Around my freshman year of college, I made a conscious decision that I was going to be completely honest about my sexuality to anyone and everyone who asked. From a young age, I always knew that I wasn’t exactly straight, but I wasn’t exactly gay either. It wasn’t until the end of junior high that I even learned that there was a term for it: bisexuality.
Still, I never told anyone until last year that I was attracted to both genders because it was just easier to tell them that I was straight. I knew that there was a lot of stigma surrounding bisexuality and I was technically only half lying. What was so bad about that? Why do they even need to know my business anyways? They probably wouldn’t even understand. As I’ve grown older, I’ve realized just how contorted my thinking was back then. I shouldn’t have to dumb down or lie about who I am to appease others. Bisexuality isn’t a complicated term. It means what it means.
According to research done by Gallup in 2016, it is estimated that around 4.1% of adults in the United States identify on the LGBTQ scale. In early January of 2016, The National Health Statistic Reports claimed that only two-percent of males identified as bisexual while five-and-a-half percent of women identified as bisexual based off the records from the 2011-2013 National Survey of Family Growth. Despite such a large number of people identifying as bisexual, there is still a lot of stigmatization and alienation among bisexuals in society today.
From the various movies, television shows, and books that I have read or seen, the characters are always either gay or straight: there’s rarely ever any representation of what’s in between. Even when there are portrayals of bisexual characters, they are often written as stereotypes. For example, arguably one of the biggest media representation of bisexuality as of today is Piper Chapman of Orange is the New Black. Although the show uses its platform to normalize homosexuality and depict all members of the LGBTQ community, the writers of the show are unfortunately lacking the skills to write an accurate bisexual character.
Despite the fact that one of the main characters is bisexual, the word “bi” is only mentioned once in the first two seasons, twenty-six episodes to be exact, as first reported by Danica Leninsky in “Orange is the New Black: Biseuxal Erasure.” Just once! If that wasn’t enough, the depiction of Piper’s sexuality among her husband Larry Bloom and her ex-girlfriend Alex Vause reinforces the stigma behind bisexuality. For instance, Larry often refers to his ex-wife as a “lesbian,” while Alex often calls Piper “straight.” This gives the illusion that Piper’ bisexuality isn’t legitimate, and merely only experimental in Alex’s eyes and not real in Larry’s eyes.
Amy Zimmerman in “It Ain’t Easy Being Bisexul on TV” puts it perfectly by stating, “Our mainstream media reinforces the notion that bisexuality is either a fun, voluntary act of experimentation or a mere myth through two tried and true tactics: misrepresenting and oversimplifying bisexual characters until they are either punchlines or wet dream fodder, or simply refusing to portray bisexual characters in the first place.”
When people learn that someone’s bisexual there’s still always the same slew of ignorant questions and statements that follow: “You’re not bi, you just can’t commit.” “You just want to sleep around and not be called a slut like you should be.” “You’re just confused. It’s obvious that you’re a dyke from the way that you dress.” The one question that I get most often is: “Oh you’re bisexual? So, you’d be down for a threesome, right?” Overall, bisexuality isn’t widely accepted or talked about unless when it’s fetishized among straight males.
There are hundreds of articles that have been written on this topic of fetishizing bisexuality and homosexuality of women. Some even write that it’s a positive, that because men oversexualize women, women’s sexuality is more widely tolerated. I’ve had many people tell me basically the same thing: “What are you whining about, tons of people talk about how sexy bi girls are?”
Sure, in a convoluted way, the act of oversexualizing woman has helped people accept bisexual and lesbian women, especially a lot more than bisexual and gay men. But their acceptance is based off pure ignorance and untrue beliefs. Men don’t accept bisexuality because it’s normal and just part of life. They only accept bisexuality when the women involved are women that are deemed attractive by social standards. If a woman were to walk into a room sporting “stereotypical men clothes” and a short haircut, she wouldn’t be accepted as bisexual because she doesn’t fit the fantasy of men who “accept” it. It’s a load of bullshit.
Ironically, bisexuality among the LGBTQ community isn’t even accepted either. As Denise Ingram stated in “A Double Life: Bisexual Bias in the Gay Community,” “We like to joke that’s the one thing straights and gays agree on: They don’t understand bisexuals.” And why? Many believe that LGBTQ people don’t accept bisexuality because of the same reasons that straight people don’t: that it doesn’t exist and bisexual people are too confused or too afraid to admit that they’re actually just gay. As stated by Marcus Morgan in “Bisexuals: putting the B back in LGBT,” “A lot of the people using the LGBT scene are bisexuals in the closet – they came out as gay or lesbian because they knew that would get a good reception.”
Because people who identify as bisexual aren’t accepted in either the world of homosexuality or the world of heterosexuality, they feel ostracized and alienated. Therefore, those who identify as bisexual are often less likely to come out than those who are gay or lesbian because of fear of backlash from both communities. Unfortunately, this sort of discord creates a lot of guilt and shame among bisexuals who then end up suffering from mental health problems as a result. According to a study published in the Journal of Adolescent Heath that investigated mental health symptoms among bisexual, homosexual, and questioning individuals, “Bisexual and questioning females endorsed significantly higher scores on the depression, anxiety, and traumatic distress subscales than did heterosexual females. Lesbians, bisexual females, and questioning females all exhibited significantly higher lifetime suicide scores than heterosexual females.”
Although we live in a society that seems to be more accepting of homosexuality, we have only made a small step in the right direction. It’s 2017 and we have barely made a dent in the march to provide everyone with equal rights despite their sexuality. Through this fight however, we have been inadvertently silencing the voices of those who aren’t either gay or straight while conversing on the topic of sexuality. We have been focusing on the big black-and-white details when the matter is so much more than that. Sexuality is more than just being gay or straight: it’s a spectrum and we need to honor that when we fight for equal rights regarding sexuality. We need to spend more time on speaking out and educating people about bisexuality. The media should spend more time portraying accurate bisexual characters and stop reinforcing ignorant beliefs. In all, we as a whole just need to stop forgetting the B in LGBTQ.