"I'm not even sure bisexuality exists. I think it's just a layover on the way to Gaytown.” -Carrie Bradshaw
Despite how much I enjoyed Sex and the City, Carrie’s infamous quote about bisexuality is an unfortunate belief that many other individuals hold regarding a very prominent (and real) sexuality. Bisexual individuals are discriminated against by both heterosexual and homosexual individuals as they are torn in the middle with no set group of people they are sexually or romantically attracted to.
According to a study conducted in 2013 by the American Public Health Association, over 15% of Americans believe that bisexuality is not a real sexual orientation. A more recent study revealed that over 37% of Americans believe that being bisexual “is a choice” and is a “stepping stone to being gay,” further invalidating bisexuality and contributing more to the stigma around bisexuality being nonexistent.
With bisexual awareness week (co-founded by GLAAD and BiNet USA) coming to an end and as a bisexual woman myself, I think it is essential to explore the depths of bisexuality and the unfortunate stigmas surrounding those who identify as bisexual.
As many already know, bisexuality is defined as a “romantic or sexual attraction or behavior of more than one gender, or to both people of the same gender and different genders.” First used in the 19th century (a long ass time ago) by Robert Bentley Todd, the term has been around for quite a while now and acts as the umbrella term for other more specific terms such as pansexuality, omnisexuality, and polysexuality. Bisexual individuals make up over half of the LGBTQIA+ community, forming the largest and yet one of the most invalidated groups from all communities.
All of the skepticism and negative reception of bisexuality has formed a concept now called “bisexual erasure.”
“Bisexual erasure” is the “tendency to ignore, remove, falsify, or re-explain evidence of bisexuality in history, academia, the news media, and other primary sources” (Wikipedia). It is the concept that refutes bisexuality as a valid sexual orientation Erasure is not always from outside the LGBTQIA+ community – in fact, a majority of it comes from those who are within.
There are many reasons why some people are suspicious of those who identify as bisexual. From being told to “pick a side” or that one’s sexuality is invalid if they have yet to be in a relationship with the opposite sex, there are many people who think that they have the right to tell someone what their identity is. In reality, it is no one’s right to do that but the individual who identifies as it. Simply because someone has not been with one sex or the other does not mean that they “do not know how they feel” or “haven’t had enough experience” to determine what their sexual orientation is.
Attraction is attraction, and having a roster stacked with all different kinds of people should not have to be a way to prove anything to anyone.
Another misconception about bisexual individuals is that they are more prone to cheat than those who strictly identify as homosexual or heterosexual. The idea that bisexual individuals have “more choices” and are therefore “more tempted to cheat” is flat-out wrong as it is based on the assumption that being attracted to multiple types of people makes one more likely to break the trust of a loved one. Any sexuality can cheat on a partner. Cheating is dependent on a person’s character or lack thereof, not their sexual orientation. Others feel uncomfortable with the idea of dating an individual who is bisexual because they feel like they have “more to compete with” and that their partner might be more attracted to the opposite sex than to them when it is simply not true.
As previously mentioned, the skepticism and judgment of those who identify as bisexual also come from within the queer community itself. The notions that one is not “gay enough” or “too straight” are the biggest factors that contribute to bi-erasure. Being queer comes in many different forms, and the expression of that also varies from person to person. Bisexual people often feel the pressure to “prove” that they are indeed bisexual by having both male and female partners. Being seen as “straight presenting” is something a lot of bisexual people face as well. You can’t always tell who someone is just by looking at them.
In 2018, The Daily Beast interviewed a couple of bisexual individuals regarding feeling ignored and insulted at pride events. Kim Ryberg, a bisexual woman, told them that people would make invalidating comments towards her and her partner.
"I feel judged for not being 'queer enough,'" she told them.
You wouldn’t go up to a straight person who hasn’t ever dated someone and question whether they are truly straight or not off the bat, would you? Being attracted to different types of people should be the only indicator of someone’s sexuality, and even then, it shouldn’t matter.
Sexuality is a spectrum.
Bisexuality is not a 50/50 split. Some argue that bisexuality is limiting and further pushing the notion of the gender binary, while others think it means to be attracted to an individual for who they are at their core without regarding their gender at all (which fits more specifically into the term “omnisexual”).
The Kinsey Scale, a set of reports in the form of Sexual Behavior in the Human Male (1948) and Sexual Behavior of the Human Female (1953) first published by Alfred Kinsey is a scale created based on over 200,000 surveys and studies to remove the limiting nature of identifying as purely homosexual or heterosexual. Starting at 0 (“Exclusively Homosexual”) with a halfway point of 3 (“Equally heterosexual and homosexual”) and stretching to 6 (“Exclusively homosexual”), the scale has been a reference for those who are questioning their sexuality.
Although the reports were revolutionary for their time, the Kinsey Scale has received some criticism for being outdated and incapable of fully encompassing sexuality. With increased awareness of the harmful effects of labels and consequently removing the pressure to define one’s identity, it seems that the Kinsey Scale should be used with a grain of salt.
Sexuality is a spectrum, after all. It can be repetitive to say that, but it’s true. And if we change our minds, feeling like we feel more attracted to a specific type of person at the moment and then another type at a different time, it doesn’t make our sexuality any less valid.
Humans are meant to change throughout our lives, and rejecting the ability to change and grow is limiting in allowing us to explore who we are and want to be.
I'm no science expert, but...
In elementary school, I remember learning a science lesson that has stuck with me. If I remember something science-related, you know that means that shit stuck (*cough* I say as a communications major).
I recall doing a lab where we played with liquids of varying densities. I’d pour two liquids of different densities into a glass, and they would stack on top of each other. No matter what, the two liquids would always stubbornly separate and sit on top of one another. After, however, I poured two liquids of the same densities into a glass, and in contrast, the two would mix to form a new liquid.
I know damn well you all remember doing this, too. This is how we should reframe bisexuality. Instead of thinking of it as rigidly separated percentages of “straightness” and “gayness,” we should think of it as a blend of elements that we can pour more into as time passes. It can continue to change color based on how much or little we add to it, but no matter what, it will still blend together.
Sexuality is fluid, after all ;)
Tiffany Fang (@tiffanym.f) is one of the Co-Editors in Chief of Rowdy Magazine. In her supposed free time, you can find her binging Netflix, going to the gym, or pursuing too many creative endeavors.