Let’s talk about bisexuality.
First off, the above picture is not (always) an accurate representation of bisexuals. Let me explain.
In simplest terms, looking at the word itself, “bi” means two, meaning two genders.
The formal definition: a person who is emotionally, romantically, sexually, affectionately, or relationally attracted to both men and women, or someone who identifies as a member of the bisexual community.**
**There are many definitions of bisexuality. Some folks find that it upholds the gender binary and is excluding trans people by assuming the attraction is only to cisgender men and women. However, bisexual folks can also be attracted to nonbinary and trans folks and may have their own definition of what it means to be bisexual. The policing of the “correct” definition of bisexuality (or any identity) can lead/cause erasure or invisibility of it. You can read about bisexual erasure here.
The term bisexual “came originally from botany, meaning a plant with the functioning sex organs of both sexes” (Herbst 24). It’s link to sexuality did not appear until the 1920s. Before that it was “applied to persons who displayed both ‘feminine’ and ‘masculine’ emotional and physical characteristics” (qtd. in Herbst 24).
Stereotypes of Bisexuals
In the previous two articles I wrote on lesbians and the gay community, I listed stereotypes of gender expression for those identities. However, I did not find many gender stereotypes of bisexuals, so I’m going to list the stereotypes of bisexuals and then discuss bi-erasure.
Without further ado:
- Bisexuals are promiscious (Herbst)
- Bisexuals are cheaters (Herbst)
- Bisexuals are confused (Herbst)
- Bisexuals are experimental (Herbst)
- Bisexuals can’t commit to one orientation and are “playing straight” (Herbst)
- Bisexuality is not a real orientation
- All bisexual men are actually gay (“You Can’t Tell Just By Looking”)
- All bisexual women are actually straight (“You Can’t Tell Just by Looking”)
- Bisexuals are just following a trend (Huffington Post)
- Bisexuals aren’t oppressed because they are “half-straight” (GLAAD)
Bisexual Erasure (bi erasure)
According to this article from the Bisexual Resource Center, bisexual erasure is the ignoring, removing, or re-explaining the evidence of bisexuality. Erasure can be seen in a lot of different identities, but bisexuality is probably the most common. Another way that I can think of, just off the top of my head, that bisexual identities are erasure is when they are in relationships. I think oftentimes if a bisexual is in a relationship with a girl, they may be viewed as a lesbian. On the same note, if a guy is dating a guy, he will probably be seen as gay. As a result, bisexual identities are erased. Whether this is a good or bad things is really up to the individual. Personally, while it may not be a big deal in those cases, I hate the negative stigmas that are associated with bisexuality.
Other Fun Facts
According to this Laci Green video, oftentimes bisexual men are looked at as on their way to identifying as gay, and girls really just straight. As Laci mentions, it’s interesting that in both of these facts, everyone is really secretly attracted to men.
In a 2011 Williams Institute study, of the 3.5% of adults in the United States who identify as Lesbian, Gay, or Bisexual (About 9 million), 1.8% identify as bisexual.
In conclusion, bisexuality is probably one of the most misunderstood sexuality, probably because as Laci pointed out, it doesn’t refer to being attracted to just one gender, like lesbian, gay, or even straight. However, it’s just as valid and real as all of the other identities.
“Is Everyone a Little Bit Bi?” by Laci Green (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Dtej5yJ3ZiE)
Herbt, Philip H. Wimmin, Wimps, & Wallflowers: An Encyclopedia Dictionary of Gender and Sexual Orientation Bias in the United States. Yarmouth: Intercultural Press, Inc, 2001. Print.
Bronski, Michael, Pellegrini, Ann, & Amico, Michael. “You Can Tell Just By Looking” And 20 Other Myths About LGBT Life and People. Boston: Beacon Press, 2013. Print.
“Bisexuals Respond to: “What Lesbians Think of Bisexuals” and “What Lesbians Think of Biesxuals” by Arielle Scarcella
Gates, Gary J. “How many people are lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender” The Williams Institute. April 2011. williamsinstitute.law.ucla.edu/wp-content/uploads/Gates-How-Many-People-LGBT-Apr-2011.pdf
GLAAD’s “Celebrate Bisexuality! GLAAD Dispels Common Myths and Stereotypes” http://www.glaad.org/blog/celebrate-bisexuality-glaad-dispels-common-myths-and-stereotypes
Huffington Post’s “Bisexual in a Gay/Straight World” http://www.huffingtonpost.com/aj-walkley/bisexual-in-a-gaystraight_b_1427355.html