Thursday, May 17, is the International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia (IDAHOT) and this year Care2 is bringing you personal stories from around the world on the fight to eliminate anti-LGBT prejudice and discrimination. For our complete coverage, please click here.
In honor of IDAHOT, and to follow up on my previous post on bisexuality and homophobia, I’ve decided to tackle a few myths about bisexuality and explain a few phrases that bisexuals everywhere could go without ever hearing again. (And, of course, why we’re sick of it!) I present to you, Care2 readers, 8 Things Bisexuals Hear All The Damn Time.
1. “It’s just a phase.”
This one takes on many forms, including, “I know you’re just experimenting” and the equally-condescending, “You’re just confused.”
All this really reveals is that the speaker is confused about bisexuality. Being attracted to both men and women isn’t confusing at all, unless you’ve grown up being told that there are only two options: gay and straight. It sometimes takes young bi men and women a little time to figure out where they fit in the continuum of sexual identity if they don’t realize that bisexuality is an option. Once they understand the label, things start to make sense. It’s not bisexuality that’s confusing. It’s society that’s confusing.
And it’s not a phase, although most bisexuals will go through periods in their lives when they exclusively date men or women. (And not all bisexuals are equally attracted to both men and women – many favor one or the other, but are willing to date both.) It doesn’t mean they’ve become gay or straight. It doesn’t mean anything, really — just that, for whatever reason, that particular bi person is meeting more women than men they have good chemistry with, or vice versa.
Photo Credit: Liz West via Flickr
2. “You’re just being greedy.”
This one is also less delicately phrased as “Bisexuality is just an excuse to sleep with tons of people,” and occasionally “Bisexuals are crawling with venereal disease.” And it doesn’t make any sense.
Think about it. Straight people who want to sleep with tons of people do — they just sleep with tons of people of the opposite sex. Gay people who want to sleep with tons of people sleep with tons of people — of the same sex. There’s no need to make up excuses to sleep around. If you weren’t attracted to people of both sexes, why would claiming to be bi change anything? The only difference would be that you wouldn’t be attracted to a significant portion of the people you were having sex with. I’m pretty sure nobody would subject themselves to a bunch of sexual encounters with people they weren’t into just for the sake of having more orgasms. Because that would probably result in sex that was lackluster at best, and traumatizing at worst. No one, anywhere, has ever pretended to be bi in order to have more sex with people they aren’t attracted to. I feel pretty confident making that generalization.
As for STIs, well…anyone who has sex with lots of people is at greater risk for STIs. This is especially true for men who have sex with men, who are at a greater risk of contracting HIV. It doesn’t necessarily follow that all bi people are more likely to give you an STI, or even most bi people. Hopefully, you’re being responsible and only having sex with people who use protection. If you’re concerned about it, you should both get tested together and practice safer sex, just the same as anybody else you’re interested in sleeping with.
Photo credit: Grand Velas Riviera Maya via Flickr
3. “You’ll settle down when you find the right guy/girl.”
If you’re an openly bi woman, chances are people expect you to find a man, get married, have kids, and put your “wild” bisexual days behind you. If you’re a bi man, people are just waiting for you to realize you’re actually gay.
Sometimes this happens. In fact, it happens pretty often, because most people eventually want to settle down into a committed long-term relationship. And it’s just as likely that will happen with a man as it will with a woman. (Or someone who’s transgendered, intersex or genderqueer, for that matter — but these conversations tend to ignore those nuances.) And on the individual level, it doesn’t actually mean anything. If you want a relationship, of course it’s going to be with a person who will have their own specific sex and gender identity. It doesn’t mean you’re not bi anymore. It just means you’re in a relationship with a man, or a woman, or someone who identifies elsewhere outside the gender binary. While being bi.
Photo credit: firemedic58 via Flickr
4. “Bisexuals are incapable of commitment.”
See also: “I don’t date bisexuals because they’ll cheat on me” and “Bisexuals will just leave you for a member of the opposite/same sex, so why bother?”
Some people are incapable of commitment. Some people cheat. There’s literally nothing about being bisexual that makes a person more or less likely to be monogamous. Most of the people I know, gay, straight, or bi, prefer to be monogamous. I do know plenty of polyamorous people, but they’re just as likely to be straight or gay as they are to be bi. It’s really something that you need to negotiate in your personal relationships by letting prospective partners know if you prefer monogamy.
That being said, plenty of people who claim they want a monogamous relationship cheat. That’s not something that’s exclusive to bisexuals. Don’t date people you don’t feel you can trust, bisexual or otherwise. And if you suspect your partner is cheating on you, confront them or dump them. It has nothing to do with bisexuality and everything to do with them being a dishonest person. No one should have to tolerate it, regardless of sexual orientation. Simple as that.
As far as “leaving you” for a member of the opposite sex as yourself — well, technically, sure. You may break up with someone and then they may immediately start dating someone else. The other person’s sex and gender probably have nothing to do with you, though. It’s not as if a bisexual woman deprived of lesbian love will dump her husband to immediately rush off into the arms of another woman — at least, unless there’s something seriously wrong with the marriage.
