I am a bisexual woman. I have full access to social media, the news, the internet and yet, I’m only finding out about bisexuality awareness week halfway through it. Why is this?
I’ve known for as long as I can remember that I’m bisexual. For most people in my life outside of the internet, they probably don’t know. Not because I actively choose to hide it, but, because I am in a monogamous relationship with a man. For many people, this invalidates my sexuality.
I’m not sure if I’m about to blow your mind or not – but my bisexuality means that I am attracted to both men and women. So, it continues to baffle me that my relationship with my boyfriend makes me ‘less’ of a bisexual woman.
Bisexuality does not equate to polyamory
If I had a megaphone, I’d shout this from every rooftop I could. Maybe this comes from a lack of understanding – so, before making assumptions I’m going to inform you of some definitions before we continue:
bisexuality: the quality or characteristic of being sexually attracted not exclusively to people of one particular gender
polyamory: is the practice of, or desire for, intimate relationships with more than one partner – with the informed consent of all partners involved.
monogamy: is the practice of having sexual relationships with only one partner or marrying just one partner
bi erasure: the tendency to ignore, remove, falsify or re-explain evidence of bisexuality in history, academia, the media and other primary sources
cheating: to be sexually unfaithful
There is absolutely no reason to associate bisexuality with polyamory, even though people often conflate the two. While there might be people who identify as bisexual and have polyamorous relationships, this does not mean they go hand in hand. I personally prefer to be in monogamous relationships, but this is my choice, just as someone who chooses to be in a polyamorous relationship is making the same personal choice.
You’re just greedy!
“And just as having an eclectic taste in wine does not make one an alcoholic, being bisexual does not make you greedy.” – Eliel Cruz, Advocate
Polyamory is not the same as cheating. It is far from it. As stated in the above definition – polyamory is a consensual act, unlike cheating. One of the most common myths I’ve heard about bisexual people is that we are ‘greedy’ or ‘more likely to cheat’. Bisexuality does not equate to sexual promiscuity, nor does the fact that there are more potential partners by being attracted to more than one gender. Straight, gay, lesbian, bisexual: people cheat, not sexualities.
Are you really bisexual though?
I feel luckier than some bisexual people I know. I have slept with both men and women and as such, I’ve never had to prove my sexuality the way some of my friends have.
“How do you know you’re attracted to men and women if you’ve only ever been with men”. Firstly, that’s quite a personal question to ask, Karen. Secondly, how did you know you’re straight if you’ve only ever been with men? How are you sure you’re not actually a lesbian and just haven’t been with a woman yet? Is it because you know who you’re attracted to? Therefore, wouldn’t that mean that maybe I could know who I am attracted to?
I know, it’s a wild concept. Imagine being able to tell who you do and don’t fancy? Well, that’s how it works! Just because someone hasn’t been with a specific gender does not invalidate their sexuality. Stop trying to force people into compartments because it makes it easier for you to understand.
Seriously though, it’s important that we don’t continue this stigma towards the bisexual community. It’s important that we start amplifying bisexual voices and experiences. Bisexuality is not a phase. Bisexual people will not eventually “settle” into being heterosexual or homosexual. Why? Because they are bisexual, and they are valid.
Let’s f*ck all the genders of the patriarchy
The patriarchy wants us to be heterosexual. Sugar-coat it however you like but heterosexuality has always been enforced and assumed by a patriarchal society. Heterosexuality is viewed as the “natural” state of both the sexes. It is institutionally ingrained into us from birth: take coming out for example. People are assumed to be heterosexual until “otherwise proven”. Does that not just say it all?
Theses patriarchal norms are visible in the stigmas relating to bisexual people. For example, bisexual women (while often more commonly accepted than bisexual men) are assumed to be straight and bisexual men assumed to be gay. Why is it that society is so obsessed with us being hooked on men?
Another aspect of the patriarchy demonising the bisexual community is the presumption that women only kiss women to turn men on. Now, I’m just going to come out and say it – if I want to turn a man on, I’ll do that myself, without help from anyone else. Personally, any time I’ve kissed a woman was to please the woman herself – shock horror.
In its most extreme form, bisexual erasure denies that bisexuality exists. Can you imagine how horrifically detrimental that is for people who identify as bisexual? It is confusing enough to question your sexuality – without being told that it’s not real. Bisexual women are at higher risk of depression and suicide than any other sexuality.
Not only at risk from the heterosexual community. Bisexual people face bi erasure from the LGBTQ+ community. Many bisexual people feel invalidated in queer spaces due to microaggressions and insinuations that bisexual people aren’t “queer enough” or “lesser” for having slept with people of the opposite gender.
Being questioned constantly about your sexuality and preference is so degrading and can be massively detrimental to a person’s mental health. The refusual of mainstream media to accept bisexuality and the people who identify that way adds to the bisexual invisibility that can stop people from seeking healthcare to being open about their sexuality. The terms “greedy” and “promiscuous” all add to the stream of bisexual erasure that is seen across a broad spectrum of occasions – from workplaces to the media we consume daily. This might be an explanation as to why I have seen hardly anything relating to Bisexual Awareness Week this year.
How to be a better ally
Treat bisexual people as individuals: I know! It’s that easy. Everyone is different. Bisexuality is fluid. Stop trying to box people in and start having open communications. It really is that easy.
Stop making assumptions: Just because I have a boyfriend doesn’t make me any less bisexual. The same way that if I had a girlfriend, I wouldn’t be a lesbian. I am bisexual and that is my sexuality and mine alone. Please don’t assume that you know me better than me based off of who I’m sleeping with.
Call out biphobia (especially in queer spaces): If you hear biphobia – call people out. Ask them about their views. Sometimes people aren’t aware how harmful their words can be.
Call for education: Education is how we grow. Call out your schools on not discussing bisexuality. Share bisexual resources – highlight the facts rather than the fiction.
Talk to bisexual people: We know best about bisexuality! If you want to know or don’t understand? Ask someone who is bisexual. They are the ones experiencing it – they are the experts. Amplify bisexual voices about bisexual issues.
I don’t care who anyone else fancies. I don’t care if you sleep with one person or one hundred people. I care about human beings feeling safe, included and happy. Let’s continue to nurture that idea by being accepting. It’s really not that hard.
As Bisexual Awareness Week draws to a close, be mindful of those whose identity is constantly being questioned by both the straight and LGBTQ+ communities. Remember: we’re here, we’re queer, and bisexuality is valid.