Bisexuality: “The quality or characteristic of being sexually attracted not exclusively to people of one particular gender.”Google Dictionary
For those unknowledgeable with terms related to sexual orientation, quite simply, a bisexual person is attracted to people other than the opposite sex, and more than a single gender. While heterosexual people are attracted to the opposite gender, and homosexual people are attracted to the same gender, bisexual people can be and are attracted to both.
Although this is a simplification, and gender is now widely understood as a social construct separate from biological sex, this is how bisexuality is generally understood. ‘Queer’ is the umbrella term for anyone that isn’t heterosexual or cisgender (someone who identifies with the gender assigned to them at birth), which bisexuality also comes under. Someone may also be bi-curious, meaning they are curious to try sexual activity with someone other than their preferred gender. This can be for both straight or gay people.
It’s important to note that bisexual people have nothing to prove with their sexuality. They do not have to date someone of the same gender, nor do they have to date someone of the opposite gender, to prove that they are bi. For many, being bi is part of their journey to understanding that they are gay or lesbian, and there is nothing wrong with that, but it isn’t always the case. Being bi is and always will be acceptable, and bisexuals should always be welcomed into the LGBT+ community.
Unfortunately, not everyone sees it like that. As with all homophobia and discrimination, bisexuals are often harassed and abused for their sexuality by bigots and, well, pathetic people. Even if another person isn’t intending to offend them, they may say something along the lines of “bisexuals don’t exist”, “they’re going through a phase”, or “how can you date someone that likes guys/girls as well?” These are all sadly common examples of ‘biphobia’ or ‘bi-erasure’.
What’s even sadder is the fact that a lot of abuse bi people face comes from the LGBT+ community themselves. Many who hold these views claim that bisexuals are just gays or lesbians that don’t want to publicly identify as such, who want to just appear straight. It’s also common to think people who are experimenting with their sexuality should be excluded from the community, they’re not “truly queer”. As such, it’s believed by these people that bisexuals can escape the struggles faced by the queer community by appearing to be straight. Some even say that while women can be bisexual, men can only be straight or gay.
Another biphobic talking point is that, now that it is widely accepted that there are more than two genders, bisexuality excludes those identifying outside of the gender binary, and that being pansexual is more inclusive. However, there is a clear difference in definition between the two. While bisexuals are attracted to ‘more than one gender’, pansexuals are attracted to someone ‘regardless of gender’, they may refer to themselves as ‘gender-blind’. Bi people can be attracted to non-binary people as well, but they may feel they want to show their appreciation for masculinity/femininity. Although they sound similar, both are equally valid and people will identify with whichever they feel more in line with; this does not diminish the validity of one over the other.
Something else that tends to happen with bi-erasure is when the media tends to mistakenly call openly bi people and celebrities either just straight or gay. Notable examples include Kristen Stewart, Michelle Rodriguez, Lady Gaga, Tom Daley, and Freddie Mercury.
In a similar fashion, bisexual people are also subject to harmful stereotypes about their sexual habits. Namely, that they are promiscuous, more likely to cheat, or more likely to engage in sex with multiple partners at once. Bi characters in media are often depicted as hypersexual, while their “bisexual trait” comes off as them being greedy, for sex, money, power, etc. Or their bisexuality is often overlooked as more of a running joke that only ever gets referenced, never shown. And so, the ‘bi character’ suffers a lack of meaningful, truthful representation.
So where do we go from here?
As we all know by now, unfortunately there’s no physical way to eliminate hate, stereotypes, and discrimination forever. We can, however, limit bi-erasure and push for real representation.
First and foremost: stick up for bi people facing alienation, whether it’s from the LGBT+ community or not. It’s quite frankly ridiculous that some of the community would betray their own, despite preaching the freedom to identify and express themselves however they want. Confront people who say these things and try to make them really think about what they’re saying.
I’m bisexual, and I never really ‘came out’. My family don’t know, (although they might if they should be reading this now, if so, hi!) I have never cared to tell people, or to feel represented correctly, or to even engage with the LGBT+ community, so what I say on the topic may not be entirely accurate. I am bi, but I’ve only had one sexual partner, who is a woman. Even now that I know that I am bi, I still have a stronger attraction to women, but that doesn’t diminish that I am also attracted to men. I have never had to face bigotry on account of me being bi, and the time I spent coming to terms with the fact that I was, I kept the whole matter a secret. I wouldn’t say anything about me stands out enough that people would think I am bi either.
My experiences are widely different from many others. Where they were abused on the basis of their sexuality, I was abused for the colour of my skin, my appearance. While I don’t identify strongly with the community, I do agree with them on most things. I find that their views, politics and practices are correct, and very close to my own. In that regard, while I’m not explicitly part of the community, I think the alienation bi people face is completely unwarranted and destroys the spirit and nature of the LGBT+ community. We (well, I suppose not me exactly) face enough discrimination from the outside world, why direct that at each other, when we should be trusting and confiding in each other?
I wasn’t aiming to answer the question in the title of this article when I began writing it, I wanted it to be open. I want to direct it at the people harboured in the community that feel like bi people don’t have a place among them. With such a confusing, troubling world right now, where communities are divided enough as it is, why is it still an issue with you? If you find you can’t answer this question, or you struggle to legitimise your argument, perhaps this is a sign to rethink your views. And it’s a real shame if you needed someone that’s bi, but not involved in the community, to show you this.