This past week, the second annual Bisexuality Awareness Week came and went (Sept. 20-26), and though I'm coming to the party a little late (fashionably late?), I still wanted to take this opportunity to share some words about it. After all, bisexuality doesn't expire after one week of awareness! Bi week begins on the Sunday before Bisexuality awareness day on Sept. 23—a day that first kicked-off in 1999 under the machinations of three bisexuality activists: Wendy Curry, Michael Page, and Gigi Raven Wilbur. Fun Fact: The month was inspired by Freddie Mercury's birthday (yep, he was bisexual), but they wanted it to fall on a weekend that first year, and since Wilbur's upcoming birthday on the 23rd happened to fall on a weekend, why not have the party then.
It can be argued that bisexuality goes back for all of human (and other animals) history, and the word itself was first used in 1892 in a modern sense (referring to a sexual orientation rather than as a description of someone having both "male" and "female" reproductive organs). Bisexual activists, organizations, and movements developed during the 1960s alongside gay, lesbian, and transgender civil rights movements. Despite this pretty solid history, those who identify as bisexuals were (and are) still regularly marginalized, even within the LGBTQI community itself. However, the stigma, confusion, controversy, and trivialization of those who identify as bisexual comes from all sides.
On the one hand, many folks within gay/lesbian communities perceive bisexuality as either a transitional phase or as a more socially acceptable identity people hide behind instead of coming out with their "true" identity as gay or lesbian—aka a "cop-out." On the other hand, many within the queer, pansexual, and other non-monosexual communities are unsettled by the etymology of the word "bisexual," assuming that it buys into a gender-binary system—a system that they reject. All the while, there is the additional misperception and stigma toward bisexuality that is common within the hetero-normative world that includes the idea that those who identify as bisexual are all promiscuous, unable to commit, polyamourous, attention-seeking, and if someone says they are bisexual, they are over-sharing explicit material about the kinds of sex they have (rather than just referring to an identity).
So let's break it down and dismantle these myths!
Results demonstrated via a longitudinal study conducted by M. Rosario, et al. ("Sexual identity development among lesbian, gay, and bisexual youths: Consistency and change over time.") showed that 60 to 70 percent of those who identified as bisexual remained consistent with that identity later in life, while 30 to 40 percent later identified as gay/lesbian. Should those 30 to 40 percent who later identified as gay or lesbian, negate the experience of the majority who remained bisexual? If one sibling identified as heterosexual but than decided they were gay, does that make the other two heterosexual siblings not really heterosexual? Second of all, just because someone later identifies as gay, doesn't mean that they weren't really bisexual before. Atheists become born-again Christians, meat-eaters become vegan, Democrats become Libertarians, etc. Were they all not "real" atheists, meat-eaters, and Democrats before they transitioned? The criticism goes further to point out that some don't ever actually personally identify as bisexual but simply hide behind that label because they feel that it may be more socially acceptable than coming out in full fabulous gay mode. This is true for some, but not most. And again, why would that negate the realness of bisexuality as a whole? People claim to be straight for these same reasons. Does that mean that heterosexuality is not "real"? I, myself, along with many who identify as bisexual, have claimed to be a lesbian (or gay) in many situations so that we don't have to get into a drawn-out explanation and defense of our actual identity. That is, we were "hiding behind the shield" of a sexual identity that was easier for others to understand. The fact of the matter is, the majority of those who identify as bisexual, experience this identity deeply and permanently.
Next week: Bisexuality ≠ gender binary & Bisexuality ≠ having sex with everything that breaths.