Bisexual Slang Exists, But Doesn't Get Nearly As Much Exposure Or Credit As Other Slang In The LGBTQ Community
Could you define switch-hitting? A queen's threesome? Straight girl candy? Outside of the LGBT community, these terms aren't exactly common knowledge, but bisexual slang does exist, even though you might not know it from the lack of exposure. While gay and lesbian slang tends to make its way into the mainstream vernacular — you'd be hard-pressed to find a young person who hasn't thrown out a "yas" or "werk" at least once, and even my grandmother knows the difference between butch and femme lesbians — when it comes to the ways the bisexual community describes itself, most people are a bit lost, if they think about it at all.
Enter the latest episode of The Dirty Word, a self-described "sassy feminist linguistics show" airing online. Each episode tackles the intersection between language, gender, and pop culture, and this week, host Amanda Montell asked three bisexual guests to talk about slang in the community.
As a linguist, Montell usually looks into academic research on a subject before taping the segment. As she explained to her guests, though, she ran into trouble pretty much immediately. "I wasn't able to find much," she said. "Linguists have done studies on... how gay people and lesbian people construct their identities through slang, but there's not a lot on bisexual speech."
But that doesn't mean bisexual slang isn't out there. The episode's guests were armed with eight terms from the bisexual community, which Montell tried to define without any context. First up was "switch hitter," which should be familiar to any sports fans. In baseball, a switch hitter is someone who can swing from either side of the plate; in the LGBTQ community, it's someone who is interested in men and women.
Next was one of the most well-known bisexual terms: unicorn. Basically, this is a bisexual woman who wants a threesome with a heterosexual couple, no strings attached. The term "unicorn" refers to the fact that this situation is fairly rare compared to the number of couples looking for one.
The episode went on to define some true linguistic gems. (As I write this, I'm also scheming a way to incorporate "taco-blocking" into my daily vocabulary.) The final term, however, brought up a serious subject: bisexual erasure. Mondell compared it to a type of poem in which an existing text is altered. "Maybe erasure of sexuality is [when] certain parts of an identity are invisible or not talked about, and what's left is a kind of inaccurate portrayal," she said, hitting the nail precisely on the head.
According to most research, bisexual people actually make up the majority of the LGBT community. Unfortunately, their sexual preference is frequently dismissed or ignored by straight and queer people alike. As Mondell mentioned, little academic research focuses on bisexuality as anything more than an afterthought, and it is similarly erased in personal relationships. All too often, bisexual people are seen as too gay to be part of the straight community, and too straight to be LGBTQ. A bisexual man dating a woman, for example, may be told he is effectively straight, as if his relationship magically turned off his attraction to men. In my experience, many people assume that bisexual women don't want to admit to being lesbians, or that they're actually straight but claiming to be bisexual to titillate men.
This constant invalidation has consequences. According to the Human Rights Campaign, bisexual people reported depression at double the rates of heterosexual adults, and they're more likely to self-harm and think about suicide.
The good news is that things are improving. Twenty years ago, an eight-minute video about bisexual slang would have been unthinkable, but today, it's just one of many clips educating people about bisexuality. Check out the video below.