|This essay talks about bisexuality, the meaning behind the term and the stigma that comes with using it. This also touches on the terms relationship to people who identify with it and how it is seen in the LGBTQIA community.|
“For some, I think the difficulty that comes along with the identity forces [bisexuals] to cop out to owning the word, and instead, use terms that are ‘safer’ or more understood by society. Bisexuals are excluded from hetero-normative society, as well as many gay subcultures. So, I have a hard time saying that the word is no longer useful.” Laura - Twitter Respondent
The term “bisexual” is a very messy one with not exactly the most optimal history. Discredited by both gay and straight communities alike, bisexual people often have a hard time finding a place where they are comfortable identifying with their sexual identity. Some people feel that the term bisexual needs to be retired, because it gets too frustrating to deal with the consistent backlash from both sides. On the other hand, some people feel that this is the exact reason we still need to keep this term; if bisexual people give into this type of agenda, we are successfully doing away with our own identity. In the article “It’s not easy being bi” by Anna Pulley, Pulley explores this idea of bisexuality, what it means to identify with the term and if we should retire it due to the consistent drama attached to the term.
Pulley starts out the article by laying down some ideas about the label “bisexual” “Bisexual” is increasingly and fervently treated as the worst kind of cooties. Most people who are attracted to more than one gender prefer to identify as anything but bisexual, whether that’s queer, omnisexual, pansexual, homo- or hetero-flexible, straightish, fluid, polysexual, “on the down low,” “gay for pay” (e.g. porn) and on and on.” (Pulley, 2013). While I do agree with the majority of the statement and the fact that bisexuality is treated more like a disease rather than a valid sexual orientation, I do disagree with their addition of queer and pansexual. Queer and pansexuality is meant to be a more vast encompassing term of sexuality and gender attraction, rather than a replacement for bisexuality as a label.
Pulley also offers a harrowing statistic which plays into the idea that bisexuality is a “form of cooties.” (Pulley, 2013) “In a 2013 PEW report on LGBT Americans, bisexuals were far less likely to be out to important people in their lives than lesbians and gays. “77 percent of gay men and 71 percent of lesbians say most or all of the important people in their lives know of their sexual orientation, just 28 percent of bisexuals say the same. Bisexual women are more likely to say this than bisexual men (33 percent vs. 12 percent).” Why is it that lesbians and gays are so much more comfortable coming out to close people in their life then bisexuals are? Because bisexual identity is consistently invalidated and erased. Bisexuals are constantly faced with a vast amount of disgusting and inaccurate stereotypes, ranging from “... bisexuals are promiscuous, indecisive, going through a phase, closet cases, taking advantage of straight privilege, want ALL THE THREESOMES, are never satisfied, just experimenting, doing it solely to please men…” (Pulley, 2013). These stereotypes and ill-formulated ideas of relationships and sex life among bisexual people causes a gross fetisization and a denomination of people who identify this way. Bisexuals are either slutty and sexy, or greedy and don’t know what they want.
This doesn’t just end up in the realm of personal relationship though. Even in the world television and social media, bisexuality is severely frowned upon and erased. Consistent arguments are made by both hetero and homosexual counterparts arguing against the reality and firmness of bisexuality. Bisexual women and men are excluded from any form of representation in the media, unless it is to play the part of a “questioning lesbian/straight girl” or to be the butt of a joke. “A recent report from the CDC found that bisexual women were twice as likely to be sexually abused. This came on the heels of a 2011 report that noted bisexual women were far more likely to be anxious, depressed and prone to binge drinking.” (Pulley, 2013)
These discriminatory ideas even go as far as embedding themselves into queer dating life. As Pulley observed via OKCupid, a popular dating site, “On OkCupid, I found the discrimination against bisexuals by queers to be especially rampant. “Bisexuals need not apply,” one lesbian’s profile read. “Nothing personal, but I don’t date bi girls,” said another.” Lesbian women to do not want to date bisexual women because they feel that they are “straight girls in disguise.” Men want to use bisexual women to get their rocks off. Bisexual men don’t get any better end of it all, so what does it all come down to? Is bisexuality as a term just useless at this point?
Some people may agree with the continued use of bisexuality as a label, while others may not. The quote I added on the top of the page comes from Laura, who was a twitter respondent to Pulley. From what Laura writes, and what I also hold to be true, bisexuals are pushed out from the main gay and straight cultures and are forced to use “safe terms” to identify themselves as to not garner negative attention. But, by bisexual people reclaiming the word and using it to identify their romantic and/or sexual feelings, they are sending a huge message to the world that says “Stop us if you can.” That to me, is probably the most important of all of this. The reclamation of terms and words is powerful, because it gives the people who were once affected by these terms to say no, this is what the term means, and this is how it will be used. This is why keeping the term ‘bisexual’ is so important. We cannot keep living pushed down and afraid.
Pulley’s points on bisexuality and how it lives on in our age of queerness is important because it challenges the idea that because certain aspects of the LGBTQIA community is accepted through a wide range does not mean that everything is accepted at the same level. Bisexuals face severe discrimination primarily from other people in the LGBTQIA community, so how are we able to look people in the face and say that we are progressive and accepting if we not cannot carve out a safe and secure space for our own? If queer studies is meant to be progressive, intuitive and radical, then we must also have the same attitude to the queer community. That means that just as we break barriers in writing, we must continue to break barriers and carve paths for all queer of all identities, so the LGBTQIA ‘community’ can truly be the community it claims to be.
Pulley, A. (2013, October 05). It’s not easy being bi. Retrieved October 16, 2016, from http://www.salon.com/2013/10/06/why_its_tough_to_be_bisexual_partner