“So you like both men AND women, huh?!”
“Can you have a monogamous relationship?”
“JUST CHOOSE A SIDE!”
If you are bisexual or know someone who is, hearing these statements are more common than one might think. The LGBTQ community has had to face harsh criticism for simply being who they are. However, for bisexuals, it is a little more complicated and perplexing. Bisexual individuals frequently encounter persecution from both straight people and members of the gay and lesbian sectors. This is because despite being told that sexuality is a layered spectrum, people only see the straight and gay end of it.
The dictionary definition of bisexuality is “the quality or characteristic of being sexually attracted not exclusively to people of one particular gender.” Honestly, there are a lot more things one would need to know to have a clear picture of it. For example, while many bisexual people claim to be attracted to cis-gendered women and men, it’s not the case for others. Or, that bisexuality is not a 50/50 division, you could be more likely to be attracted to the same or opposite gender.
However, not knowing this is probably not the only reason we misunderstand the bisexual community. Acceptance towards the LGBTQ community is inconsistent with geography. Being a suppressed community amongst the pool of heteronormativity, one just unconsciously assumes the next person to be straight. Hence creating a “coming out” culture. I mean, how often does one see a cisgender heterosexual person “come out?” Probably, close to never.
Along with that, misinformed representation in the form of media, cinema, and people doesn’t help either. An example of this is an episode in the final season of the globally renowned comedy-sitcom Will And Grace; Will as a homosexual lawyer and Grace as a straight interior designer. Grace’s younger niece and her new boyfriend provide difficulty to the duo in this episode.
The boyfriend, who is effeminate and claims to enjoy all the gay musicals and divas, comes out as bisexual. Will and Grace both try to persuade him that he’s simply homosexual, not bisexual, and recite a laundry list of things bisexual people are regularly subjected to.
This collectively has led to more (especially overt) bi-negativity. Research by Dodge et al. found that female participants’ attitudes were more favorable than male participants’, and all participants’ attitudes regarding bisexual women were typically more positive than those regarding bisexual men. This has probably stemmed from the saying “bi now, gay later.” In essence, it means that women feel that they can’t rely on a bisexual man to stay faithful in a heterosexual relationship since he can subsequently develop feelings for someone of the same sex. For example, in the fourth season of ‘Jane The Virgin,’ she finds out that her boyfriend Adam is bisexual. Given her conservative upbringing, she starts feeling uncomfortable. However, she eventually comes to a truce and puts her doubts behind her.
Unlike the gay and trans communities, the bi community has extremely limited representation. As of now, bisexual celebrities are mostly women. Examples include Keiynan Lonsdale, Bella Thorne, Kristen Stewart, and Lilly Singh. Most of them have had prominent heterosexual relationships and may have ended up in heterosexual relationships. According to Slate, 80% of bisexuals end up in heterosexual relationships. This can be validated by the claim made above that bisexuality is not a 50/50 split between attraction towards both genders. But, this has wrongly been correlated to as “confusion.” Hence labeling bisexuals, especially women (due to the lack of male bi representation) as (confused) straight people.
Another research study by Morrison et al. found that although explicit bi-negativity was present in the sample, overall implicit views favored heterosexuals over bisexuals, and no evidence was found for a model of cognitive consistency, which seeks to explain the many contexts under which implicit and explicit attitudes are intercorrelated. This is extremely alarming. In response, we need to educate our peers and kin as much as we can about the various groups within the LGBTQ community. Even though things don’t seem as good as we would like them to be, we have to work towards it. We have ventured a long way in terms of acceptance and recognition; there’s no point stopping now.
Written by: Samiksha