Putting the 'B' in LGBTQIA+

Last week was national Bi Visibility Week. I was proud to celebrate as an out bisexual person by sharing an excess amount of informational articles on facebook. And although I’ve been out to my family for two years, and out to friends and peers even longer, it’s hard to celebrate when people still don’t seem to “get it”. And as happy I am to write this article, remember that this is a brief overview; don’t assume that you can use your token queer friend as google.
Bisexuality is difficult for people to comprehend because society is good at compartmentalizing things as black and white. When something is in a gray zone (insert your fifty shades of gray pun here), it becomes harder for people to understand. The comments I hear tend to be “faker”, “slut”, “attention-seeker”, “greedy”, “flaky”, “traitor”, “confused”, “going back in the closet” when dating someone of a different gender and “coming back out” if they’re not. I must be attracted to everything with a pulse, I must have serious commitment issues, surely I can’t be trusted. It all sounds ridiculous, but it’s a real issue. Sexuality and gender aren’t dichotomies. It isn’t straight or gay, there is tons of wiggle room. Picture sexuality as a color spectrum- like the one on MS paint you used to get the perfect color for your cool picture you made in the early 2000s. Bisexuality is what we call “sexually fluid”. Sexual fluidity means you can be any custom color on MS paint. Although different people define bisexuality differently, I think of it as a changeable sexual and emotional attraction to people, where gender doesn’t have a defining factor. Meaning, you can don’t have to just be red or black, you can be magenta or blood orange. This can make the boundary of what is and who is bisexual blurry, leading people to believe that bisexuality isn’t a legitimate, life-long sexual orientation like heterosexuality or homosexuality. But even heterosexual people experiment and explore with gender and sexuality (what is it they say about college girls and exploration, again?) The difference is that bisexual people often develop romantic and sexual connections with more than one gender, rather than experience a passing curiosity.
Another hurdle bisexual people face is that people don’t want to believe that bisexual people exist, or if we do that we’re like global climate change: a lie made up by the chinese government. But, we’re real people. We’re humans with real feelings and real emotions who maintain very real, and very healthy relationships. We’re not a zoo exhibit for people to poke, and prod, and gape over. We’re not going away, and we’re not going to change for you or anyone else. And if you still don’t believe me, why don’t you have a chat with supermodel Cara Delevingne, who recently gave an interview to Vogue about being bisexual . Or maybe you can tell Channing Tatum or Angelina Jolie, both who have opened up publicly about being attracted to more than one gender, that their experiences are invalid. If you don’t believe me, perhaps re-access your love for Queen, because Freddie Mercury praised both men and women in his music. Telling me that I haven’t experienced attraction to various genders is telling me that my feelings aren’t real. And I’ll tell you that I have had equally enjoyable experiences with both men and women.
Both straight and gay people often presume that sexuality is a pit stop where there’s a fork in the road and you have to decide whether you’re trucking to Boystown or Lady Lane. The reality is that some people are just born in the middle of the sexual spectrum As for the “it’s a phase” argument, here is the truth about phases: if you call yourself bisexual and end up coming out as gay at the end of the day, your identity and experience is still valid. Think about when children go through that phase where they love stuffed animals, so parents buy them teddy bears like they’re lobbying for Theodore Roosevelt in 1901. Parents know the phase may not last forever, but they validate what their child is currently interested in. No matter what you’ve been told all your life, or how many nasty YouTube comments you’ve read, bisexuality is valid.
Misconceptions about bisexuality are microaggressions I face regularly. In reality, not to brag, I probably face a greater amount of sexism because of it. In “Lesbian and Gay Studies”, there is a study cited which confirms that bisexual people are confronted by more violence, and higher risks of suicide. In 1996 researchers gathered data from organized youth groups in metropolitan LGBTQIA+ centers across the U.S. 42% of the 194 participants had attempted suicide at least once and 60% had experienced suicidal idealization at one point or another in their lives. They continue, stating that they lost more friends as a result of their sexuality, “experienced a greater level of victimization and had great psychopathology” than those who had not attempted suicide (87). Additional studies done in Massachusetts in 1997 and Minnesota in 1998 “echoed the findings [of this study]”, finding LGBTQIA+ youth to be at a much higher risk of suicide than “their straight counterparts” (87). According to “Lesbian and Gay Studies” , members of the LGBTQIA+ community are also more likely to engage in high risk sports, misuse drugs and alcohol, and refuse to take protection against potentially lethal diseases (88). According to “The Encyclopedia of LGBT History in America” that violence against members of the LGBTQIA+ community is not only more likely, but tends to be viewed as more “socially acceptable” (161). In fact, most of the perpetrators of hate crimes do not see that they have done wrong. The laws in the United States are not very protective either, “fifteen states exclude crimes based on the victim’s real or perceived sexual orientation” (161). When I am asked why I choose to be bisexual, I’d like to show the asker these statistics. If I had a choice in my sexual orientation it would have been much easier to choose straight or gay, not only would it have been easier, it would have been safer. Which is why, as much as I use my sexuality as a punchline, I want to be able to celebrate my identity. I want to not live in fear. I am grateful that Bi Visibility Week exists because I am grateful that, after all these years, I still exist. And to anyone else struggling with their sexuality, I’m grateful that you exist too.
Sandfort, Theo. “Pg. #87-88.” Lesbian and Gay Studies: An Introductory, Interdisciplinary Approach. London: SAGE, 2000. N. pag. Print.
Sandfort, Theo. “Pg. #87-88.” Lesbian and Gay Studies: An Introductory, Interdisciplinary Approach. London: SAGE, 2000. N. pag. Print.