Earlier this week I came across this post detailing questions asked by the UKBA of a bisexual asylum seeker in detention. The profound levels of ignorance, queerphobia and specifically biphobia displayed here should be shocking. What is perhaps more shocking is that they aren't. [The rest of this post comes with trigger warnings for discussion of rape, torture, homophobia, biphobia, slut shaming and probably all sorts of other things. Sometimes my own writing scares me.]
I am going to attempt to answer some of the questions that I apparently would face should I find myself persecuted by my own country for who I am. I am in the extremely privileged position that I can choose which questions to answer and which ones to just leave as evidence of their own cruelty, I can be flippant, I can be didactic: my right to stay in this country and my very life do not depend on me navigating this maze, the love child of Orwell and Kafka, and trying to give whatever the UKBA deems to be the "right" answers to these questions. Do not be deceived by this: for far too many people this is a matter of life and death.
Can you explain to me in detail what you mean by bisexual?
Bisexuality is the potential to be sexually (and romantically) attracted to people of more than one gender. In my case, I have the potential to be attracted to people of any gender/all genders/regardless of gender.
Can you explain to me what you mean by man to man?
I don't even. Also, I'm a woman so I'll genderbend some of these questions.
What do you mean by "something"?
Obviously this question is out of context but I'm going to assume they are either fishing for sexual practices or for relationships. Imagine for a moment that the country you were born in makes it illegal for you to be you. Maybe you are short. Or tall. You wear glasses. You have blue eyes. Or brown. You have health condition, inherited or acquired or tunred up out of fucking nowhere like the really scary ones do. There is something about you that your country despises so much that they would throw you in prison or even kill you for it. So you leave. You ask another country to protect you. And what you get in return is "Well, can't you wear heels? Slouch a bit? Don't wear your glasses. Wear coloured contacts. Pretend to be healthy. Actually, how do we know you're not pretending now? Are your eyes really blue? We should gouge them out to check."
What does that mean to you?
How many boyfriends did you have in [country]?
Are you sure you're really tall? Maybe you're wearing heels. Maybe you're walking on stilts. We should do a strip search, just to make sure.
What was the name of your friend?
What is his date of birth?
Do you know his date of birth?
How did you meet him?
Does he have any brothers or sisters?
What is her name?
Or maybe, if the problem is that you're short, we can put you on a rack.
How old were you when you discovered you had an attraction for boys?
I was 12 or 13 when I realised I was attracted to women as well as men. I was significantly older, in my twenties, when I realised I was also attracted to people of other genders, because where I grew up the gender binary was pretty strictly enforced.
What about before you were 18?
Can you explain how you realised your sexuality?
I liked and admired women. Female actors, teachers, friends. Initially I thought I wanted to be them but then I realised that no, I actually wanted to bang them. I also wanted to bang men. (Note: some women; some men; not all men and women.) I misspent part of my youth reading trashy sci-fi novels because they were the only literature I could get my hands on that acknowledged that LGBT people - people like me - existed. By about age 17 I was okay applying the label bisexual to myself and started coming out, carefully, to partners and friends. Some time after that, I realised that there were people of other genders than men and women out there too, and that I wanted to bang some of them too.
Tell me what you did?
What did you do with x?
Did you do anything other than kissing x?
What did you do?
Where did this happen?
How often did you have intercourse together?
Is that every day?
So that's an epic set of TMI questions, all based on the assumption that bisexuality is about banging people. And whilst I have used the word "bang" liberally in my descriptions above, bisexuality as a sexual orientation is not necessarily about who you have banged/are banging, but about who you want to bang. Funnily enough, that's precisely how other sexual orientations work too. Straight and gay people who've never banged anyone, or aren't banging anyone right now don't magically lose their sexual orientations, and they don't become asexual. For that matter, asexual people who for one reason or another have sex with someone don't magically lose their asexuality either.
Did you put your penis into x's backside?
Oh look, it gets better! This preoccupation that many cishet people seem to have with how non-cishet people have sex is somewhat troubling. I mean, how do you have sex, Mr or Ms UKBA employee? And then there's of course the implicit assumption that if it's not penetrative it doesn't count. We know how well that went for Bill Clinton, right? I guess if your understanding of sex it that flawed then it would be an act of charity to educate you about how we non-cishets do it. Shame I'm not feeling very charitable today.
When x was penetrating you did you have an erection?
Here's a few possible ways this could go. It was the first time for both of us, it was awkward, we fumbled, it hurt. Or I can't remember, we were both off our faces. Or yes, I came my brains out. Or turns out I don't much like this particular sex act, but we found many other ways to have fun. The trouble with this question is that there are as many answers to it as there are occasions upon which the particular sex act being asked about has been performed in human history. But regardless of your experience, only one of those will get you the magic ticket that allows you to stay in a country that might not execute you for who you are.
