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Let’s Wave Good Bi to Bisexual Erasure

Bisexual erasure is the denial of the existence of bisexuality and refusal to consider it a legitimate sexuality. According to a survey from Pew Research Center, only 20 percent of bisexual people believe their sexuality is an important factor of their identity, and only about 28 percent of bisexuals feel that it’s necessary to come out. Due to this issue, the majority of bisexual people feel unworthy or dissatisfied with the label, and may even feel unaccepted by their LGBTQ+ peers.

Since coming to UMass Amherst and talking to multiple LGBTQ+ individuals, I’ve noticed a common trend among gays and bisexual people: while many gays feel discriminated against, bisexuals usually feel invalidated by well-meaning individuals who assume they know more about our sexuality than we do. Sometimes when I tell someone I’m bisexual, particularly if they are an older adult, I feel the need to oversimplify it for them and “pick a side,” because they can’t seem to grasp the concept of sexual fluidity. When I tell someone my age that I’m bisexual, I immediately feel that I need to “over-come out” and hand them a list of my qualifications or something because girls tend to dismiss it as a college phase and guys tend to fetishize bisexuality.

When people point their finger and overgeneralize how we choose to identify, we find ourselves irrationally thinking, “Oh no, what if I’ve been lying to myself this whole time?”, as though we aren’t the ones who live with our own thoughts. A bisexual person does not become gay if they like a member of the same sex, and they do not become straight if they like a member of the opposite sex. Further, it takes a conscious effort to undo this thinking in a society where heterosexuality is the norm and homosexuality is the only other explanation.

Being that National Eating Disorders Week just passed last week, it is important to note that bisexual and questioning individuals are at a higher risk for eating disorders. Bisexuals are also more likely to experience anxiety, depression and suicidal thoughts in comparison to heterosexuals, lesbians and gays. Although these issues are severe regardless of sexual orientation, shame from bisexual erasure is a contributing factor that is preventable. If you are bisexual, The Stonewall Center here at UMass Amherst is a great resource for workshops and support groups. You can combat bisexual erasure by simply speaking up and spreading awareness to beat the stigma.

I used to get upset when I would hear people reiterate the common misconception that “people are only bisexual for attention,” but now I’m like, “Yes!!! It is I, a bisexual person, asking for your attention to this matter! We exist, even if you don’t agree with us! We exist, even if you can’t relate to us! We love it when you treat us the same regardless of what gender we are interested in! That makes us feel safe and normal! That’s all we want!”

Photo courtesy of Melissa Kleckner.

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Olivia Banks

U Mass Amherst

Olivia is a freshman undergraduate student at UMass Amherst. She is an English major, runner, gluten enthusiast, Virgo, animal lover and habitual SNL watcher. She also loves to read, write, and tell terrible jokes.
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