This month, we celebrate Bisexuality Awareness week with a blog piece written by Red Luminah. Red Luminah identifies as a 23 year old, black bisexual woman. She uses her social media accounts to raise awareness and provide information on bisexuality, polyamorous relationships and contextual issues.
September is known as the beginning of spring, the time for change and new life. For the LGBT community, September holds a special time for the bisexual community with the 23rd being known as International Bisexual Visibility Day.
Bisexuality is still one of the more misunderstood sexual orientations. Unlike being homosexual or heterosexual, bisexuality is unique in that it encompasses both homosexuality and heterosexuality, and it’s because of that that bisexuality brings about a unique experience.
Bisexuality in history
Bisexuality, or rather, the experiences of bisexual people is something that is still quite unknown to the general public. For one, most people are unaware that the very term “bisexual” is a reclaimed medical term (coined in 1886 by Richard Krafft-Ebing) that was reclaimed by the bisexual community around the 1970s. Before then, bisexuality was a medical term, and people believed that those who were bisexual were mentally ill. People such as Freud believed that bisexual people were born being attracted to both parents and would “turn right” along the way. Added to that, people also falsely believed that bisexual people were born as what we now call “intersex”. They were seen as people with not only both male and female brains, but people who had both male and female reproductive systems. It is because of these false narratives that the bisexual community reclaimed the term to shape it and to also take back their voices, their experiences and their stories.
Bisexual people also have a unique flag that represents their experience. The flag was designed by Michael Page, a bisexual activist in 1998. It is known as the second oldest flag after the rainbow flag. The flag is designed in a way that there are three horizontal stripes divided into three colours: pink, purple and blue. The pink is to represent homosexual attraction/attraction to genders like your own, the blue to represent heterosexual attraction/those of a different gender than you, and purple with the blending of both homo and hetero attraction.
The definition of bisexuality may have some disagreements and discourse in the modern LGBT community, however historically bisexuality has always been described as attraction to people regardless of gender with famous quotes such as :
“Some of us are Bisexual because we do not pay much to the gender of our attractions; some of us are Bisexual because we do see tremendous gender differences and want to experience them all.”–Naomi Tucker, “The natural next step,” Bisexual Politics, Theories, Queries and Visions(1995)
“Do not assume Bisexuality is binary… in fact, don’t assume there are only two genders” –Bisexual manifesto (1990)
“Being Bisexual does not mean that they have sexual relations with both sexes, but that they are capable of meaningful and intimate involvement with a person regardless of gender” –The pressure cooker, view from another closet (1977)
“I am Bisexual because I am drawn to particular people regardless of gender” –The Bisexual community: are we visible yet? (1987)
Deconstructing harmful stereotypes
It is because of the unique bisexual experience of being attracted to individuals regardless of gender that leave bisexual people facing hurting and scornful stereotypes.
“Bisexuals are more likely to cheat.” Everyone has heard this classic line and surprisingly, people believe it even in 2021. Bisexual people are as likely to cheat as a homosexual and a heterosexual person. Infidelity is a choice that can be made by anyone and isn’t a trait that’s inherently included in the bisexual experience. Just because someone experience attraction to people regardless of gender, doesn’t mean they are unable to commit in romantic relationships.
“Bisexuals are confused, greedy and can’t pick a side.” Another bi-phobic narrative that’s widespread throughout society. Bisexual people may experience confusion like everyone else, but definitely not about their attraction. There isn’t anything greedy about falling in love, and there isn’t anything wrong with not being strictly homosexual or strictly heterosexual.
“Bi men are just gay, and bi women are just straight.” That narrative revolves around men and assumed availability to men. Anyone — regardless of Gender— is capable of being bisexual, but those who are of the binary gender have their bisexuality reduced to their attraction to men. Bi men are seen as cowardly for not just coming out as gay and also are seen as men who transmit HIV to straight, unsuspecting women. Their attraction to women is erased, while bi women are assumed to only be attracted to women for male attention and validation. Bisexual women’s homosexuality isn’t taken seriously and on the flip side, their attraction to women is erased.
It is because of these views that bisexual people are less likely to come out of the closet (especially men) and why bisexual people tend to have more mental health problems and are more prone to substance abuse. Bisexual people also seem to bounce around in the hetero and homo community because of the lack of support and understanding from both sides. Bisexuals often feel unwelcomed in heterosexual spaces and are seen as “too gay” while simultaneously being seen as “too straight” by the homosexual community.
Seeing the beauty in the bisexual journey
Despite the negatives the bisexual community may face, there is a strong sense of community. A community that understands the varied kinds of performance of individual bisexuality. As a bisexual woman myself, I’ve felt more at home and comfortable with other bisexual people. It is because of my exposure to others like me that I’ve learned that a lot of us have very different experiences with how we perform our bisexuality. Some of us may have preferences, some of us may not. Some of us may be monogamous, some of us may be polyamorous. Some of us may be cisgender, some of us may be transgender. Some of us may have never been in a straight relationship while some of us may have never been in a homo relationship.
Bisexuality is a beautiful journey that is filled with highs and lows, but it’s fun and adventurous with each of our relationships being as unique as the last due to our wider gender dating pool. There’s nothing more wonderful than being able to love a person based on their character, morals and values and accepting them as they are.