Like all the other trendy people on Facebook, last year on December 31st I made some New Year resolutions. I will stop letting my insecurities and lack of confidence define me, I will speak for myself – screamed point no. 17. I can feel this tension in the air as the International Bisexual Visibility Day approaches; something as close to my skin as my bisexuality, fits very much under the category of topics on which I want to speak for myself. I asked my bisexual friends to help me out answering the most common misconceptions and questions that we get told and asked by curious strangers around the world.
1. Bisexuals do not exist
Like vampires of sexuality we are often silently lurking in shadows of both, heterosexual and gay “sides” of the world. Some straight, as well as homosexual people speak as if we don’t exist; “there is no such thing as being attracted to more than one gender”, they claim. Some tell us to make up our minds and stop being greedy, while a bulk part of our society still doesn’t even bother to understand what bisexuality actually entails, reducing it to mere promiscuity and sexual preferences. I feel like there is quite a lot of information and stereotypes about us out there yet so little of it comes from us. Visible bisexual individuals might not be providing a lot of information, but their unapologetic existence gives great examples of what bisexuality might actually look like.
2. How do you know you are bisexual?
“Defining bisexuality to someone is so complicated! There are as many definitions of bisexuality as there are bisexuals” – says Francois, a 30-year old bisexual director from France. “Because sexuality isn’t a simple thing to define or to understand, and if you are outside binaries, it gets too complicated for someone to get it in less than ten seconds. So they apply what they know. How can you know you don’t like apples before you eat one? You can’t. So according to most people, it should be the same with sex.” – He gives his answer to the question that we hear so often – how can you be sure you are bisexual before you try it all.
3. How are you STILL bisexual?
Even the most open of us sometimes are perceived as something else than “still bisexual” when being judged by the presence and gender of our partners. “When straight person gets married does she become just married or is she still straight? Same goes for gay people. Does their sexual orientation get stripped from them just because they are married? Marriage is a choice, sexual orientation isn’t.” – wonders Koletta, 25-year old Lithuanian living in United Kingdom.
4. …you greedy sluts (and other mean names)
When I ask her the classic questions about bisexuals being greedy sluts who simply must sleep with all possible genders at any given moment, or if she prefers boys or girls, she tells me that “…coming out didn’t change anything much. I am still unable to find a human being to be with. I could say that I find more men than women attractive but I’m equally bad at dating either (laughs).” Take that famous Woody Allen quote about bisexuality increasing a chance for a Friday night date – just because we enjoy people of multiple genders, it doesn’t mean we don’t have a taste.
There is a tremendous amount of sexualization that many bisexual individuals encounter once they come out. Somehow people stop filtering their threesome proposals and they assume it is okay to ask voyeuristic and intimate questions, sometimes name calling can happen, as well as violence can occur. Because of such negative experiences many people might rather stay invisible, in the closet. “I try to be as open as I can be, but with coworkers or family I am closeted. That is until I know how far they can be open about these sorts of things. I’ve been hit in the face by a coworker once because of that; I don’t want to repeat that experience.” – says Francois.
There is no right or wrong way of being bisexual, in fact there are many labels and sexual orientations people use to identify with. I found a definition coined by worldwide known bisexual activist Robyn Ochs extremely helpful not only when explaining bisexuality to the “everyday” person, but also to fellow bisexuals. Robyn says “I call myself bisexual because I acknowledge that I have in myself the potential to be attracted – romantically and/or sexually – to people of more than one sex and/or gender, not necessarily at the same time, not necessarily in the same way and not necessarily to the same degree.”
Got it? You don’t have to try all sort of “bisexual sex” at any point of your life to prove anything to anyone – you are bisexual if you believe you are one. But nothing should stop you from looking for that perfect little definition to call your own. “I think I was about 28 when one day I was walking to work and it suddenly hit me: I’m not straight. I identified as bisexual for some time, but then I realized that I am much more attracted to men than women. When I found heteroflexible label, I started using it to define myself.”- says Agne, a 37 year old mother from Vilnius. Agne also adds – “I can’t imagine coming out to my mom. She would be freaked and would probably pray for me day and night. Existing outside of borders of traditional societal expectations can be hard and very lonely.”
6. I don’t understand why you are gathering into groups based on sexual orientation… you don’t see me doing that!
Since we already covered how often bisexual identity is simply unknown or requires a proof and is second guessed, does it become slightly more obvious how bisexual people could have unique experiences to relate to, talk, complain, laugh, or even do something about? It is not like we grow up knowing how to deal with all that being attracted to more than one gender is. It is not like every one of us grows up with the coolest mom like Agne, whom I asked if she finds sexuality important to talk about to her teenage daughter: “I always mention that having feelings for a girl is just as fine as having feelings for a boy. When we talk about consent, I tell her that the same rules apply to relationships with girls as to relationships with boys. I told her from a very early age that having feelings for people of the same gender is normal and she sees it that way.”
“Community, built purely on sexual orientation can give you a sense of belonging. It can show you that people like you exist. Instead of feeling like a single lonely freak, you start seeing people like you, with the same experiences and struggles. It can inspire you to want a change and give you power to act on it.” – Agne explains.
To the majority of people our experiences are invisible and the world in general is working hard to erase them. We should not be seen as people that are in need of a good old prayer or greedy sexual deviants that are just confused and deserving a punch in the face for being ourselves. So as long as the maltreatment continues, then WE continue.
we will NEED a community and
we will HAVE to celebrate Bisexual Visibility days, weeks and months and
we MUST teach our kids that it is okay to like people of any gender and
we SHOULD proudly wear our bisexual identity.
Not like we will ever stop doing that anyway! Happy Bisexual Visibility everyone! See you at our community event at LGBT* Community Center on September 22nd “Bi-eautiful evening – come celebrate Bisexual Visibility Day!“.