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How bi-erasure is damaging the bisexual community


A recent study from the BBC found that a third of all young people in the UK identify as something other than straight, and that most of that third said they were equally attracted to both sexes. This corresponds with another study, conducted by Whitman Insight Strategies and Buzzfeed News, that found 51 percent of all LGBT+ people in America identify as something other than gay or lesbian.

Bisexuality is the fastest growing facet of the LGBT+ community. With the sexuality spectrum growing wider and social stigmas gradually breaking down, people – especially young people – are allowing themselves to explore their sexuality beyond binary terms like gay and lesbian. It is somewhat surprising, then, that at the same time as this liberating of sexual identities bi-erasure and bi-visibility are still very present problems, and they’re doing irreparable damage to the bisexual community.

"51 percent of all LGBT+ people identify as something other than gay or lesbian."

Through the years, the term ‘bisexuality’ has undergone a series of redefinitions, and for many bisexuals it holds a deeply personal meaning that has taken years for them to work out. Terms like pansexual and omni-sexual are often included under the umbrella of bisexuality and certainly carry similar aspects. Bisexuality doesn’t have to be limited to being attracted to both men and women, bi advocate and author Robyn Ochs defines bisexuality as “the potential to be attracted — romantically and/or sexually — to people of more than one sex and/or gender,” and includes those who fall on different parts of the gender spectrum. 

New terms like bisexuality+ and bi+ have popped up to include the attraction of sexual identities beyond the L and G, including those who are gender queer, fluid, or trans, as well as cisgendered male and females. Bisexuality, simply, is a much more open term for anyone who isn’t attracted to just one gender.


It is a common myth that bisexuals are the least stigmatised of the LGBT+ community. That to be bisexual you can simply date a straight person to camouflage into the heteronormative landscape and thereby escape a lot of the problems associated with being LGBT+. According to GLAAD, bisexuals have higher rates of anxiety, depression, and other mood disorders compared to gays, lesbians and heterosexuals. The Office for National Statistics has found that bisexual woman are twice as likely as their straight counterparts to experience domestic abuse from a partner. While bisexual men are disproportionally affected by HIV and STIs, according to a study from the American Journal of Preventative Medicine – many have blamed biphobia and the stigma against bisexual men, as many bisexual men are too ashamed to seek out proper healthcare.

Further studies have found that 37.3 percent of bisexual adults have reported experiencing depression, compared to 17.2 percent of heterosexual adults. While according to the Pew Research Center, Only 28% of bi or pan people ever feel safe enough to come out to their friends and family. Human Rights Campaign have found that bisexual people face "minority stress," and are more likely to engage in self-harming behaviours and attempted suicide than gay, lesbian, or heterosexual adults. This correlates with a study in the Journal of Adolescent Health, which has found that bisexual and questioning females are at a higher risk of depression or suicide than any other sexual denomination.

Identifying as bisexual often feels like you're stuck in limbo — not “gay” enough for some, and not “straight” enough for others.”

Many have argued these problems are exasperated because bisexuality is often ignored by the media, academics, and society at large. This is the crux of ‘bi-erasure’, which is defined by GLAAD as “a pervasive problem in which the existence or legitimacy of bisexuality (either in general or in regard to an individual) is questioned or denied outright.”

Identifying as bisexual often feels like you're stuck in limbo — not “gay” enough for some, and not “straight” enough for others,” writes Kyli Rodriguez-Cayro for Bustle. “While bi people make up 52 percent of the LGBTQ community, they are sometimes excluded from the narrative at Pride festivals and LGBTQ celebrations because of biphobia and bi erasure. Bi erasure is a serious problem that isn't just promoted by straight people, but on occasion, by the non-bi queer community as well.”

“Bisexuals cop biphobia from all sides, from our own community and from straights."

Elizabeth Sutherland writes for SBS about her struggles with occupying both straight and queer spaces and feeling ostracized by both. “There is a privilege in passing as straight, but there is a cost, too. The knowledge that you’re only being treated well, or equally, because part of your self is concealed is a difficult burden to carry… Bisexuals are seen as predatory, promiscuous, untrustworthy, adulterous and confused. We’re vilified as fence-sitters, or just plain greedy. In my line of work I’m in contact with young people all day. It’s easier to reassure colleagues and parents that I’m respectable when I’m seen as a lesbian in a steady relationship. But if I try to describe myself as bisexual—well, for starters, it sounds more sexual.”

Rebecca Dominguez, president of Bisexual Alliance Victoria, explains that “bisexuals cop biphobia from all sides, from our own community and from straights... the reason it’s easier to identify as lesbian than bisexual is that lesbians don't get any homophobia from within the LGBTI communities.” 

Unfortunately, the bisexual community oftentimes isn’t united enough to combat these struggles as effectively as the gay and lesbian communities have. Lewis, 26, explains to the Huffington Post: “bisexuals are often invisible from each other. The UK has no mainstream bisexual magazines for us to discuss our issues in. We have no apps to connect us. We have no venues to meet others like us and make friends. I’m one of the most profiled bisexual men in the country yet sadly I’ve never been in a room with even 10 other bisexual men my age. It’s a lonely sexuality, I have no one to talk to that understands some of the unique bi issues I face.


“Another thing that isn’t talked about is the attacks on our straight partners. My girlfriend and I have been together for 18 months, in that time I’d say she has received more abuse than me. People don’t think twice about telling her that I’m going to cheat on her, that she’ll never be enough for me, that’s she’s going to catch HIV. These people have never met me yet they feel it’s fine to cast doubt in my girlfriend’s mind. They’d be perfectly happy for my girlfriend to dump me because of my sexuality and what’s worse is they’d feel the world was back in balance.”

Rob, 41, puts it succinctly enough for the Huffington Post: “Bi-erasure may seem like a small problem but it is thought that bi-invisibility is one of the reasons that, according to several reports, bisexuals have higher rates of depression, anxiety, self-harm and suicide than straight, gay and lesbian people.

The problems bisexuals face are too dangerous to continue being ignored by the LGBT+ community. If you dismiss a bisexual person as simply going through a phase, not being truthful, after attention, or just being promiscuous then you are part of the problem. Bisexuals make up most of our community and their plight is the same as ours. Standing together and acknowledging the disproportionate mental health issues and discrimination they face, as well as the biphobia within our own community will only strengthen us. Besides, with more young people identifying as queer than ever before, bi-erasure might rapidly become a thing of the past.

By Tim Gibson


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This article quoted these sources:

https://www.pinknews.co.uk/2017/09/29/one-third-of-young-people-arent-straight-new-study-shows/

https://www.pinknews.co.uk/2018/06/16/the-majority-of-lgbt-people-are-bisexual-or-queer-poll-reveals/

https://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/entry/bisexual-people-reveal-how-bi-erasure-impacts-them_uk_5a01757ee4b0368a4e86b6e7

https://www.sbs.com.au/topics/sexuality/agenda/article/2017/01/30/comment-biphobia-bi-erasure-and-bisexual-closet

http://queergrace.com/biphobia/

https://metro.co.uk/2018/06/18/i-experience-bi-erasure-constantly-why-cant-people-accept-my-bisexuality-7594303/

https://www.bustle.com/p/5-myths-about-bisexuality-that-contribute-to-bi-erasure-2418689

https://www.glaad.org/bisexual/bierasure

 

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