Hello, my loves!
Happy National Coming Out Day!
As someone who has had the enormous privilege of being out as bisexual and queer for the entirety of my adult life, I am spending today basking in gratitude for the support, acceptance and celebration I have received from all of my family and friends.
I am also wishing happiness, comfort and support to anyone who is struggling right now with whether or how or how much to come out to the people in their lives, with whatever aspect of their identities they feel they have to hide. It’s such a hard and lonely place to be.
It is in support of those who still have to hide that I am announcing and celebrating my sexuality on this National Coming Out Day. No-one who knows me will be shocked or surprised; I am not revealing any secrets. But I am increasing my visibility as a functional, happy, successful bisexual woman. I am increasing my visibility as a bisexual feminist activist, with a place in the LGBTQ community. And visibility – visibility is important.
How many bisexuals do you know? You know what? I bet you know more than you think! (Yes, even if you are yourself.) See, research shows that bisexuals make up a larger percentage of the total LGBT population than gays or lesbians! In June 2013, The Pew Research Center reported that bisexuals make up 40% of the total LGBT population, though they also found that many more women identified as bisexual than men–see graph at right. And in 2010, a study published in the Journal of Sexual Medicine, found that among all American adults, 3.1% self-identified as bisexual, compared to 2.5% as gay/lesbian. Yet bisexuals are surprisingly closeted! While over 70% of gay men and lesbians said they are out to most or all the important people in their life, only 28% of bisexuals are!
The invisibility of bisexuality has lots of negative impacts on the health and welfare of bisexual people. The San Francisco Human Rights Commission published one of the better studies on the subject in 2011, which found, among other things, that bisexual people experience greater likelihood of depression, poor health, and risky drinking than the broader population. These impacts are a result in part, of the pain of being not accepted. And that’s a pain I know well.
So why are bisexuals not visible? A lot of it has to do with biphobia, which drives people into the closet. Lucy took down a lot of these problematic myths, so I won’t repeat them all here. But I want to focus in particular on the problems we run into in the “performance” model we apply to sexual orientation. People are expected to “perform’ their sexual orientation by dating someone of the orientation they’re attracted to. And bisexuals by this model are assumed to need “one of each.” But this isn’t true!
Biphobia in the lesbian community manifests itself in many different ways. Bi women call themselves “queer” or “gay” even when they feel that “bisexual” describes them better, because they’ll be more accepted that way. Lesbians refuse to date bi women. Bi women find their sexualities under constant scrutiny by their fellow queer women. There’s a lot more, too, which you should read about in Lucy’s post.
What I’d like to do in this post is explore some of the reasons why I think some lesbians are biphobic, beyond simple prejudice and fear of the Other. Note that I’m a lesbian myself, but I have had bi women as romantic and sexual partners, and I am appalled by the way my bi friends and lovers have been treated by my fellow lesbians. I hope that if we understand the root causes behind these harmful attitudes, we can work to change them.
Hey friends, we need to talk.
What, you ask, is so urgent?
BISEXUALITY. That’s what.
Now, don’t get nervous. I know it’s scary, but this needs to happen. Are you ready? Here goes.
First things first: WE EXIST! Widespread denial of bisexuality isn’t just an issue among heterosexuals, but it is an endemic and pernicious problem within the LGBTQ community as well. Bisexual invisibility and erasure stems from a lot of internalized homophobia and misogyny, and that has very real consequences for people’s identities and relationships, including my own. Continue reading