My friend Brian (not his real name) suggested that I address the letter “B” in the LGBT moniker. He reminded me that Bi Visibility Day or Celebrate Bisexuality Day happens on September 23rd, each year. In that vein, we continued our visit over coffee. He said that I should clear up my own misconceptions about bi people. Brian told me to take notes.
I confessed that I used to think that bisexuality is a phase that people claim before they come out as lesbian or gay. I thought so, because I told people I was bi before I worked up the courage to finally come out as gay. I meant no harm. I was only using personal experience as a guide.
Brian thanked me for my frankness. Then he said this is one of the main complaints bisexuals have with many in the hetero and LGBT communities. Just as heterosexuality or homosexuality, bisexuality is an orientation that deserves respect. He told me that being bisexual means that he is able to be attracted to people of different genders. He said he has dated and formed relationships with women and men. Brian reminded me that orientation is not dependent upon experience or relationship status. It’s a primal, deep-seated orientation that is part of his psyche. He says that when people say bisexuality is “just a phase”, it comes off just as insulting as someone saying “being gay is just a phase”.
While I don’t think being oppressed is anything to feel pride about, many lesbians and gays think otherwise. Some gay people think bisexuals are not as oppressed as lesbians and gays because they have “heterosexual privilege”. That is, there is the idea that bisexuals are “half-straight”, so bi people rank low in the “oppression hierarchy”.
Brian says that he hears that from straight and gay people. He says that a lot of bisexuals in the Midwest hide in their own closets and can pass for straight. They still feel unhappy because of the “need” to hide who they really are. Bisexuals suffer a similar degree of discrimination and defamation as do lesbians and gays. But the oppression takes on a different form because bisexuals suffer under biphobia from straights and gays.
I asked his opinion whether or not he likes women and men equally. He said that he’s mostly attracted to guys but enjoys dating women sometimes. Brian said that some bi guys mostly like the ladies but feel the need for male companionship, too. He reminded me that sexuality falls along a spectrum that isn’t set in stone. Most bisexuals have feelings somewhere along a range of places between heterosexual and homosexual.
Brian reminded me that just because somebody may be attracted to both men and women, that does not mean they’re promiscuous and greedy. Like anyone else, bi folks are attracted to personality, common interests, and so forth. He said that if a bisexual goes steady or gets married, the orientation doesn’t change, it’s still there. Brian reminded me that his partner is gay but Brian still feels bi, deep inside.
I reminded Brian that he has been a great ally to gays and lesbians in rural Nebraska and that I try to reciprocate, in kind. I asked him what I should include in my blog post as tips for potential straight and gay allies of bisexuals.
He said that we can start by including appropriate questions in general conversations about his other-sex and same-sex relationships. Straight people like to recount their weekends and parties spent with their spouses or partners during coffee breaks or in casual conversations. The same goes for gays and bisexuals. Most straights feel awkward about including bisexuals and gays during “water cooler time”. There is no
need for the discomfort. Bisexuals like to feel included, too.
When a bisexual tells you that she is so, believe her. Don’t try to talk her into redefining her identity to fit into your comfort zone. Just because she might have been in a long- term relationship with a same or differently gendered person doesn’t mean she is no longer bisexual. Respect that.
Most of all, you can speak up and defend us when we’re not around. In the same way that a straight ally will defend lesbians and gays when homophobic slurs are uttered in conversation, bisexuals need defense when straights or gays put down bisexuals. The best allies are those who defend us whether we’re present or not.
Brian says that the best way to address the issues that bisexual people have, is to raise awareness of bisexuality. He says we need to celebrate the diversity of people on Earth. That goes for straight people and members of the LGBT community.
Prejudice is unacceptable, in any form. All people deserve the opportunity to live lives without prejudice and discrimination. Everybody is entitled to equal dignity. We all deserve the same right to enjoy our identities and to form relationships.
Happy Bi Visibility Day.