As the days get longer and the weather gets warmer, the anticipation for the hottest weekend in the LGBT+ calendar grows. Pride weekend, and the events surrounding it, can be brimming with excitement and antics, or stress and anxiety, depending where you fit under the LGBTQ+ umbrella. For many of us who negotiate the tricky dance between definitions and labels, there are some unwanted side effects of this seemingly all-inclusive community; erasure, dismissal and even violence. I don’t have any bi friends. There, I said it. I know people who choose to identify as gay, or lesbian, or queer. And plenty of straights, obvs. Those identifications aren’t strict, either. The boundaries are stretchable, their stories aren’t linear, and those terms are never fixed. But out bi friends, family or colleagues? None. Nada. Zilch. So, where are all the bisexuals?
Bisexual people experience a very specific type of oppression from those scattered across the gender and sexuality spectrum. With the growing popularity of labels like queer or pansexual, why do we still need bisexuality as an identity framework? Is there a binary that bisexuality reinforces? Or is it a useful tool for identification for those who “bat for both teams”? These questions don’t have an easy answer, but in a world where identity has become an anchor to ground us in wild political waters, it has become increasingly more important to approach issues of representation.
Negotiating harmful stereotypes and language, including phrases about batting for teams, surrounding bisexuality can be difficult, and trying to actually define bisexuality even more so. As a term it is incredibly slippery, and the most useful way to interpret it is backed with the knowledge that it means something different to all those who appropriate it. As to whether this appropriation is empowering or not is a different story. Plenty of celebrities are keen to grab bisexuality by the horns if press dries up. Katy Perry, Rita Ora, and Harry Styles in recent memory have vocalised opposite sex attraction (in some cases, a blatant exploitation to sell records, naming no names) and have in equal parts glamourised and normalised being into guys and gals (and everyone in-between). However, far less people are willing to claim bi for their own and instead engage in a damaging discourse of experimentation that usually involves alcohol, performance and indecision.
Bi visibility is a feminist issue, too. In I DON’T KNOW IF SHE’S BISEXUAL OR IF SHE JUST WANTS TO GET ATTENTION, Milaine Alarie and Stéphanie Gaudet tell us that the reason that 'Bisexuality as a legitimate life long identity and lifestyle [is] often forgotten or denied as a possibility’ is because genuine and valid female bisexuality is made invisible by patriarchal fetishisation of lesbian performance. They identify that there is 'increasing pressure on women to perform bisexuality, generally to accommodate men's sexual fantasies’. This perception of same sex attraction as a performance makes bisexuals invisible and delegitimises bisexuality as an identity. The intersection between race and bisexuality is becoming increasingly more examined, too, further demonstrating the layers if oppression and discrimination that are active within our society.
Being and living as bi has an extraordinary power to demand that we call all preconceived ideas of sex and gender into question. It disrupts, confuses and complicates. Although studies have proven that significantly more people exhibit bisexual attraction than exclusively homosexual, bisexual people are constantly battling between not being gay or straight enough. It is no wonder, then, that those who identify with bisexuality consistently have their sexuality 'misread' as either straight or gay which not only has detrimental affects on bisexual visibility as a collective, but on the individual. In a world of binaries, of this or that, him or her, the inconsistency of bisexuality refuses structure. It screams no in the face of rigid order. And this fight is exasperating. Bi people are tired of fighting for their seat at the table, for their space at Pride, for their colour in the flag.
So how can we avoid being dicks about bisexuality? We can use better language. We can educate ourselves (The Pride website features a great reading list, if you fancy it, and check out BBC Newsbeat’s BATTLING TO BE BI). We can celebrate Bi Visibility Day on September 23rd. And please, never, ever accuse anyone of being bi for the attention; jealousy is NOT an attractive quality hun.
Hiya! I’m Daisy, a part-time postgrad student and full-time hustler. I write about gender, sexuality and culture and can usually be found eating brunch or enjoying bevs in Manchester. Slide into my DM’s for collabs and/or banter (I take 5-7 working days to reply to any messages) x