More Invisible Than Fall Reading Week: Bisexual Voices Speak Out

Let’s pause for a second.

Off the top of your head, how many explicitly bisexual characters in films, books, (web)comics, etc., can you count?

Now, how many bisexual people do you know in real life? Bisexual celebrities?

The reality is this: those numbers simply don’t match.

VIBE CHECK! Bisexual erasure is one of the most persistent, most difficult to overcome problems faced by the people who identify under the “B” in LGBTQ+. Unfortunately, there is still a very visible lack of representation in media, which only perpetrates biphobic stereotypes that harm everyone in the community, not just bisexuals. By “bi erasure,” we usually mean the deliberate questioning of the legitimacy of bisexuality as its own identity, as well as the tendency to treat bisexuality as an after-thought vis-à-vis members of the queer community. Bisexuality is, quite literally, invisible to non-bi people: when you see a queer couple on the street, does your mind immediately label them as a gay or lesbian couple? Do you ever take a second to think that maybe one or more of the partners could be bisexual, or of some other sexual orientation? Bisexuals are often excluded from the empowering narratives of queer activism because most people still think in terms of “straight/gay” binaries, leading to a painful lack of bisexual spaces, both online and offline.

I am bisexual, and I’m here to voice some of my concerns about the misconceptions I’ve encountered regarding our community.

  1. 1. Are bisexuals attracted to only men and women?

    No! The “bi” in bisexuality is the unfortunate linguistic product of a society that only allowed two genders, but bisexuality is so much more than that. Mind you, bisexuality and pansexuality are two different, separate sexual orientations, but allowing a little of overlap does NOT delegitimize either of them. My definition of bisexuality includes attraction to your gender and other genders; that is to say, bisexuality includes non-binary people as well and it does not favour cis-gender over trans-gender people. Bisexuality does, though, perceive attraction differently depending on the potential partner’s gender, and most bisexuals do end up having a preference (which does not make them any less bisexual). As I understand it (and feel free to correct me if I’m wrong), pansexuality is an orientation where the potential partner’s gender has no effect on the way the person experiences attraction. My point here is that both orientations are equally valid, but claiming you are pansexual solely because bisexuality “is binary and limiting” is biphobic. You should only choose your label based on what you feel most comfortable with, and not based on misguided assumptions.

  2. 2. Is bisexuality just a stepping stone into homosexuality?

    No! Sexuality is fluid, yes, but saying bisexuality is “a phase” harms both bisexuals and homosexuals. Some people identify as bisexual before they decide they are actually homosexual, but for others, bisexuality is the identity they will feel most comfortable with their whole lives. Self-reflexivity and self-revising is important, but generalizing people’s experiences is quite harmful. This particularly affects bi women and lesbians, whose identities seem to be questioned and delegitimized constantly. Bi women are bisexual and lesbians are lesbians, and nobody but themselves gets to decide otherwise. Period.

  3. 3. Are bisexuals worse at sex than homosexuals?

    No? I really have no idea where this misconception might have come from because it just sounds so ridiculous to me, but I don’t believe that your sexual orientation can dictate whether or not you’ll be able to please your partner. Choosing not to become romantically or sexually involved with someone should not boil down to myths surrounding their sexuality. Each individual is different, has different levels of experience, and also different degrees of communication with their partners. I don't think sexual orientation has anything to do with whether you're good in bed or not.

  4. 4. Do bisexuals in “straight” relationships belong in queer spaces?

    Yes! First of all, there is no such thing as a “straight” relationship if one or more of the partners is bisexual. Same applies to “gay” relationships where bisexuals are involved. If you’re dating a bi person, then it’s a bisexual relationship, simple as that. Invalidating bi people because they are dating a heterosexual is biphobic: the whole point of bisexuality is dating whomever you want. Just because your current partner might be heterosexual it does not mean you’re suddenly not bisexual anymore, and just because your current partner might be homosexual it does not mean you’ll be any less bisexual. It’s really not hard to understand: bisexual is bisexual until the person decides otherwise, and if they do, that’s also okay.

Ever since I became an active member of online queer circles (read: Twitter and Instagram), for the first time in my life, I’ve encountered biphobia. Yeah, biphobia coming from fellow members of the queer community. The straights don’t want us, the gays don’t want us, it really does feel like there is no place for us, and that hurts a lot. What biphobes were not counting on, however, is that I am the most stubborn person on the planet, and—mark my words—I will fight tooth and nail to carve myself and all bisexuals a space where we can feel safe, comfortable, and like we belong, with no gatekeeping. If you’re bisexual, I see you, I hear you, and I stand with you. You’re valid and loved, and you’re capable of so, so much. Don’t give up, be proud. If you’re not bisexual, I hope reading this has made you a little more sympathetic to our struggle. Inclusivity and inclusive language goes a long way, spread solidarity. If you are kind and open, good things will come to you.