[TW: rape for this paragraph] I am willing to bet that asylum seekers who have survived rape get asked the same kind of question. Did you enjoy it? Did you have an erection? An orgasm? Well it can't have been rape then, can it?
Did you ejaculate?
Did x ejaculate inside you?
Are you taking notes so you can get off to them tonight?
Why did you use a condom?
Because I value my own and my partner's sexual health. Because I grew up queer in the 80s and 90s. Because that happens to be the best contraceptive choice for me personally when having PiV intercourse with people in possession of a penis. Because when I don't, I expose myself not only to the risk of serious STIs but also to the almost-certainty of a host of minor but highly unpleasant conditions like thrush and cystitis. (Yes, yes Mr or Ms UKBA employee, I am indeed judging you for asking this question, possibly more so than for some of the arguably worse questions, because this is one that even cishets should know.) And while we're at it, have you heard of dental dams?
How did you feel when having sex?
By necessity, I can only give you a non-exhaustive list of emotions I've experienced during sex: insecure, amused, worried, confused as fuck, entertained, relieved, bored, elated, horny, angry, blank, scared, annoyed, overwhelmed, satisfied, surprised, close to my partner, tentative, slutty, powerful, needy, melting, impatient (often), loving, loved, happy, snarky, safe, unsafe, fascinated.
Did you have feelings for other boys?
I have all sorts of feelings for all sorts of people. Many of my feelings towards fellow human beings tend to be on the "annoyed" end of the spectrum.
Did you have physical relationships with other boys in [city]?
I wonder, how many people of which gender do I need to have fucked to demonstrate my credibility as a bisexual? And how many is too many? What number makes you think that I'm a disease-ridden slut who should not be allowed to stay in the country for public health reasons?
You think I'm joking about that last one? Parliament nearly voted on a proposed amendment to the Immigration Bill which would have banned HIV-positive immigrants from entering the country. Last week.
Let's be clear, this is something not even Russia, everyone's current number one enemy, does anymore. (ETA: fact check says I'm wrong about that last bit.)
Did you love x?
When was his birthday?
I have no intention of handing you that password.
Did you buy him presents?
Still do occasionally.
Did he buy you presents?
Still does occasionally.
How could you afford to buy him presents if you were studying?
One makes do.
In [city] did you have sex with other men?
What do you find attractive about men?
Often, I am shallow and go for physical features. But sometimes, I want to make out with people's brains.
Tell me what you like about men that turns you on?
What is it about the way men walk that turns you on?
What is it about men's backsides that attracts you?
How did you get found out?
I came out to people I thought I could trust. Most of them were awesome. Many were ignorant. Some were dicks.
In [country] how many relationships have you had with women?
We gouged one eye and it was blue. We'd better check the second one too though, maybe only one of them was really blue.
How did you meet y?
What did you find attractive about y?
On the night you met her what attracted you to her?
Did you have a sexual relationship with her?
How often did you see y?
How were your feelings for her different to x?
How are your feelings for you ex different to those for your current partner?
Were you and x lovers at this time?
Ah, the greedy bisexuals.
Did you tell x about your affair with y?
The dishonest bisexuals.
What was x's response when you told him about y?
Blast, maybe not dishonest anyway.
Did you tell y about x as well?
Gotcha, totally dishonest!
Oh I wonder why a bisexual person wouldn't out themselves immediately to a new partner. Let me think about that one...
What do you like about women?
Only one question on the attractiveness or otherwise of women? Not four probing questions on when I want fuck people in the arse? I am shocked!
How do you show your sexuality when you are in the UK?
How do you show yours, Mr or Ms UKBA employee? You don't think you need to because you're straight? Is that a wedding ring on your finger? A photo of your spouse and children on your desk? Now tell me again how you show your sexuality.
How does that display you are bisexual?
I have a permanent rainbow halo.
Where do you go when going out?
Which pub do you go to?
What is your religion?
What does the church say about homosexuality?
I don't know. What does it say about heterosexuality? That's about as relevant to this conversation about my bisexuality as anything else.
What is your view of same sex marriages?
What do you think of men marrying men?
Sure, but I'd advise them - or anyone getting married for that matter - to get a decent prenup.
Why do you think it is a good thing?
Would you marry a man?
Not even for the tax savings. I wouldn't marry a not-man either.
Why have you got to behave as a bisexual in [country]?
So, we've gouged out both eyes. They were indeed both blue, for which you could have been persecuted in your own country. But you don't have them anymore, we fixed it for you. You can totally go back.
That was with x only and he initiated the contact you claim. Why can't you return and live a full life there?
I don't know about you, but I'm on the verge of both tears and throwing up. For the record, the UKBA is part of the Home Office, and the Home Office came in joint 5th in this year's Stonewall Workplace Equality Index.