In the World of Mainstream Sexuality, Bisexual People are Invisible
It seems that people may be finally starting to lose their grip on the model of “traditional” sexuality (read: heterosexuality). Same-sex marriage is receiving more and more support and legislation, which is wonderful for those who identify as lesbian or gay. Increased visibility for the LGBT+ community as a whole can be seen as a great thing, but what does this actually mean for one of the often-overlooked groups within the larger LGBT+ umbrella? I’m talking about people who identify as bisexual.
Those who identify as bisexual experience attraction to both women and men (for the clarity of this post, I’m referring to a gender binary, though many bisexual people don’t ascribe to a gender binary). Bisexual people may experience this attraction to women or to men in differing levels or at different times. As with any other sexual orientation, the possession of romantic experience doesn’t legitimate the orientation; put simply, just because someone is bisexual doesn’t mean she needs to have “been with” both women and men in order for her sexual orientation to be justified as such.
Seen through the eyes of non-bisexual people (those who are solely attracted to one gender), bisexuality can be confusing. Bisexuality is misunderstood and judged, even (especially?) within the larger LGBT+ community. Biphobia, in the form of vicious rumors and slander about promiscuity or indecision, is quite common. Bisexual people are often taunted by the remark: “Choose a side.” Furthering this argument, some gay and lesbian people assert that a bisexual person benefits from straight privilege if her significant other is of another sex. For example, if a bisexual-identified person wants to marry her male partner, she legally can in all 50 states. This can create a rift or sense of animosity between bisexual people and gay/lesbian people.
Herein lies the problem of invisibility. When a bisexual person is single or by herself, she is often automatically assumed to be straight (because unfortunately in our culture, all people are assumed straight until proven otherwise). Now, if a bisexual person is romantically involved with someone of her same sex, she is assumed to be lesbian. And of course, if this bisexual person is instead romantically involved with someone of another sex, she is deemed to be straight. LGBT people have been called “the invisible minority”, but bisexual people in particular seem to feel those effects.
In this way, bisexuality can seem nonexistent, further isolating people who are trying to come out as bisexual from the support system they could be receiving from other bisexual-identified people. In our culture, bisexuality can be forgotten about or even erased in the midst of the ever-growing abbreviations for the sexual and gender minority community.
Organizations promoting the support and acceptance of bisexuality strive to spread the word about this often-stigmatized sexual orientation. As the cultural tide turns toward increased acceptance of the LGBT+ community as a whole, coming out can hopefully be viewed as a safe, affirming option, so that more and more bisexual people will be able to join in solidarity and lend their voices to this ever-growing movement.
Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons – D. Sharon Pruitt