I have always questioned my sexual identity. I remember being in primary school, ten years old and feeling awkward over having crushes on girls. I always thought that there must be something wrong with me and that I must be some sort of pervert. Coming into my teen years I continued having feelings for girls and became intimate with girls. I wanted to kiss girls and flirt with girls and have a girlfriend. By then I had grasped the understanding that being a lesbian was okay and that if that’s what I was I should be proud. The problem was, I am not a lesbian. I love men too. I ventured into a long-term relationship with a man and am still with him today, happily committed. So, what the fuck am I?
Is Bisexuality Real?
Bisexuality never crossed my mind as a possibility. To be honest, I never thought of it as a legitimate sexual orientation. I’m presumed to be straight as I present as quite femme and appear to be in a heterosexual relationship therefore that’s the label I always identified with. However, I’m not straight. Anytime somebody labels me as straight I get such a horrible feeling in my stomach as if someone has just punched me in the gut. Of course, that is nobody’s intention, I must be straight, it would be illogical to think otherwise, right? Because in the minds of most, one is either homosexual or heterosexual and there is no real in between.
Most of us see sexuality as a binary concept with no room for fluidity. That’s how I have perceived it for the longest time. This is down to bi-erasure and is the reasoning behind my own previous internalized bi-phobia.
Mainstream media has come a long way in the past few years in terms of queer representation. We see gay men represented in shows like Glee and Sense 8 with RuPaul’s Drag Race giving amazing representation to the drag community, often highlighting the contestants previous homophobic discrimination and contributing to Aids awareness.
Lesbians are well portrayed in shows like Girls or the L Word and everyone has seen Blue is the Warmest Colour, right? (If you haven’t get a grip and watch it now, it’s on Netflix).
The inclusion of a Transgender character in Orange is the New Black opened amazing conversations for those who would have never previously discussed Trans rights and Trans discrimination. However, I still believe more Trans representation is needed in mainstream media, but only if it’s done right (I’m looking at you Pretty Little Liars.)
But where is our bisexual representation? What about the B in LGBT? That’s not to say there haven’t been popular characters who have been attracted to both men and women (see Frank Underwood, Piper Chapman, Britney S. Pearse etc) but they are hardly ever, if ever, identified as bi. They’re just ‘experimenting’ or ‘they didn’t know they were gay.’ Piper is such a raging bi sexual, it’s pretty fucking obvious yet she is only ever seen as straight when with Larry and Gay when she’s with Alex. Why can’t she be a little bit both?
This just heightens the stigma that bi folks are all just closeted homosexuals. It takes away our agency and our legitimacy. It’s examples like this that hurt our argument for Bi inclusion.
Bisexuality and Feminism
So, how is the patriarchy to blame for this you might ask. Is it just my corrupt little feminist brain blaming everything on men yet again? Hear me out.
When a man comes out as bisexual he is assumed to just be closeted. It is assumed that he is lying to himself and that he must only be attracted to men and that he should just admit it to himself and the world. When a bisexual woman comes out, she is only doing it to get attention – to impress men. She just wants to kiss girls in front of guys to turn them on and so that they find her more attractive. Either way, in both situations, all bi people must only like men. Sorry, what?!
Bi men are hardly ever portrayed in mainstream media, audiences usually only see bi women who are introduced in an overtly sexual manner to appeal to the male gaze. Not only is this alienating to male bisexuals, it also further fetishizes bisexual and gay women. The idea of a woman who wants to have sex with you as well as with other women is arousing but the thought of a man being attracted to you as well as his girlfriend is perverse.
It is the patriarchy that has ingrained in us all that bisexual women are more promiscuous than their gay and straight counterparts and that all bisexual women want to do is have threesomes. It contributes to the stereotype that bisexual women are more prone to cheat on you and that we can never be fully satisfied in a monogamous relationship.
Bi-Phobia in The Community
Bisexuals not only experience bi-phobia and bi erasure by the straight, white men of Hollywood but also within the LGBT community. We have been accused of simultaneously being closeted gay people taking advantage of straight privilege and also attention-seeking heterosexuals taking over queer spaces (gay bars, pride.) We are concurrently not gay enough and not straight enough. Our sexuality is illegitimized and invalidated.
Another argument within in the queer community against bisexuality is that the phrase itself suggests a binary in gender. The idea is that it limits our attraction to trans and non-binary people. For me at least, ‘bisexual’ works as an umbrella term for anything from bisexual, pan-sexual, bi romantic and everything in between.
My perception of my own bisexuality is that it means I am attracted to both people of my own gender and other genders. It means that I have the capacity and ability to fall in love with absolutely anybody no matter their gender identity, and that’s pretty fucking amazing.
On September 23rd each year, Bisexual Visibility Day is celebrated. Each year people come forward, mainly online to share their own experience with bi-erasure and express their queer pride. Even celebrities such as Evan Rachel Wood (my future wife btw) have spoken about their struggle for equality and acceptance and how bi-phobia can have a detrimental affect on our mental health. Wood tweeted, ‘I have battled with myself most of my life because I wasn’t gay or straight enough. I used to think I would never be happy.’ I remember reading this tweet back in 2015 and it hitting me like a tonne of bricks. That’s exactly how I felt. Influencers like Evan using their large platform to normalize the bisexual identity is what we need to battle misconceptions and inequality.
Studies have shown that almost 50% of people who identify as lesbian, gay or bi fall into the bi category yet we are so underrepresented. It’s important, especially for young people of any minority, to see themselves fairly represented in society. To show them that they are not a freak, they’re not alone and that being different is a good thing. Maybe if I had more bi imagery growing up, I mightn’t have hated myself and shamed myself for as long as I have. I mightn’t have gotten so frustrated with myself for not being able to ‘pick a side because I didn’t have too, both are great.
To know and accept this now and to live unapologetically as a result has been amazing. To live authentically is something that we must not take for granted. Bisexuality is real, it is valid, it is beautiful.