Good Bye Good Bis :
Respectability Politics in Our Community
Those of us who fall under the Bi+ umbrella may make up the majority of the LGBTQIA+ community, but we often feel on the outside of it. Erased and rendered invisible by monosexuals in queer and straight communities alike, the isolation that bi people face has real consequences for our lives. Bi women in particular suffer high rates of domestic violence and sexual assault which lead to increased risk of both physical and mental health issues, including PTSD rates that approach those of combat veterans.
With this level of trauma stemming from isolation it is no question why bi people feel a huge amount of pressure to assimilate in order to fit in. And part of that assimilation is fighting back against the prevalent stereotypes about bi people.
I dated a girl once but she ended up being straight.
Bi people are greedy.
They are confused; they don’t know what they want.
They’re too afraid to come all the way out so they just say they’re “bi.”
She calls herself bi but really she’s just a huge slut.
These stereotypes are prolific and pervasive. They show up in many forms — from jokes hypersexualizing bi women under the male gaze to the assumption that bi men are just cowardly and afraid to come out — but the underlying message is always the same: that being bi is not a real or valid identity. And, oftentimes unknowingly, many of us within the bi+ community have started to internalize these messages.
Many articles and blogs on bi identity will push back against these stereotypes, and rightfully so. But too often the way that these stereotypes are refuted is through respectability politics. So many bi people, instead of challenging the monosexual and heteronormative power structure, work instead to be One of the Good Bis.
Instead of saying, “Fuck monogamy as the only acceptable way to structure relationships,” we insist on asserting how able we are to commit.
Instead of saying, “Fuck the idea that identities are stagnant,” we insist that we aren’t confused, that it isn’t a phase. We deny ourselves flexibility or fluidity in exchange for respectability.
It is true that people are not necessarily greedy, confused, slutty, or unable to commit because they are bi. It’s also true that some of us are those things. And by constraining our relationships and sexualities into a value system constructed by monosexual fragility we are reinforcing the very biphobia that is actively denying us our right to exist.
It is time for the bi community to reclaim our radicalism and reject the respectability politics plaguing our community. No matter how hard we have tried to be Good Bis, constantly apologizing for our existence and making excuses for ourselves, mainstream culture has not accepted us. Instead of continually seeking the slippery approval of mainstream monosexual cis-het or gay and lesbian culture, we should ban together in an intersectional movement that pushes back against invisibility and erasure of all people in our community, without resorting to weak respectability arguments.
Stop trying to justify your bisexuality. You are valid already.
Monosexual-normativity will not save us.
Heteronormativity will not save us.
Respectability will not save us.