What is Bi Visibility Week?
Bi Visibility Week runs from the 16th September to 23rd September. This is a week to celebrate all the bisexuals in the LGBTQ+ community.
Why is it Bi Visibility Week?
It is a common issue among bisexuals that they feel their sexuality is invisible. Society tends to judge a person’s sexuality based on their current partner, so bisexuals often are mistaken for being either gay or straight – unless you’re dating two or more people of two or more genders, it’s tough to be visibly bi in terms of your current partners!
This lack of visibility shows up in a lot of ways – bisexuals are less likely to be out to their friends and family, and are more likely to suffer from mental health issues because they’re in the closet or they feel unseen. They often have to come out numerous times to people when they do come out, and frequently find people have forgotten about their sexuality and refer to them as gay or straight.
In a more extreme example, bisexual people seeking asylum due to persecution in their home country are sometimes sent back, because they can “act straight” and therefore they aren’t in danger.
Isn’t it a plus to be invisible sometimes?
Bisexuals who are in relationships with someone of the opposite gender are often told they have “straight-passing privilege” – they may not look visibly LGBTQ+, so are less likely to suffer harassment or abuse. However, the flip side of this is that bisexuals have their identity erased all the time, and are less accepted by the LGBTQ+ community because their sexuality isn’t visible – bis are often considered not straight enough for the straight community, and not gay enough for the gay community. Bisexuals are left in a limbo in the middle, without the strong sense of family and support from either side. Bisexuals are often excluded from news pieces about the LGBTQ+ community – for example, the Supreme Court ruling in the summer of 2020 only referred to ‘gay and trans people’. Although bisexuals are still covered by the ruling, this bi erasure is deeply damaging.
Bisexuals who present as female are often told they’re performing their attraction to women, either for attention or to please their cis male heterosexual partner. Bisexuals who present as male are often told they’re using coming out as bi as a stepping stone to coming out as gay, and they aren’t really attracted to women. (It’s interesting to note that in both cases, the assumption is that bisexuals are only attracted to men.) This erasure and feeling that your sexuality is doubted and not accepted is extremely harmful, and contributes to the higher rates of mental illness among bisexuals.
Are bisexuals a minority in the LGBTQ+ community?
Actually, no. It’s estimated that 50% of people who identify as being under the LGBTQ+ umbrella identify as bisexual. This includes many trans and non-binary people, as well as cis people.
Doesn’t bisexuality exclude trans and non-binary people?
No, it’s a common misconception that the ‘bi’ in bisexuality means two, and means bisexuals are only attracted to men and women. Actually since the term was first coined, it’s meant attraction to two or more genders, or sometimes that someone experiences both heterosexual and homosexual attraction.
However, other terms like pansexual have become more popular in recent years (pansexuality means attraction regardless of gender). The differences can seem subtle, but a lot of people prefer one label over another as describing their sexuality best. (Some bisexuals also identify as pansexual – it’s all a matter of personal preference.)
What’s the difference between bisexual and bicurious?
People sometimes use the term bicurious if they aren’t totally sure whether they’re attracted to more than one gender. As ever, it’s up to the individual how they identify. Sometimes people mistakenly believe that you can only say you’re bisexual if you’ve got sexual experience with more than one gender – this is a very strange test that only ever applies to bisexuals (people don’t say that straight or gay people have to have sex before they can identify as a particular sexuality). You can be bisexual and only ever have sexual experiences with one gender, or with nobody at all – if you experience attraction to two or more genders, you’re bisexual.
Isn’t it easier for bisexuals to come out than for people who are gay?
Everybody’s experience of coming out is completely different, and comparing experiences as easier for one group than another isn’t necessarily helpful. Bisexuals are sometimes ostracised by their friends and family when they come out, just as gay, trans, and non-binary people are sometimes rejected by the people closest to them. For bisexuals, specific things make coming out difficult: bisexuality is still widely misunderstood, with a lot of people still claiming it doesn’t exist. It isn’t often portrayed in the media, or if it is, bisexuals are often cheaters and dishonest, or the writers refuse to use the actual word “bisexual”.
If someone comes out as bisexual later in life, and they’re already in a long-term monogamous relationship, there can be a feeling of ‘why bother’. Even if coming out goes really well, and people accept you, going about your day-to-day life still in a gay or straight appearing relationship can be difficult and lonely. This is especially true of people who don’t have easy access to a queer and, in particular, bisexual, community.
People frequently ask intrusive questions when someone comes out as bisexual, immediately asking if they’ve had sexual experiences with more than one gender. Even if it isn’t intended, this feels like a challenge to “prove” your bisexuality – which nobody needs to do. Frequently, partners react badly, assuming that anyone bisexual must be about to cheat, or not be satisfied with only one gender (assuming it’s a monogamous relationship). Bisexual women are hypersexualised, and male cis partners sometimes assume that a female partner’s bisexuality automatically means there will be lots of threesomes with other women – not necessarily something everyone wants to do!
Do bisexual communities exist?
Yes 🙂 In this age of online communication, there are lots of online groups and meetups that you can join. Bisexual communities tend to be very friendly and welcoming – everybody there knows what it’s like to feel invisible, erased, and “not queer/LGBTQ+ enough.” Everyone can relate to the feeling of “not being bi enough” – there are lots of jokes about that because it seems that almost nobody feels bi enough! Having a Bi Visibility Week also really helps with raising that awareness of bisexuality, and awakening that feeling of community even during these difficult, isolated, lockdown times.
Are there any famous bisexuals?
Yes, lots! Freddie Mercury and David Bowie both identified as bisexual – although Freddie is often assumed to be gay, and Bowie is often assumed to be straight. Angelina Jolie, Cara Delevingne, Kristen Stewart, Ezra Miller, Gillian Anderson, and Lady Gaga are just a few examples of famous bisexuals. Many others identify as pansexual, such as Joe Lycett, Christine & the Queens, and Janelle Monae. You can see a longer list of famous bisexuals here.