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Our Marriage Looks Straight. We’re Not.

Vanessa Dillon, 41, is a bisexual woman marrying Bob Bissonnette, 36, a bisexual man. Each has dated people of more than one gender in the past. Not adhering to monogamy, they might continue to do so after they are married. But at their wedding, to outsiders they appear straight.

“If I was marrying a woman, it would be obvious to everyone that I am queer,” said Ms. Dillon of Brisbane, Australia. “But because I’m holding hands with a man instead of a woman, everyone assumes I’m hetero. People think if you settle down with a bloke, you are all of a sudden straight again.”

So at their wedding, which is scheduled to take place Sept. 29 at a bandstand in a public park in Brisbane, Ms. Dillon and Mr. Bissonnette, both data analysts, are making plans with this in mind.

Their officiant is a friend who mostly performs queer weddings. The table for drinks will be covered in the rainbow gay pride flag. The bisexual pride flag, with its pink, purple and blue stripes, will drape the table with the registry. All the decorations — she is hand-making their wedding flowers out of paper — will be in those colors. Both of them are wearing custom Converse sneakers with rainbows over them, along with their wedding date, and he’ll also wear a purple bow tie.

“We want to reiterate on this important day that we are queer, and we want that to be openly celebrated by our family and friends,” Ms. Dillon said.

Like Ms. Dillon and Mr. Bissonnette, brides and grooms across the country who identity as bisexual but have marriages that “look straight” are finding ways to assert their identities. Some want to be identified as bisexual even after they are married, and assert their bisexual identity in different ways.

“Bisexuality is an identity that gets erased with frequency,” said Maddie Eisenhart, the chief revenue officer of A Practical Wedding, a website that offers advice to couples, including those who are in the L.G.B.T.Q. community. “Five or six years ago it was taboo to talk about being a bisexual within the context of marriage,” Ms. Eisenhart said. “Now people are talking about how to make their identity known even more.”

The percentage of American adults identifying as lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender rose to 4.5 percent in 2017, up from 4.1 percent in 2016, according to a 2018 Gallup poll. Gallup estimated that roughly half of those who self-identity as L.G.B.T. are bisexual.

As of 2017, L.G.B.T. Americans are more likely to be married to someone they describe as being of the opposite gender (13.1 percent) than having a same-gender spouse (10.2 percent.) This can take lots of forms. Mayor Bill de Blasio of New York, for example, is married to a woman, Chirlane McCray, who has said she is a lesbian and also has said she prefers not to be labeled.

For many couples the most important day to assert their bisexual identity is their wedding day.

In 2017, Irina Gonzalez, a 33-year-old journalist based in Fort Myers, Fla., was planning her wedding to Adam Perski, a straight, 33-year-old engineer. She thought a lot about how to make her bisexuality a part of her wedding.

“I came out at 16 and my parents just didn’t get it,” she said. “Like many people they just didn’t believe me and thought it was a phase. I sometimes feel guilty because by marrying a man — it’s like I’ve proven the ‘phase’ thing to them.”

ImageIrina Gonzalez, who is bisexual, married Adam Perski, who is straight, in 2017.
CreditManny Gonzalez

She decided one of the best ways to honor her queer identity would be to have bridesmen in lieu of bridesmaids. The couple, though, ended up eloping on Dec. 28, 2017 in the middle of the process because of financial concerns. But it didn’t stop her from thinking about her future. “I think we will do a 10-year anniversary party someday, and I’ll probably incorporate more of my bi identity into that as well as when we have/raise kids.”

Megan Stewart, a project manager, who is bisexual, married her straight husband Jeff Scattini, a principal technical writer, in March 2013. For her ceremony, she added lines about equality into her vows. “It was like, ‘I accept you as you are and all of you,’” she said. The bride and groom, both 40 and based in San Francisco, simultaneously walked down two aisles that joined in the middle. The couple wanted to make it clear this wasn’t a traditional wedding.

At the wedding of Howard Koslofsky, a 57-year-old retiree, to Elizabeth Koslofsky, a 47-year-old project manager, in March 2015 at the Legacy of the Lakes Museum in Alexandria, Minn., they tried to nod discreetly to both of their bisexual identities. He wore a purple suit, the universally accepted color of bi. He also tapped a friend who identified as bisexual to be a groomsman. “This way they would know we are representing without yelling it,” he said.

Of course, he realized there were limits to his plan. “We appear to be a straight couple, a man and a woman,” he said. “It’s up to people what they think. They think I’m straight, and we do appear that way.”

Other grooms and brides have challenges as well.

Ms. Dillon said she attended a same-sex wedding expo to plan her wedding where she was treated differently for not being a lesbian. “Not all vendors treated us the same way because we were guy, girl and they thought they were looking at guy, guy, girl, girl,” she said. “Some vendors let us keep walking. They didn’t even bother talking to us.”

She also has met family resistance. “My mum got very uncomfortable when she had to talk to people about a girlfriend in the past,” she said. “So she’s very very happy she can talk about her future son-in-law instead of her future daughter-in-law.”

Ms. Eisenhart said it’s no small thing for someone’s sexual identity to be belittled when they get married. “To erase what is a big part of your life experience — your identity — that can be really traumatic,” she said. “Someone may have only dated women before marrying a man, and that informs who she is.”

With so much at stake, many couples continue to assert their identity after they are married.

Ms. Gonzalez and her husband attend pride events every year in South Florida. She bought a bi pin at the pride festival in Naples, which she still displays proudly on her jacket. She also speaks out on social media whenever there is an L.G.B.T.Q. rights issue in the news. “I feel the need to be more outspoken about my queer identity because I am in a heteronormative relationship,” she said.

Ms. Stewart is motivated by the conflicting feelings she has about being a queer woman married to a man. “There is a woman in my office, and she’s been married for 20 years to a woman, and they are madly in love,” she said. “But everyone else puts up pictures of their family in the office and she won’t. I can have a picture of my husband, and there won’t be judgment.”

Still, she talks about being bisexual on a daily basis. “I’m out with people and a very beautiful woman walks by, and I’m like, ‘She’s hot.’” she said. “I randomly drop it at work. I talk about the women I dated. I will make sure to say my ex was a woman, not a person. It’s the way to keep it alive.”

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