Intersectional feminism, sexual identity, and biphobia

Margot is a queer student and feminist activist who tells us more about her experiences relating to her commitment to intersectional feminism, biphobia in the LGBTQ+ community and society, as well as her coming out.

Opening up to feminism through literature:Margot’s challenge

Margot comes from Grenoble, a city in southeastern France known for its landscapes and mountainous climate. After having spent most of her life there, it was time for her to leave for greener pastures. Three years ago, she came to Berlin as an Erasmus student, and she’s been here ever since. She graduated with a dual degree in Germanic and Romance studies and has since decided to continue her studies. Currently in her second year of a master’s degree in modern literature at the University of Potsdam, she is also assistant to the head of her department and a teaching assistant for the first-year students. Her goal is to push future generations of students towards greater tolerance and to raise awareness about intersectional feminism.

She often assigns texts written by people of color and/or those from the LBTQ+ community. These authors often lack visibility in university programmes and more generally in the school curriculum. According to Margot, literature can make students more tolerant. She also believes that literature can also help students better understand intersectional feminism because it encourages a better understanding of society. As she is an intersectional feminist activist, it’s the perfect opportunity for her to introduce intersectional feminism to her students. So how did she first become an activist?

Le Roseaux, a way to express her activism

Two years ago, Margot met four other women on a feminist Facebook group. They had brunch, talked for hours and found out that they had a lot in common, including intersectional feminism. “It was friendship at first sight,” she says. After this meeting, they decided to create a feminist intersectional magazine called Roseaux (available only in French). Feminism is composed of different currents of thought, including intersectional feminism.

What is intersectionality ?

Video from National Association of Independent Schools

Intersectional feminism refers to a feminist movement that takes into account other forms of discrimination in addition to sexism. It aims to show that these types of discrimination are related to one another and explains their causes and consequences in order to better understand and combat them.

Why did they create this magazine ?

Firstly, they decided it was necessary for them to give a platform to those affected most by the subject. You can find, for example, accounts by people who are hard of hearing, non-binary, bisexual, and so on. They noticed that there was not enough approachable content in the online French feminist press. Most articles or magazines were really theoretical, which discourages the readers because of the high degree of complexity. With Roseaux magazine, five women aim to publish leading articles with a specific theme that can reach and be understandable for as many people as possible. They prefer to adapt their articles to their audience, find a balance between theory and first-person accounts and be understandable by a wide audience.

Margot authored a personal essay for Roseaux online magazine to talk about biphobia in society and the LBTQ+ community and the stereotypes that tend to be associated with being bisexual. She tells us more about how she ended up accepting herself and how her family members reacted.

From coming out to yourself to coming out to relatives

Most people from the LGBTQ+ community have known their sexual orientation for some time. However, in some cases, this sexual orientation is repressed to conform to social norms until the day when a triggering element will call into question the repression of this sexuality. That’s what happened with Margot. A few years ago, she fell in love with her translation teacher in college and became very confused, wondering about her sexuality and rejecting her bisexuality at first. In the following video, she talked about how she found out her bissexuality. She was in love with her language teacher. She has been confused for while, she was questioning her sexuality, which she first rejected. But she was able to overcome this thanks to her friends.

©Aissa Sica (Video in French with French subtitles)

What about coming out to her family? Margot admits that she did not do it to all her relatives and explains that she has received various reactions. Her grandmother had trouble understanding bisexuality at first, asking Margot if she had finally chosen between men and women. But her grandmother finally came to understand that being bisexual did not mean choosing between her attraction to men or women, and now she is very familiar with the concept of bisexuality. If her grandmother wants to know more about Margot’s partner, she asks, “What’s her/his name?”

Dealing with hostility after coming out

With her grandfather, it didn’t go the same way. First of all, she couldn’t really come out to him. He started to make homophobic remarks that he had never made before. But finally, leaving the resentment aside, Margot went to visit him in a retirement home on September 23rd. He told her that he and Margot’s grandmother were worried about her love life because it’s more complicated when you’re not heterosexual and asked her how it was going. She told him that things were going well and he answered that he was happy for her. He ended up accepting it. “A heart-warming coincidence,” she says. Indeed, September 23 is not an insignificant date; in fact, it is Bi Visibility Day.

Her family members needed some time to adapt, to change their vocabulary and their questions, and to accept that this was not a phase. There is no shortage of clichés about bisexual people: unfaithful, promiscuous, sexually dissatisfied, greedy for sex. These clichés contribute to biphobia. It affects bisexual people both in the heterosexual community and in the LGBTQ+ community.

Biphobia, an unaddressed subject

“Biphobia refers to hatred, fear or disgust of bisexuality or bisexuals.” Not only are some heterosexuals biphobic, but some homosexuals are also biphobic and consider bisexuality as an inability to come to terms with being gay/lesbian, or even as a form of treason. It conveys the cliché of a fashion effect: it would be trendy for a heterosexual to say they were bi, even if they do not live a love story with a person of the same gender as their own.

Margot identifies herself more as queer than bisexual because bisexuality is not well accepted in the LGBTQ+ community. She gave a lecture in Paris last March on biphobia in the LGBTQ+ community during Queer Week. She had listed the biphobic remarks that can be heard both in the community and from heterosexual people: “you have to choose, it is just a phase before assuming your homosexuality, you are unfaithful, you are adulterous, you are undecided.” For Margot, there should be more media representation that moves away from these clichés. The world needs more articles that denounce biphobia in society and in the LGBTQ+ community.

In this context of biphobia, it can be difficult to come out. What Margot can advise LGBTQ+ people of color who have not come out is to take their time and to get in touch with people who have been through the same thing. But she specifies that to do so, certain conditions must be met. Above all, we must think about our safety and mental health and not to feel obliged to come out if the circumstances aren’t right.