By Gladys Lemesurier
For many, October marks the beginning of chilly weather and the reemergence of chunky sweaters and pumpkin spice lattes. Halloween is just around the corner and the shifting of leaves from green to shades of gold and red make for stunning photo opportunities. But the beginning of October marks something else as well: LGBTQ+ History Month. This month serves as an opportunity for members of the community to remember the obstacles that those before us overcame so that we can have the freedoms we have today.
Despite all the accomplishments of the LGBTQ+ community, biases, stereotypes, and misunderstandings still linger. But you may be surprised to learn that stereotypes exist within the community as well. There are a few identities within the community that face bias from other members of their community, like people on the ace spectrum. But today, I want to talk about the backlash that bisexual people encounter from within this community, especially bi women.
My own coming out story wasn’t the typical narrative we see in media today. I wasn’t a teenager, and I didn’t particularly feel like an outcast. Most of the friends I made in high school were already a part of the LGBTQ+ community, so initially I didn’t feel any hesitation coming out to them. What did stop me was the undeniable fact that was I was attracted to both women and men. I struggled with this idea for weeks, overflowing with shame, so I decided to wait until this “phase” passed. I didn’t learn until much later that many people who identify as bisexual struggle with internalized biphobia, since all we know is stereotypes of bisexual people like being “greedy,” “indecisive,” or “untrustworthy.”
Unfortunately, the hate towards bi people extends beyond unconscious bias. Many people will avoid relationships with bisexual women. This stems from the stereotype that bisexual somehow equates to indecisive and that once a bisexual woman starts to miss the opposite sex, they will leave their current partner. This is an opinion that is shared by straight people and members of the LGBTQ+ community. In an article from The Guardian, Tania Browne says that “making up your mind” strengthens people’s sense of identity. We live in a society that favors people who make concrete decisions. Coffee or tea? Movies or books? Cats or dogs? These factors make up our identity, so realizing that you are attracted to both men and women can be confusing and off-putting for people.
The ways that people both inside and outside of the LGBTQ+ community try and justify bisexuality are particularly harmful. One popular misconception is that bisexual women are looking for a threesome. The fetishization of bisexual women is particularly appealing to straight couples who are looking for a unicorn, which is slang for “a bisexual woman who sleeps with an existing couple composed of a heterosexual male and bisexual woman without the expectation of emotional intimacy”(Dictionary.com). For these couples, bi women exist only as a means of fulfilling a sexual fantasy, offending not only the bisexual community, but also the polyamory community.
Those who do not contribute to the fetishization of bisexual women often contribute instead to bi erasure. According to an article in the Washington Post, 72% of Gen Z who identify as LGBT and about 50% of Millennials who identify as LGBT say they are bisexual. So why are we so ostracized in our own community? After all, bisexuality is a quarter of the original acronym for the community. Overall, it comes down to members of the community believing that bisexuality is nothing more than a stepping stone to admitting you’re just straight or a lesbian.
It’s been about six years since I came out as bisexual to myself and my close friends. Since then, I’ve found a lot of support, but I’ve also come face to face with a lot of hate from people who don’t care to try and understand or listen. In the 4 years I’ve been in a committed relationship with a woman, I’ve had countless people assume I was a lesbian. Upon correcting them, I have received strange looks and comments about how my personal identity might hurt or offend my partner. These people assume I haven’t let go of my identity because I might change my mind and decide I actually want to be with a man. Being bisexual is as much a part of my identity as loving reading or wanting to be an author, and it doesn’t mean I’m indecisive or greedy. It hurts to know that there are still a lot of people today who look down on bisexuality. But I think it’s important to bring these things to the forefront, so that we can start to dismantle all the harmful stereotypes and biases. All change comes with time and understanding. Making my voice heard is my first step to showing other bisexual women that our identities are valid and don’t need justification or explanation.