Being Bisexual In 2019 Still Involves Fighting Erasure & Painful Stereotypes On A Daily Basis
The start of February marked the start of LGBT History Month. I love this time of year, as it allows figures such as Christine Jorgensen, Audre Lorde, and Barbara Gittings (among so many others) to be brought into the spotlight. Without the work of these pioneering people, there is no way so many people could live and love as freely as they do, myself included. However, there is still work to do. Bisexuality still feels relatively invisible. If I had a pound for every time someone asked me, "are you lesbian now?" after I started dating my (female) ex, I would have enough money to buy the biggest, glitziest rainbow flag in the world. I'd be the envy of Pride. While society has made so many strides in the right direction, the notion that the gender of your partner dictates your sexuality still dominates. So where does that leave bisexuality?
Thanks to years of hard work and activism, in certain parts of the world it is now easier than it ever has been to be openly LGBTQIA+. A YouGov poll taken in 2015 found that 19 percent of people said they didn’t consider themselves to be 100 percent heterosexual or 100 percent homosexual, and these figures were greater when the poll look specifically at young people. YouGov found that 43 percent of the 18-24 year olds they surveyed said they were neither 100 percent heterosexual nor 100 percent homosexual. The survey used the Kinsey scale when asking people to describe their sexuality. The Kinsey scale was invented by Alfred Kinsey in the 1940s, and it plots individuals on a range of sexual preference from zero, which represents exclusively heterosexual, to six, which represents exclusively homosexual. And, according to YouGov's results, it would appear there are a lot of us inhabiting those grey areas .
While it is comforting that people feel they can explore their sexuality more freely, it's hard to ignore that negative stereotyping still exists. And this leads me to the million-dollar question: at what point when you are getting to know someone do you drop in that you’re bi? If you have the answer, please tell me.
There are lots of things I am other than bisexual, and it isn’t the most natural thing to announce. “Hi, I am Alice. I date boys and girls, can you pass me the salt?” I don’t think so. While some think having 'pass privilege' (the idea that bisexuals can hide their sexuality) is a massive benefit, in reality it just means you have to come out over and over again. At best this is tiring, and, at worst? Painful.
I would say about 70 percent of the time I get the same reaction to coming out as bi: silence, and then the sympathetic head tilt and “I never knew.” Well, why would you? We don’t all wear a uniform (although if we did it would be fabulous.) And I shouldn’t complain because at least it isn’t, “you’re bisexual, that’s hot.”
Being bisexual isn’t synonymous with being a commitment-phobe. It doesn't mean I am into casual sex (not that it's any of your business), and it doesn't mean I want to sleep with you and your girlfriend, and I’m certainly not doing it for your enjoyment or validation. Normal rules of interaction apply. Would you ever ask a straight couple who you don’t know to kiss in front of you in a club? No. Because that would be very strange.
Stereotyping is intrinsically linked with how bisexuals are represented in books, film, TV, and pop culture. Writing about bisexual representation in the Daily Beast, Amy Zimmerman said:
"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."
With bisexual characters such as Ilana Wexler (Broad City), Piper Chapman (Orange Is The New Black), and Darryl Whitefeather (Crazy Ex-Girlfriend) becoming increasingly more common in mainstream TV shows, there is the hope that bisexuality is not only becoming more visible but is also being taken seriously. And until the day that I find a way to tell new people I am bisexual, I may just design myself some purple and blue calling cards. "Alice Broster: wine lover, cat fantatic, and raging bisexual."