But really, is it worse to get dumped for someone of a different gender? Getting dumped is awful — particularly if it’s because your partner wants to be with someone who isn’t you. I’m pretty sure it’s awful regardless of the gender of anyone involved. If you really feel that you can’t date a bisexual and risk them dating other people after you — then sure, it’s your choice. Bisexual people would prefer not to date anyone who’s constantly suspicious of our motives and loyalty anyway. We have feelings too!
Photo credit: Anel Rosas vis Flickr
5. “You just say you’re bi for attention.”
This one is almost exclusively leveled at young bi women. While there is a certain subset of straight women who will publicly make out with each other, often drunkenly, for male attention, most of these women don’t identify as bi. (Their numbers also seem to be overstated.) Many of them aren’t interested in relationships with women, or even sex.
While these women are understandably aggravating to lesbians and bi women everywhere, it’s okay. Most of them aren’t going to approach queer women. And some of them are probably confused queer ladies who haven’t quite figured out how they feel about the whole thing yet, and aren’t ready to make any kind of promises or commitments. And that’s fine, as long as they’re not tricking any unsuspecting lesbians into thinking they’re relationship material.
That being said, almost any woman you meet who tells you she’s bisexual is not interested in playing this game. If a bisexual woman wants to go home with a man, she’ll just hit on him instead of feigning interest in another woman who happens to be nearby. Trust me. It’s easier to let someone know you’re interested that way.
Photo credit: Benjamin Klein via Flickr
6. “You’re just afraid to come out as gay.”
Well…sometimes. But the transitional step of coming out as “bi” is typically a thing that young teenagers (sometimes college students) and closeted people who’ve been in heterosexual marriages for a few decades usually do.
In general? Anyone who’s identified as bisexual for a few years is probably telling the truth. Most people identifying publicly as bisexual after the age of about 20 are probably telling the truth. It’s best just to accept people’s self-identification unless they decide to tell you otherwise down the road. If you want to be a good ally, you need to be supportive — even if it takes someone a few baby steps, like initially identifying as bi, before they’re comfortable with their homosexuality. Telling them they’re lying is just going to alienate them.
And, of course, there are plenty of bisexual men and women who identify simply as straight, gay, or lesbian, because they act on their attractions rarely enough that it doesn’t matter, and they’re uncomfortable with the stereotypes and stigma associated with being bi. I know that transitioning through “bisexuality” on the way out of the closet is a real phenomenon, and one that most LGBT people have encountered. But I don’t think it’s nearly as common as anyone thinks it is.
Photo credit: Camera Eye Photography via Flickr
7. “Pick a side!”
See also: “Quit sitting on the fence.”
This is a weird one — especially when it comes from people who will otherwise insist that being gay or straight isn’t a choice. And yet I’ve heard it from gays and lesbians who feel betrayed when a bi person enters an opposite-sex relationship.
I can understand that it sometimes feels like bi people will be part of the gay community when in same-sex relationships, only to leave when they meet someone of the opposite sex. A lot of that isn’t just bisexuals in “straight” relationships thinking they’re too good for the queer community; many gay and lesbian spaces don’t feel very welcoming if you’re in a “heterosexual” relationship. (For that matter, a lot of them don’t feel very welcoming to trans folks either.)
Bisexual people can feel a strong sense of isolation from the queer community. It can feel like we aren’t allowed to participate unless we “pick a side” — and that side is 100% gay or lesbian.
In reality, though, we don’t stop being queer when in opposite sex relationships. Some of us don’t pass as straight. Some of us are in queer relationships with bisexuals of the opposite sex. Some of us are in queer relationships with trans, intersex or genderqueer people that may appear “straight” on the surface. Some of us are in queer relationships with a heterosexual partner.
Not every relationship a bisexual has is a gay relationship, but every relationship we’re in has at least one queer participant. So, in a sense, we’re already on the GLBT “side.” We just experience it a little differently.
Photo credit: Satish Krishnamurthy via Flickr
8. “I don’t believe bisexuality exists.”
This one is perhaps the most puzzling of all. Most people who say this would never say “I don’t believe homosexuality exists.” And if they do? Points for logical consistency! And for letting everyone know immediately that they are not to be taken seriously.
But really, I barely know how to respond. I mean, you don’t have to believe the Earth is round, either, but there’s an awful lot of scientific evidence that it is. You don’t have to believe that people who self-identify as Republicans were actually willing to vote for George W. Bush, but there’s about 8 years of history and a lot of anecdotal evidence to the contrary.
You can believe or not believe people when they tell you they’re bisexual. But don’t pretend that this statement is anything other than patronizing and don’t fool yourself into believing that just because you refuse to accept that bisexuals exist, that there aren’t plenty of us out there, being attracted to and having relationships with people of all genders and sexes. Not “believing” in us doesn’t change the day-to-day realities of our lives, and it doesn’t make us disappear.
It’s probably easier to accept that we’re here, and that we’re not going anywhere. We can’t turn you into one of us. We can’t make you date us. We can’t make you be friends with us or be around us. So why is it so hard to accept we might exist?
Photo credit: Zach Klein via Flickr