Ask A Queer: Sasha Perigo
Today’s queer is Sasha Perigo. She is 23 years old and a Bay Area native who currently lives in San Francisco. Sasha is a Stanford alumna and a software engineer working on security at Google. Outside of work, she does a lot of organizing for affordable housing to try to make the Bay Area more welcoming and less obscenely expensive. You can find her on Twitter and Instagram.
Sasha and I have been friends since high school, when we were in the Gay-Straight Alliance club and Sasha was the president. She was a great resource when I first came out and for that reason, I wanted her to be the first official post for Ask A Queer. If you are not queer, I suggest consulting my Ask A Queer overview page before reading this to get an idea of why these stories matter and also some terms you may not already be familiar with.
Let’s get into it! The following responses from Sasha were only edited for clarity. These words and this experience are all hers.
How do you identify? What are your pronouns?
I'm a cis woman who identifies as bisexual and also queer! I use she/her pronouns.
What do you wish people understood about your identity?
Oh boy, so many things. I think being a bisexual woman can be a little rough sometimes. I think the largest misconception about bisexuality that I'd like to shoot down is that bisexuality upholds the gender binary. For the past several decades, the bisexual community has widely accepted the definitions "attracted to two or more genders" or "attracted to genders similar to your own and different than your own." Trans and nonbinary people are actually more likely to identify as bi- or pansexual than cis people, so this myth that bisexual people believe in the gender binary doubly erases them.
I also wish more people knew that bisexuality existed, and took listening to folks from our community more seriously. I think one of the reasons that it took me so long to come out was that I had so few bisexual role models, and I really didn't understand what it meant to be bi. Bisexual people are wildly underrepresented in media and positions of power, even compared to other folks in the LGBTQ+ community, and this can be really harmful. For example, there's lots of discussion in the local political scene in San Francisco about the fact that we've still never elected a gay mayor. This is definitely upsetting, but it's also worth noting that while bisexual folks are a much larger percentage of the LGBTQ+ community, we've still never even elected a bisexual city supervisor in San Francisco. So few people notice lack of bisexual representation or chalk up gay and lesbian representation as "good enough" for us. I wish both straight and gay and lesbian folks would listen more to bi and pan people about why this isn't sufficient and the unique realities that we do experience.
What can straight/cis people do to support your community?
On an interpersonal personal level, listen to and consider us. I wish straight folks would make more of an effort to seek out diverse voices in the media they consume and understand that the LGBTQ+ community isn't a homogenous community. A couple micro-agressions that frustrate me interpersonally are when straight women claim to support me, but make comments about how they'd never want to date a bisexual man, or when friends are visibly more excited when I have crushes on folks of one gender rather than another.
On a political level, support queer liberation beyond just same sex marriage! The queer community's struggles by no means start and end with marriage. Queer people, and especially trans people of color, are much more likely to be homeless, face police brutality and be exploited for low wages. I think the Democratic Socialists of America's 2017 statement on queer rights is a good jumping off point for learning about how a lot of these issues are related.
What do you love about being queer?
Queer culture is absolutely incredible! One of my favorite parts of queer culture is the idea of "chosen family." So many queer people have been ostracized from their own family that there's a culture of building your own family from other queer folks around you and loving and supporting each other unconditionally. That is so powerful to me and makes me feel super warm and fuzzy inside.
Queer folks and queer culture also tend to really value open and honest communication in our relationships. Given that our communities are so much smaller than cishet communities, it's almost a given that you'll have to continue to interact with your ex or that random person you hooked up with once at a party. There's a culture of being emotionally mature enough to have hard conversations and maintain these relationships that's present in the queer community that I really appreciate.
How do you stay connected to the LGBTQ+ community?
It's so important for my mental health to have queer friends and especially other polysexual (bi- or pansexual friends). I'm fairly "straight passing," for lack of a better word so I blend in well in cishet communities, but I find being surrounded exclusively by straight people without anyone who really fully "gets" me to be really draining. In college I found this community through volunteering and working at the LGBT Center and today I've mostly built my queer community through local political activism. Making other queer friends online, usually on Twitter today, but on Tumblr during my high school days, has also been a great resource.
What does the LGBTQ+ community need to work on? How can they better support your identity?
I wish more gay and lesbian folks were more aware of the specific struggles that bi- and pansexual people face. I feel like bisexual folks get a lot of hate from gay and lesbian folks, because people see that 80% of binary gendered bisexual people are in male/ female relationships (*content warning for nonbinary erasure at that link*) and assume we're more privileged. I do think that my ability to pass as straight, especially when I'm in dating a cis man, earns me certain privileges such as not being harassed by folks in public. However, the reality is that there's so much more to the daily reality of being bisexual than this.
Bisexual people are way less likely to be out to everyone in their life than gay and lesbian folks, and that this leads to much worse mental health outcomes. Bisexual women are also much more likely to be sexually assaulted than either straight or lesbian women; I imagine because we're so over-sexualized in media.
To share some anecdata about my experience as a bi woman, I'm constantly anxious about my sexuality and where I fit into the queer community. I'm constantly coming out to people, as my identity is rarely recognized. Whenever I have a crush on a cis boy, I get anxious that I'll be rejected by queer friends for being in a "straight passing" relationship or that this will be the nail in the coffin that will convince them I've been "lying for attention" about my identity this whole time. When I go out with lesbians, I'm anxious the whole time that my bisexuality will be a deal breaker for them because they'll assume I'll leave them for a man. On dating apps I'm constantly inundated by folks hypersexualizing me and asking me for threesomes... All of this adds up, and it's frustrating.
I don't think we have it worse off than anyone else, I just wish that when bisexual people talked about these daily realities, gay and lesbian people would listen.
Describe your coming out experience in 5 words or less.
Every day since age 18. *eyeroll*
Favorite piece of LGBTQ+ media?
I'm going to be cliche as hell and name all of Expectations by Hayley Kiyoko, because she's genuinely such an inspiration to me. I also recently discovered Norwegian artist girl in red who's another amazing queer lady musician. Her song "i wanna be your girlfriend" is already one of my queer anthems.
As for TV I love Jane The Virgin, and I've been really thrilled with the bisexual representation on the show in the recent seasons.
Who are your LGBTQ+ role models?
I think I'm going to go with Eliel Cruz, Blair Imani, and Shayna Maci Warner, who are all bisexual superstars. Eliel Cruz is the Director of Communications for New York City Anti-Violence Project, and he's written extensively about bisexual issues for Bi.org among other publications. Blair Imani is an out Black, Muslim, bisexual woman who formerly worked in communications for Planned Parenthood and has since founded a nonprofit and is releasing a book about modern women's history. Shayna Maci Warner is the managing editor of Outwrite and a documentary filmmaker, and I am so honored to say that I met her doing queer activism in high school.
Who are your favorite LGBTQ+ celebrities?
I absolutely love Janelle Monáe, Hayley Kiyoko, Kehlani, and Brendon Urie. The fact that we're all queer makes me feel like I'm part of some cool kids club.