I have known that I am bisexual since I was 13. The first time I admitted it I was on MSN (yes, I am that old) when a friend from summer camp messaged me. He asked what my sexual orientation was, and when I said ‘Bi’ he replied: “me too!!”. Ever since then I have negotiated the visibility of my sexuality in different moments and spaces. As too queer for heterosexuals, and too straight for queers, I have come to occupy a space of frequent silence and invisibility.
Biphobia is expressed in society in multiple ways. Structurally, the idea of bisexuality interrupts binary gender dichotomies by finding attraction to two or more genders. Here, bisexuals become a societal liability as society cannot rely on us accepting compulsory heterosexuality or institutions such as the nuclear family. But it can also not dismiss us completely as we might exist in a male-female monogamous partnership at some point. The liability of bisexual temporal navigation of straight and queer spaces is threatening to the foundations of society because we are ‘unreliable’. This unreliability is why the need for us to ‘pick a gender’ is instrumental to methods of biphobia.
When existing in straight spaces, bisexuality is hypersexualised and delegitimised. The hypersexualisation of bisexuals is evident from assumptions of promiscuity and non-monogamy being essential to the bisexual identity. For example, I am frequently asked to have threesomes by straight couples on dating apps, exes have said it’s ‘hot’ that I am bisexual, and when I joined an LGBTQ group at my university, a friend said “Is your boyfriend okay with that? I would be uncomfortable if my girlfriend joined that kind of group – She would have so many options”. All three of these examples point to assumptions of my binary-free sexuality being an indicator of a high libido and a lack of boundaries. The sexualisation of bisexuality is also closely connected to its delegitimisation. Take for instance straight girls kissing for fun on nights out. Here, not only are bisexual actions erased under a label of ‘fun’, but, intentionally or not, girls kissing on a night out often becomes a spectacle of deviance to get off from. Straight people get to appropriate my Bi identity by labelling it ‘fun’ or ‘experimenting’, without recognising it as queer.
Interestingly, despite being a queer identity, bisexuals aren’t free from biphobia in queer spaces either. When a bisexual person has a relationship which is ‘straight-passing’, we are said to receive certain privileges that other sexualities do not, which assumes that the gender of partnerships is an indicator of sexuality. Subsequently, whilst we can experience less scrutiny from heterosexism because we appear straight, we are still denied our real identities as Bi and thus aren’t free from the oppression of heterosexism. Additionally, because of the sexualisation and appropriation of bisexuality in straight spaces, many queers choose not to date bisexuals because they think we might be ‘experimenting’, that we are more likely to cheat because we “have more options”, or that long-term, we will prefer ‘straight-passing’ relationships and thus, aren’t really that queer. Finally, as if the aforementioned wasn’t enough, bisexuals are repeatedly represented as either saying we are bisexual as a stepping stone to admit that we are lesbian/gay, or as straight people wanting to be ‘special’.
This lack of belonging in both straight and queer spaces leaves bisexuals alienated and in occupation of a queered queer position. For me, one moment comes to mind when I think about how I am situated in this position. I was sat at a pub with my closest friends and we were discussing my dating life – I had just started ‘talking’ to a guy. When I mentioned this, a friend said “I just really want you to be with a girl!”. In this moment, not only did I feel like ‘talking’ to a guy had made me less queer, but my lack of experience with women was used to point out that I have not engaged with queerness enough. I was reminded that I am queer, not straight, and simultaneously told to be more queer just because I was ‘talking’ to a man.
Whilst there is a growing number of Bi-allies, there is often little to no support for bisexuals. Did you know that compared to heterosexual women, bisexual women are 5 times more likely to experience abuse by a partner? That 61% of bisexual women and 37% of bisexual men experience rape, physical assault or stalking? Or that 48% of bisexual women who have been raped were raped between the ages of 11-17?. I could go on. Despite the violence against Bi folk, we have few places to turn to find help.
I cannot give you a perfect solution to how to stop the violence against Bi folk, but if you want to help you can stop taking our space and stop denying us space. Consider what I have said and really contemplate how you have been and are currently contributing to the violence against bisexuals. In order to change the society in which we live, we have to reflect on how we are contributing to harm, and we must recognise that we do not live outside a sphere of violence. In particular, the queer community must reconsider their treatment of their bisexual members and remember that none of us are safe until we ALL are, and straight folk need to contemplate the occurance and existence of real queerness in straight spaces.