It’s Bisexual Visibility Day!
Here are 10 talking points to help you through the conversations you may be having over the next few days.
1. Bisexuality exists.
If someone doesn’t believe, for example, that trees grow from seeds, or that China exists, or that the earth rotates around the sun, it doesn’t stop those things from being true. Just because some straight, lesbian and gay people don’t believe that bisexuality exists, doesn’t stop bisexuality from existing.
(Please don’t quote that experiment to me that wired up men and recorded their level of penile erection and pupil dilation in response to pornography. It was bad science. Also, see point 5.)
2. “Bisexual” does not mean, and has never meant, “attraction to both men and women”.
- attraction to both those whose sex/gender is the same as / similar to yours and those whose sex/gender is different from yours, and
- attraction to more than one sex/gender.
Of course, if your understanding of sex and gender is such that you believe that only male and female / men and women exist, that there are no other sexes or genders, both of those statements will read for you as “both men and women”.
N.B. This does not mean that if your attractions match up with either or both of these two definitions that you must identify as bisexual: see point 5.
3. Bisexuality is not in any way a trans-exclusive identity or orientation.
Trans men are men and trans women are women, full stop. Even if you take bisexual to mean “attraction to both men and women,” trans men and trans women are included.
There are undoubtedly transphobic bi people, just as there are transphobic people of all other sexualities. The problem is not their sexuality, but their transphobia.
4. If you identify as pansexual, omnisexual, polysexual, or non-monosexual in any other way, Bisexual Visibility Day and Bisexual Awareness Week belong to you, too.
Bisexual, pansexual, omnisexual, polysexual, etc. are all names for the same thing, in the same way that lesbian, dyke and gay woman are all names for the same thing. Each term has different emphases, the understanding of what those emphases are will change from person to person, and those who choose each as their identity have a variety of different reasons for doing so.
In the same way that anything labelled “lesbian” is clearly there for those who identify as dykes and gay women, too, anything labelled “bisexual” is also there for those who identify as pansexual, omnisexual, polysexual, et al.
(And if anyone tries to tell you different, that you should leave bisexual spaces or services if you identify as pansexual, etc., send them to me. I’m serious: elinor [dot] lgbtplus [dot] volunteer [at] gmail [dot] com)
5. Desire, behaviour and identity are different things, although they are often connected.
A person may have sexual and/or romantic desire for people of a range of sexes/genders, at the same time may never have had sex or a romantic relationship, and may also identify as straight, or gay, or one of the bisexual identities, or something else, or not identify at all.
Our desires may be fantasies that we never want to enact, or they may be things we definitely want to experience for real. Our sexual and romantic behaviour may be governed as much by opportunity, peer pressure, or social acceptability as by our desires. Our identity may be chosen for political, social, family and/or community as well as personal reasons.
You are not ‘doing it wrong’ if your desires, behaviours and identity around sex and romance are vastly different from one another.
You are not ‘doing it wrong’ if your desires and/or behaviours and/or identity change over time.
You are not ‘doing it wrong’ if your identity is queer and lesbian and pansexual, or any other multiple combination, even if others think that such a combination is a contradiction in terms.
You do you. Don’t let anyone ever tell you that they know your sexuality better than you do, or that you are ‘really’ something else.
6. Bisexuality and other non-monosexual identities do not equate to promiscuity or cheating.
Promiscuous people and cheaters come in all orientations. So do demure, celibate, and faithful people.
7. Bisexuality and other non-monosexual identities do not equate to polyamory.
There may be more openness to polyamory in queer cultures, more openness to non-monosexuality in polyamorous cultures, and bi people may feel peer pressure to be polyamorous.
But being monogamous or being polyamorous is a thing in itself, separate from the sex(es)/gender(s) one is attracted to. People of all orientations are monogamous. People of all orientations are polyamorous.
8. Bisexuality and other non-monosexual identities are not just a stop on the way to Gayville or Lesbiantown.
There is a lot of pressure within lesbian and gay communities — even those that tag bisexual in, too — to conform to a particular narrative of coming out: a journey to the inevitable destination of gay or lesbian.
But I know way more people who identified as gay or lesbian when they were working out their sexuality and for whom a bisexual identity is their end destination than I do people who identified as bisexual when they were working out their sexuality and for whom a lesbian or gay identity is their end destination.
I also know plenty of people whose experience of their sexuality and orientation has changed multiple times over their lifetime, or for whom it is a constantly fluid thing.
See point 5. You do you.
9. Yes, bisexual people are more likely to be in or have been in a relationship with a person of the ‘opposite’ sex/gender than with a person of the ‘same’ sex/gender*.
This is not about bisexual people’s internalised biphobia or homophobia, nor is it about hiding behind heterosexual privilege. It is about simple statistics.
90% of people are (mostly) heterosexual. A good chunk of them are open to dating bisexual people. 10% of people are (mostly) homosexual. A good chunk of them are not open to dating bisexual people.
Ergo, it is far easier for an out bisexual person, simply on the numbers, to end up in a relationship with a person of the ‘opposite’ sex/gender than it is for them to be in a relationship with a person of the ‘same’ sex/gender.
*For the sake of brevity and simplicity here, I have ignored the effect non-binary and genderqueer people may have on the stats. But please do bear in mind that ideas of ‘same’ and ‘opposite’ sex/gender are on very shaky ground, if not entirely unsupportable. For more information, I suggest you look up resources created by and for non-binary and genderqueer people.
10. The struggles of bisexual, pansexual, omnisexual, polysexual and other non-monosexual people are in some ways the same as the struggles of lesbians and gay men, and in some ways very different.
We share the pain of being rejected, of losing relationships, jobs, family, even children, when we come out. Bisexual and other non-monosexual people also face that pain of rejection and loss when going to the very communities which should support us — as do asexual and trans people.
And bisexual and other non-monosexual people have to come out over and over again to the same people, as our identities are constantly disbelieved and erased.
Bisexual people who are relatively gender-conforming and in a relationship with a person of the ‘opposite’ sex/gender (see caveat above at point 9) do not face the daily risk of violence, harassment and micro-aggressions out in public, because of the invisibility of our queerness. But bisexual people, regardless of gender conformity or relationships, face more intimate partner / domestic violence (especially bi women, who are at more than three times greater risk than either lesbian or straight women), more sexual assault, and much worse health — both physical and mental — than lesbians and gay men.
We need to come together over those struggles we face in common, and stand in solidarity with one another over those struggles we face that are different. Only together can we make the world inclusive and safe for people of all consensual sexual and romantic desires, behaviours and identities.