After talking about femme-invisibility, I’d like to talk about another community that is often not visible within the community: the bisexual community. While I’ve written about erasure and the bisexual community, I think it’s important on this topic more directly.**
**See the addition to the definition of bisexuality in my original piece here.
Gay or Straight Binary
To start off, in our binary society, a lot of us define sexual orientation as either gay or straight. This is a problem because it leaves no space for folks who are bisexual folks. This also comes along with the erasure in relationships. Someone who is bisexual in a relationship with the opposite sex gets their bisexual identity (and possibility their connection to the queer community) erased because they are probably assumed to be heterosexual (more on this later).
Coming out– again, and again, again. Just like any identity, coming out is a lifetime process, and not a one-time thing. However, for bisexual folks (or anyone attracted to more than one gender), it is a decision to explain that. Bisexuality and other queer identities come with a lot of stereotypes and stigmas so coming out puts bisexual folks at risk of explaining their identity.
As explained in this Everyday Feminism piece on bisexual erasure, being a gay men is often seen as bad because society tells them they are not “real men” hense the idea that it is taking away male privilege and masculinity. A bisexual man may feel that he won’t be seen as a man if he comes out, and therefore stay in the closet. While the consequences of coming out make this make sense, the more men (and anyone) who stay in the closet, the less visible bisexual identities become, which slowly contributes to its erasure.
The more visibility, the less chances of erasure, right? In addition to coming out and being open about bisexual identities, the media also plays a big role in visibility of bisexuality. In GLAAD’s annual Where are we on TV 2016-2017 report, on Primetime Cable, 25% of LGBTQ women were bisexual characters, and 7% of LGBTQ men were bisexual. Regarding the streaming providers Hulu, Netflix, and Amazon, these numbers drop to 20% of LGBTQ women and 6% of LGBTQ men. As you can see, these numbers are quite low. To put it into perspective, that’s 35 bisexual women on cable and only 13 on streaming. For men, it’s 10 bisexual men on cable and only 4 on streaming (Where we are on TV). Media is a huge opportunity for visibility of different groups of people, and bisexual visibility is lacking, which is a fact0r that plays into its erasure.
Stigma is a huge part of invisibility, and bisexuality is highly stigmatized. The fact that some people don’t think bisexuality exists, that they are just confused, or that it’s just a phrase automatically makes it seem invalid and therefore invisible.
Another stereotype placed on bisexual folks is that they can’t have monogamous relationships. This obviously hurts bisexual folks in more ways than one. Other than the obvious of feeling like they can’t be trusted or monogamous, for those in relationships, their bisexual identity becomes erased. If a bisexual women is in a relationship with a man, she is often assumed to be heterosexual, and assumed to be a lesbian if she’s with a woman.
In a study released last year, it was revealed that 52% of non-heterosexual folks identify as bisexual, and yet there is still so much invisibility (Bolles). I hope this makes you realize how prevalent this invisibility is and helps you think a little bit more about bisexuality. Feel free to check out the sources and additional resources below.
Bolles, A. (2016). 13 things you didn’t know about being bisexual+. GLAAD. http://www.glaad.org/blog/13-things-you-didn%E2%80%99t-know-about-being-bisexual
Todd, M. (2014). 5 Ways Bi Erasure Hurts More Than Just Bisexual People. Everyday Feminism. http://everydayfeminism.com/2014/12/bi-erasure-hurts/
Where We Are on TV Report 2016-17. (2016). http://glaad.org/files/WWAT/WWAT_GLAAD_2016-2017.pdf
Yoshino, K. (2000). The Epistemic Contract of Bisexual Erasure. Stanford Law Review, 52(2), 353-461. doi:10.2307/1229482
Beredjick, C. Bisexual videos playlist. Gay Writes. https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLnf3TTgoIKlbzJOBFEXVDXGWOa5TNU1EY
Buzzfeed Yellow. (2015). I’m Bisexual, but I’m not. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LpeCgvCRths
Callis, A. S. (2013). The black sheep of the pink flock: Labels, stigma, and bisexual identity. Journal Of Bisexuality, 13(1), 82-105. doi:10.1080/15299716.2013.755730.
Isn’t Everyone a Little Bit Bi? MTV Braless. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Dtej5yJ3ZiE
Wardle, L. (2016, September 23). ‘Stop erasing us’: Pennsylvania bisexuals face ignorance, discrimination. Patriot-News, The (Harrisburg, PA).
Zane, Z. (2015). I Can’t Help It: I Love Being Fetishized as a Bisexual Man. Huffington Post. http://www.huffingtonpost.com/zachary-zane/i-cant-help-it-i-love-bei_b_8313938.html