Bisexuality+ Awareness Week begins September 16 each year and continues until the culminating Bi+ Visibility Day September 23. There have always been misconceptions surrounding bisexuality, both outside of and within the larger LGBTQIA+ community. Despite what this week and others are intended for, little to no focus is truly given to marginalized queer identities at the College of William and Mary. Quite simply put, saying “you belong” in regard to campus is not enough for queer people to feel seen, heard or remotely accepted to the level befitting an educated community of scholars and more.
Many people, for instance, do not realize that bisexuality is associated with much higher rates of depression and anxiety, even when compared to other gay and queer people. Bisexual people face a unique combination of homophobia and gaslighting that causes one to believe their sexual identification isn’t valid or correct. As a bisexual/pansexual person myself, I have heard the same tired argument that I am simply too confused or unwilling to commit to a single gender. Considering the rather large queer student community we have, I am sure that this is sadly a shared experience.
October is LGBTQIA+ History Month, however, and offers yet another chance for queer recognition and acceptance throughout Williamsburg and beyond. It should not be the responsibility of queer students to advocate for this, yet administration is far from being described as anything close to queer-affirming and thus we are left alone in this grand fight.
Carmen Maria Machado, author of “In the Dream House” and a queer activist, writes “You tried to tell your story to people who didn’t know how to listen.”
The College hears but does not listen; it is full of shallow participation and overt rainbow washing when it is convenient, particularly on social media and during Pride Month. Even as an institute of higher learning, there is a very small amount of non-queer students willing to put in the work to educate themselves on history and issues within the LGBTQIA+ umbrella. Considering the need for bisexuality (and other marginalized groups) awareness within the community, queer students should also be continuously learning how to be a more conscientious and compassionate member and ally.
I know that we as students are extremely busy during this month with upcoming exams and midterm papers, but no one ever said raising inner awareness was easy. It takes a special sort of strength and intellect to admit ignorance on a certain subject, and I am in no way ignorance-free. I am determined to not be complicit within larger societal defects, and so I ask the College community to do the same.
It is well past time that our campus began actively listening to voices that have been speaking and telling their unique, queer stories for generations. To listen effectively, one must be silent for those who have been historically silenced and overlooked. During this LGBTQIA+ History Month, I would like to offer my open ears for intersectional and marginalized queer voices, and I urge administration and other privileged students to do the same.
Elaine Godwin ’22 is an English and Data Science double major. As a queer person, they have a unique view on the world and is dedicated to inclusion for the LGBTQ+ community. Email Elaine at firstname.lastname@example.org.