23rd September, is Bisexual Visibility Day, or Bi Visibility day for short. Started in 1999, Bi Visibility Day is an important way to recognize your bi+ friends and celebrate their identities. Over half of the LGBTIQ community identifies as bi+ (bisexual, pansexual, polysexual, or another identity attracted to multiple genders), but the perception remains that gays and lesbians are the majority.
There are a number of definitions of bisexuality, but three that I hear most commonly. The first defines bisexuality as ‘experiencing attraction to two genders’, the second defines it as ‘experiencing attraction to two or more genders,’ and the third I often hear explains it as ‘experiencing attraction to two groups of people – those of a similar gender and those of a different gender.’ Robyn Ochs, a renowned bisexual activist, defines her experience with bisexuality as ‘the potential to be attracted – romantically and/or sexually – to people of more than one gender, not necessarily at the same time, in the same way, or to the same degree.’ All of these definitions – and others – are ways to describe bisexuality.
Why does this matter? Because bisexual people face incomprehension, discrimination, and harassment from society, as well as from within the LGBTIQ community.
When bisexual people explain their experience, it’s common for them to hear confusion in response. I’ve noticed this is often because as a society, we make assumptions about people based on labels they’re assigned. We try to box each other up and perfectly understand what another person’s experience is based only on a few labels and the connotations they carry. This is incredibly unfair and inaccurate. Nobody’s experience is the same, how someone understands themselves at one point in time could be entirely different to a year before or a year later. People are complicated and we change. One of the things I love about bisexuality is recognition of the concept of sexual fluidity – we as individuals change, how we identify one day can differ from the next, and the same is true for who and how we love.
Bisexual people are a part of the heart of our community. Yet on a day to day basis, they face the erasure of their identities for the supposedly easier understanding of their identity as either straight or gay, rather than an entirely separate and unique experience. A real problem exists in gay and lesbian circles surrounding the inclusion of bisexual people. Too often, monosexual people (people only attracted to one gender) ostracise or demonize bisexual people for who they are. Harmful phrases such as ‘gold star lesbian’ and ’hasbian’ exist to discredit the experiences of bisexual women. Bisexuals are too often forced to choose a part of their identity to acknowledge when interacting with the community. For example, some choose to speak about either ‘the gay part’ or ‘the straight part,’ of themselves when bisexuality is not, in reality, a 50/50 split of gay and straight. Bisexuality is its own absolutely beautiful identity.
Bisexual erasure is a real and pervasive problem in the media and in everyday life. This is why Bisexual Visibility Day is so important. Bisexual people are real, bisexuality is not a phase, and bisexual people are not confused.
Uplift the voices of your bisexual friends today – buy them a coffee or send them a picture of the bi flag to tell them that you stand with them. Don’t let your support just last today, though – support your bi+ friends every day moving forward. Learn about famous bisexual people, teach yourself about the movement for the rights of bisexual people, implement inclusive language in your speech, speak out when you see a bi+ person’s identity erased.
Bisexuality is real. Bisexuality is not a phase. Bisexual people exist. Happy Bisexual Visibility Day!
Published on September 16, 2019 | OutRight Action International an LGBT human rights organization