Every day bisexual people face resistance towards the notion of their own sexual orientation. Not only do they struggle with homophobia and hostility towards the LGBTQ community, but they must also deal with what is known as bisexual erasure. Bisexual erasure otherwise known as bisexual invisibility is the tendency for non-bisexual identifying people to remove or ignore any evidence of bisexuality throughout history, in modern media and even in daily life. Bisexual erasure can often get to the point where the existence of bisexual people is forcefully denied. Imagine, a young girl who has struggled with her sexuality finally becomes comfortable identifying as bisexual just to be told that she can’t identify that way, because bisexuality doesn’t exist. She is told that it is just a stepping-stone to coming out as gay or is simply a means for attention seekers to get their fix. However she doesn’t fit either of these assumptions and so is left to question her own identity once more.
It may come as a surprise to some, but bisexual erasure is not a problem exclusive to straight spaces. In fact, bisexual erasure and biphobia are rife within the LGBTQ community. Most bisexual people (or people who generally fit somewhere between the binary of straight and gay – I will be using bisexual as an umbrella term) will have experienced some kind of erasure or biphobia from within their own community. Let us not forget what the B in LGBTQ stands for; it’s right there in the abbreviation. Bisexual people have as much of a right to LGBTQ safe spaces as anyone else.
However, these spaces have never really seemed as safe for bisexuals as they are for their gay counterparts. At times, it can feel like bisexual people are neither welcome in LGBTQ spaces nor straight spaces. Instead, they’re left floating between the two in fear of being branded ‘too gay’ for straight spaces or ‘too straight’ for LGBTQ spaces. Many non-bisexual members of the LGBTQ community have one main issue with bisexuality – that bisexuals can still benefit from straight privilege. They are therefore deemed somehow less ‘worthy; or less entitled to be proud of their queer identities. This suggestion is redundant. Yes, being bisexual may mean dating someone of the opposite sex, and yes, superficially they may be perceived as straight. However, this does not erase their queer identity or their right to pride and inclusion within their community.
Of course, I’m not accusing all LGBTQ spaces, or indeed all gay (or straight people) of being intrinsically biphobic. However, this mind-set is instilled in us from a young age. Hell, even bisexual people are taught to think this way. We are not taught about binaries when it comes to sexuality: no Kinsey scale, no fluidity. We have only just managed to legalise same-sex marriage and start educational conversations on same-sex intercourse. Nobody told us that it was okay to be this way.
Where does that leave bisexuals? It leaves them feeling overlooked and ignored and quite legitimately so. Consequently, they regularly face a myriad of ridiculous questions. Why don’t you just pick a side? Are you confused? What percentage gay are you? Oh, so you’re experimenting? As you can imagine, after a while this gets quite tedious.
So, here’s what needs to be improved to make LGBTQ spaces legitimately safe and comfortable for bisexual people. Education, as we all know, is the best place for laying the foundations to help people understand and accept any kind of minority. I can’t stress this enough: knowledge is power.
More representation is also key. Granted, occasionally we’ll see a bisexual character on TV. For example, Alice, lovable The L Word character, or Orange is the New Black’s Piper Chapman. Even so, Alice is problematic in her reinforcements of negative bisexual stereotypes while Piper is continuously referred to as a lesbian in the show despite being engaged to a man. Of course, let’s not forget Buffy the Vampire Slayer or the only honest portrayal of a bisexual male I have seen in years in Halt and Catch Fire. It’s a great step in the right direction but surely we can do better than this?
Lastly, I’d like to dispel some myths. A person’s bisexuality is still valid if they have only dated or slept with people of one sex. A bisexual person is not confused about their sexuality, just confused about why it’s any of your business. Some bisexuals are greedy, just as some straight and gay people are greedy. No, bisexuals don’t fancy every single person they meet – standards still apply. Nobody has to ‘pick a side.’ You can’t measure sexuality by a percentage; they probably just made one up to shut you up. Bisexuals are not all promiscuous – some are, just as some gay or straight people are, and that’s ok. Most importantly, bisexuality is valid and bisexual people should be proud. It’s time for the LGBTQ community to be proud of them too.