your sexuality,” says my huggy bear. “My gender is a personal, internal space of self-understanding that doesn’t fit into our culture and goes misunderstood by most people.”
A change in my label doesn’t reflect on anyone other than me.
It’s unfortunate that it needs to be said, but stories like mine don’t mean that bisexuality is a phase, a stepping stone to being gay, or whatever the naysayers are naysayin’.
I’ll always fight for the legitimacy and excellence of my bisexual kin. We’re all in this together, as we have been since the beginning of the queer rights movement.
By the same token, we cannot celebrate lesbianism without uplifting trans and non-binary lesbians, who make up a huge – and fantastic – portion of the lesbian community, as well as First Nations lesbians and lesbians of colour, butch lesbians, lesbians with disabilities (shoutout to my fellow autistic lesbians!), and so many more.
I want us to reclaim lesbianism from the clammy hands of TERFs.
As my trans heartthrob tells me: “TERFs don’t have space for the complexities and nuances of individuals. TERF ideology is based on fear, pain and the desire to ‘other’. And I have no interest in defining myself by other people’s pain.”
Being a lesbian isn’t about vaginas, femininity, ‘gold stars’ or exclusion.
My lesbianism is inclusive; it celebrates gender diversity as much as it celebrates women; it celebrates different expressions of sapphic love and attraction; it celebrates camaraderie and a shared history with queer people of all genders. It celebrates its own queerness.
My attraction to Amelia is queer, as theirs is to me: there are sapphic elements to our relationship, there is a playful balance of masculine, feminine, androgynous and pure chaotic energies.
Our love happens to intersect perfectly, regardless of the specifics of our genders and sexualities.
“Labels develop with time and safety,” my stunning partner and co-pet-parent reflects. “Non-binary is the best descriptor for me, and lesbian is the best descriptor for you. Where those labels are seemingly incongruous is where our complicated, loving relationship lives.
“Making space for all aspects of each other is the act of loving someone. I know you love me, and that’s what I care about.”
Outside of our home, we are mistaken for a lesbian couple. While this doesn’t reflect the complexities of our identities, it does shape how we experience the world.
By ourselves, we are just two people in love, doing DIY projects (Amelia), making collages out of old porno mags (Alex) and imitating silly voices for our pets (both).
We navigate the challenges of being a visibly queer couple in the world, and we honour the nuances of our private identities, even if these aren’t affirmed by society at large – when a waiter calls us “ladies”, when my outreach worker thinks “partner” equals “boyfriend”, or even when the queer community assumes “lesbian” means “women only”.
My sweetheart says it best: “We are more than the sum of our labels. When it comes down to the simple acts of loving and being loved, if you can find it, take care of it and feed it, then who cares what anyone else calls us?”
Alex Creece is a writer, poet, collage artist and average kook living on Wadawurrung land. Alex works as the Online Editor for Archer Magazine and the Production Editor for Cordite Poetry Review. She’s also on the editorial committee for Sunder Journal. Alex was awarded a Write-ability Fellowship in 2019 and a Wheeler Centre Hot Desk Fellowship in 2020. A sample of Alex’s work was Highly Commended in the 2019 Next Chapter Scheme, and she was shortlisted for the 2021 Kat Muscat Fellowship. In 2022, Alex was shortlisted for the inaugural Born Writers Award and the Lord Mayor’s Creative Writing Award.
Amelia Newman (they/them) is a writer, theatre maker and performer born in Narrm/Melboune. Amelia has worked extensively with Riot Stage Youth Theatre and they have had their work presented at La Mama Theatre, Melbourne Fringe Festival, Northcote Town Hall, Arts House and Siteworks. Amelia’s debut play ‘Younger and Smaller’ is published with Australian Plays Transform and has been produced by schools across the country. Amelia is passionate about LGBTIQ+ stories and characters. Their work has a keen focus on mental health representation and destigmatisation. They are based in Djilang/Geelong and work across Narrm/Melbourne.
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