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Being bisexual is not always the best of both worlds like some might assume. You’re not gay enough for the LGBTQ+ community, but you’re not straight enough for the heterosexuals. If you’re a bisexual woman, you run the risk of your sexuality being fetishized, and you’re seen as “experimental” or “promiscuous.” If you’re a bisexual man, your sexuality can simply be seen as a stop along the way to “destination gay.”
You get told you’re lucky because you have “double the options,” but landing a date as a bisexual person can be hard work. The stigma against those who are attracted to both genders lends itself to assumptions from the gay community that bisexual people are more likely to cheat, specifically in same-sex relationships. Alternatively, many straight people are simply turned off by the idea of dating someone who may have been with someone of the same gender.
Bisexual individuals are no strangers to the array of issues that all work harmoniously together to create a phenomenon known as bisexual erasure. Kenji Yoshino, the Director of the Center for Diversity, Inclusion and Belonging at New York University School of Law, describes bisexual erasure and bisexual invisibility in the Stanford Law Review as “the omission of bisexuality in discussions of sexual orientation.” This umbrella definition encompasses the many different ways this phenomenon manifests itself.
“The advantage of recognizing a bisexual person’s coming out story is that we recognize that even when a bisexual person chooses to pursue a relationship with someone of the opposite gender, they are still bisexual.”
In the college environment, bisexual erasure seems to be especially prevalent. For many, college is a time of exploring one’s identity. Many college-aged students are figuring out their sexuality and may be especially sensitive to the effects of bisexual erasure.
As a bisexual person myself, I am no stranger to such instances. Insinuations of threesomes have been common for me upon coming out, and while there is nothing wrong with threesomes, assuming the sexuality is strictly for bedroom activities can be damaging to the many bisexual people who want to pursue monogamous relationships.
This fetishization of bisexuality is a part of this phenomenon. It’s not uncommon for bisexual girls to be encouraged to kiss other women in spontaneous environments, such as a party, oftentimes to fulfill a male desire. Let me reiterate that everyone should feel free to kiss whoever they want, so long as it is consensual. The issue here is the assumption that all bisexual women are “promiscuous,” and that these “promiscuous” activities are often designed to serve the desires of straight men.
The damaging nature of bi erasure comes with its vicious cycle within the bisexual community. As bisexuality is invalidated through negative stereotypes, many bisexuals simply exclude themselves to partners within heteronormativity. According to a recent survey conducted by Stanford University, analyzed by the Pew Research Center, bisexual people are more likely to be fully closeted than gay and lesbian people.
In this case, the opportunity that bisexual people are uniquely presented with to choose partners that are more or less socially accepted is actually a disadvantage rather than a positive. As more bisexual people simply “pass” for being straight, the invalidation of the sexuality only festers.
The time bisexual people spend in the closet, however, does not come without repercussion. According to the Bisexual Resource Center, bisexuals experience higher rates of anxiety, depression and other mood disorders when compared to heterosexual, lesbian and gay people. While correlation does not equal causation, we should at least analyze this correlation and begin asking broader questions regarding the damaging effects of being stuck in the crosshairs between the LGBTQ+ and heterosexual community.
This is why we must encourage bisexual people to feel comfortable in sharing their coming out experience, as coming out is one of many ways one’s sexuality can be validated. The advantage of recognizing a bisexual person’s coming out story is that we recognize that even when a bisexual person chooses to pursue a relationship with someone of the opposite gender, they are still bisexual.
Open conversations are especially crucial for our fellow LGBTQ+ Rams during Pride Month. The effects of bisexual erasure are only being emphasized during such a difficult time for queer folk, with many parades across the country now canceled due to COVID-19 and attempts from the Trump administration to employ harmful legislation towards the LGBTQ+ community.
When you are surrounded by other queer folk in the community who do not have the option to pursue heteronormative relationships, it can seem as if your problems are less than. It’s important to keep in mind, however, that the stigma bisexual people face are also problems within the queer community, and we should work toward giving bisexual individuals the space to feel as though their struggles are heard, in both the straight and LGBTQ+ communities.
Cat Blouch can be reached at email@example.com or on Twitter @BlouchCat.