Pride Month 2017 - Some notes on Bisexuality

July 08, 2017 in #lgbt #bisexual #politics

In case you hadn't already picked up from following me on Twitter, I'm a white cisgender bisexual male. This was meant to be posted during pride month 2017 but was delayed due to other commitments. Whoops!

This isn't something I've ever felt a particular desire to be an activist about, but there are a lot misconceptions floating around and I'm reliably informed that my visibility might be useful to people who are still figuring out their sexual orientation.

So, here are some of my thoughts on common myths about bisexuality. If you have any other questions drop me a line and I'll do my best to answer.

"Everyone/No one is bisexual"

Someone's sexual orientation is a deeply personal thing that we all have to decide for ourselves. It seems a bit presumptuous to tell other people who they're attracted to!

I've never been particularly "camp" so most people assume I'm straight until they see or hear otherwise. I would suggest that if you think no one around you is bisexual, you're probably not looking hard enough or you've made assumptions about people based on who they're dating.

For those who think "everyone" is bisexual, that's not true for the reasons mentioned in the first paragraph. But what you are right about is it's not always an exact 50-50 split for everyone, so our community is much larger than official figures would suggest. Some people prefer labels like "heteroflexible", "homoflexible" or "fluid" to better describe the gender split amoung the people they're attracted to.

"Isn't the term 'bisexual' transphobic?"

It depends on the definition you subscribe to. I opt for "attracted to more than one gender" rather than "attracted to both genders" (which presupposes that only two are possible). Others prefer less ambiguous labels like "pansexual", but in my experience I've found using this label raises more questions than it answers.

In the past I've had people break-off dates with me/start ghosting after I told them I was bisexual. Knowing how much that sucked, the idea of doing the same to other people on the grounds of their gender doesn't really appeal to me. I'm attracted to whoever I'm attracted to, and I'll behave accordingly.

"Are you monogomous?"

Yes. I always have been and I play by the same relationship rules other monogamous people do. I'm no less happy or committed when I'm in a relationship either.

I often hear "you must like three-ways" from people who seem to be confused about the difference between bisexuality and polyamory. There's nothing wrong with polyamory between consenting adults, but it's not what I'm into.

I tend to assume this myth that bisexuals aren't great at monogamy comes from the same school of thought that claims we're "greedy" or "sluts".

Just like any other responsible single person in their 20s I use protection & get myself checked regularly. I'd also like to clarify I'm not attracted to more people than anyone else (aside from asexuals, obviously). All that's different is the people I'm attracted to aren't all the same gender!

"Bisexuals are just confused"

Growing up I was indeed "confused", but not about who I was or wasn't attracted to. I was confused because everyone around me seemed to think you could only be into one gender, and that it had to be male or female. As a result I spent a lot of time questioning myself and it took longer to "come out" (with a few false starts) because I didn't think calling myself 'gay' was accurate.

I came out to close friends around 6 years ago and have been open about it "offline" for about 4 years now. But I admit I'm still guilty sometimes of just saying I'm straight or gay to people I don't know for a quiet life. It can be tiresome having to convince everyone I exist and answer the same questions over and over again. Not everyone is worth the effort.

While I would never presume to doubt anyone's anecdotal evidence of closeted gay friends who briefly claimed they were bisexual before they were comfortable being open, in my experience those identifying as bisexual are usually sincere about it and just as annoyed as me about that particular stereotype.

I can confirm that for me being bisexual is not "just a phase". Admittedly I might sometimes spend a few months feeling like I'm attracted to one gender more often than another (I tend to assume that's just luck of the draw). But I've never found myself exclusively attracted to just one gender, and I've never suddenly discovered I'm not attracted to someone I was previously attracted to based on their gender.

"If you're in a same-sex relationship then you're gay, aren't you? (and vice versa)"

Imagine you support the Liberal Democrats. However you're told that you can only vote for the Conservatives and Labour, and that by choosing one of them you'll always be known to everyone as a supporter of that party and be expected to vote that way for the rest of your life.

That obviously doesn't make much sense. Your vote for either party wouldn't reflect your real political identity and the party you opt for could easily change between general elections. Who you voted for this election doesn't dictate who you'll vote for next time, and there are still a whole load of smaller parties you could opt for that weren't even mentioned as options.

It's not a perfect analogy, but it more or less illustrates the deal with bisexuality. It is a distinct sexual orientation I have about as much control over as you have over yours. It doesn't change because I happen to be in a same-sex or opposite-sex relationship, and neither does my current relationship dictate the one that might follow it.

"You have bi privilege!"

There's a pervasive myth that bisexuals can just retreat into straight privilege on the grounds we can "pretend" to be straight.

I can understand where this myth comes from, as from the outside it can seem like non-camp bisexuals in straight relationships are "getting away with it". (I'm assuming we're all smart enough to agree that bisexuals in same-sex relationships experience all the same discrimination gay and lesbian couples do).

However, a few points worth bearing in mind:
1. A not small number of people (both gay and straight) just flat-out refuse to date bisexuals because of the preconceptions I've mentioned in this post
2. Fewer resources are allocated to dealing with the bisexual community's problems (particularly around mental health) so we have worse outcomes
3. We often find ourselves being criticised from all sides, so don't always feel like we're part of the LGBTQ community
4. When you come out as bisexual you're much less likely to be believed, which makes being open much harder

I've never been to a pride. This isn't because I'm opposed to them (quite the opposite!), but I don't see where I would fit in. Standing in the crowd at the side erases my existence, but visibly marching under the bi flag can also draw controversy and abuse. I hope one day to brave it and see how it works out for me, as it'll probably be much better than I expect.

The recent debacle around bisexual representation at London Pride kind of illustrates my point though that we're the least likely to be out and we're not particularly high up on anyone's list of priorities for outreach. Bi-erasure is a significant problem, as are bad TV tropes that amplify the myths.

In summary, bisexuality isn't an "easy option" with special privileges. Anyone who is identifying that way under the illusion it's some sort of cop-out is in for severe disappointment!

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