The key thing to remember throughout this article: Bisexuals exist and are valid.
This week, 16-23 of September, is bisexual awareness week and some might ask why the B in LGBT+ needs a special week of focus – especially when Gay Pride takes place across the world throughout the summer months. This is because bisexuals specifically experience discrimination on both sides – from gay and straight people. Although they make up 40% of the LGBT community, (making the bisexual population the single largest group within the LGBTQ community) bi-erasure and biphobia exist, with the argument that bisexuality doesn’t exist and those who identify as such are invalid.
For a world that has become increasingly open with homosexuality in particular, it seems that many are still not onboard with those ‘in-between’. Which, in all honesty, is still very backwards thinking, as sexuality is a spectrum, just like gender identity too. No one should feel like they have to ‘pick a side’.
Bisexuality is initially a term used to describe those who are attracted (romantically and/or sexually) to two or more genders, but as time and understanding have progressed, it is clear that it is more of an attraction to a person, regardless of their gender. Those who identify as bisexual might also call themselves queer or pansexual, due to those terms being more open with an attraction to everyone, such as transgender and non-binary people. On the same side of the coin, many think that bisexuality can be put down to percentages, e.g. liking men 40% and liking women 60% of the time. Which may be the case for some, and although it might to be confusing to those who don’t identify as bisexual, think how confusing it can be for those who do. Asking for percentages or the common question, ‘who are you more attracted to’ isn’t helpful for either party, unless the bisexual person openly admits their preference to men or women.
Up until the last decade, there hasn’t been much representation in the media of the LGBTQ community and arguably there hasn’t been much representation of bisexuals at all. Take this video below, for example, this is a scene from one of the biggest hit TV shows in the 2000s – Sex and the City. With millions across the world watching this show, their platform was therefore massive and approaching the topic of bisexuality, this was the discussion that was had:
For those growing up in the 2000s, having these kinds of stereotypes thrown around so humorously doesn’t make it any easier for closeted bisexuals. Sex and the City is not necessarily to blame for this (although the writers of this scene probably did some damage), words such as ‘greedy’ and ‘indecisive’ are commonly used to describe those who identify as bisexual or queer. These words aren’t just used by straight people either, biphobia is frequently experienced even in the gay community.
There are many, many problems with this, a lot of closeted children see the LGBTQ community as a place of love and complete acceptance and this isn’t always the case. Racism, biphobia and transphobia are experienced within, which leads to a lot of individuals feeling too uncomfortable with their identity to come out. According to Pew Research in 2017, only 19% of bisexual people were ‘out’ to the important people in their lives, as opposed to the 75% of people identifying as gay or lesbian. This has a knock-on effect with certain situations, such as healthcare:
“Bisexual people are more likely to have high cholesterol, asthma, cancer, heart disease, and obesity, all health effects that may be helped by seeing a doctor regularly. – only 50% of bi people come out to their doctor as opposed to 90% of gay men and women”
Due to biphobia, many people do not feel comfortable with coming out to their doctors or health care providers. A recent survey of bisexuals in the United Kingdom found that only 33 percent of respondents felt comfortable telling their general practitioner about their sexual orientation, and nearly half had experienced biphobia when accessing health services. If one doesn’t feel comfortable with disclosing their sexual identity, this leads to possible delays of scheduling doctors appointments, and turning to Google instead to check their symptoms. For example: A recent study found that biphobia contributes to bisexual men being less likely to come out and get tested for HIV, which has caused bisexual men to be “disproportionately affected by HIV.” This is an extremely worrying issue that is the result of bi-erasure.
Additionally, in the U.S. it has been reported that three out of four bisexual women have experienced violence in their lifetime; less than half of heterosexual women and lesbians have had such violence enacted upon them. The reason for this was put down to the fetishisation of bisexual women in particular, due to women being victims of the male gaze already, bi women seem to be even more intriguing to straight men. The confusion of people thinking sex and sexuality are the same thing, leads to WLW (woman-loving-woman) relationships being overly sexualised. It is no surprise that the number one porn category around the world is consistently lesbian. So, bisexuals are often left feeling invalid, greedy, indecisive and deceiving but yet, are continually fetishised for being intriguing. Make it make sense! Bisexuals are not a sexual fantasy, they are very much human and valid.
This all leads to similar mental health effects that arise with homophobia. The queer population as a whole experiences higher rates of depression, binge drinking, self-harm, and suicidality than the straight population. That said, compared to all other women, bisexual women are more likely to have an eating disorder, experience high levels of stress, and engage in substance use.BU Today
Bi representation is increasing however, with more and more celebrities coming out as bisexual, which I think is especially important for children to see. Learning that you can just be either gay or straight, a woman or a man, masculine or feminine etc is so needed. Too many children and young adults have such a fear of actually being who they really are, and end up having psychological issues that could easily be avoided if people just allowed others to live their lives without being discriminated against.
With all this said, I am actually optimistic for the future of queer representation. Gen Z are a real force to be reckoned with, in terms of activism and acceptance and I hope issues such as biphobia are eventually eradicated as more people educate themselves on the spectrum of sexuality and gender.
What can you do as an ally?
Below is a screenshot from a brief I found, I have included a lot of stats and information already in this article from the brief, but incase you want to read over it in full, please click here.
Some celebrity bicons/queers below:
Lastly, if a bisexual person is in a same-sex relationship, that doesn’t make them then gay or lesbian, they are still bisexual, unless they say otherwise.
Alexa, play Sweater Weather.
Featured Image courtesy of flickr/marymactavish