Friday, July 25, 2014

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Bi Pride

This first appeared in my June, The BiAngle, column in The Gayly.

Bi Pride

The progress of bisexual pride has been caught up in a vicious cycle. A strong bisexual community cannot form without people who are out, but it can be extremely difficult for people to come out without a strong community behind them. Unfortunately, due to rampant biphobia within the gay community, “LGBT” groups often cannot be counted on by bisexuals seeking safe space and acceptance.  

Further contributing to the reality that there are more closeted bisexuals than gays or lesbians, is the fact that bisexuals can have an especially challenging time coming out to themselves. The difficult part of accepting that one is not straight, is having to admit that there is an aspect of who you are that is largely unacceptable to society. Some gays feel that bisexuals have it easier because they are “only half gay.” However, a survey showed that bisexuals not only ranked lower, in social acceptance, than gays and lesbians, but also lower than “all other groups assessed—including religious, racial, ethnic, and political groups—except injecting drug users.”

The combination of biphobia and the multiple-attraction nature of bisexuality further complicates the coming-out-to-one’s-self process. Young people may have only heard the word “bisexual” in connection to porn, or attached to words such as “cheaters,” “liars,” and “indiscriminate.” Bisexuals coming of age and noticing their attraction to more than one sex, may try to rationalize their same-sex desires away - a coping strategy caused by their unwillingness to consider the possibility of a label they only know to have negative connotations. For other bisexuals, the fact that they feel same-sex attractions is often interpreted as meaning that they are gay, and they then dismiss or ignore, for as long as possible, their opposite-sex attractions - again, the hope is to avoid identification with what they likely think of as, that terrible thing, “bisexual.” Furthermore, because of the stereotypes of bisexuals being “confused,” or “non-existent,” a bisexual is likely to feel the need be super certain of their identity before coming out.

Even when having no doubt in regards to their feelings and attractions, many bisexual think they need to have multiple experiences with both men and women before being allowed to declare their identity. This is constantly reinforced by the intense personal scrutiny bisexuals encounter: Have you ever actually had a romantic relationship with a man? How many women have you even slept with? Since many bisexuals are not promiscuous, this insistence that they need to prove themselves by having multiple sexual and romantic partners, creates yet another stumbling block to owning their identity.

Even once bisexuals have come out to themselves, they still face extreme challenges in coming out to others. Their friends, family members, and community, not only have to overcome homophobia, but also biphobia, and nearly always, bi-ignorance. When bisexuals come out, they face not only being called slurs such as “slut,” and “greedy,” but also disbelief that their identity is even valid, admonishments for failing to come out as gay, and accusations of being confused or seeking attention.

The evening after the first same-sex couples in Arkansas were married in my town, Eureka Springs, I went to a celebration event, where I sadly encountered a classic, every-day, bit of biphobia. The person with the mic asked: “How many straight people are here tonight? How many lesbians? How many gays? And how many of you are just effing confused?”

Many people do not understand how damaging a negative comment about bisexuals can be. The next day, I happened to see this post by a young person on social media, “So I like women, and I like my boyfriend, I am bisexual right? Wrong. Many people associate the term bisexual with confused. And I am not confused, I am happy.”

Considering all the issues bisexuals face in coming out, how can there be hope for bi-pride until we get beyond a time when even gays make insensitive jokes at the expenses of bisexuals? The situation is especially bleak when many bisexuals, with little community to support them, end up taking the stereotypes to heart, and refuse to embrace their identity. 

Love, Sex, and Understanding the Universe Print Version

My bisexual themed literary coming of age novel, with a polyamory subplot, "Love, Sex, and Understanding the Universe," is now available on Amazon in a print version, in addition to the Kindle e-book version.