By Olivia Renzi
Bisexuality can be confusing to people, as monosexuality (attraction to only one gender) seems to have become the norm. However, in recent years bisexuality has become more common and visible. With that has come biphobia from both outside the LGBTQ+ community and inside it. After coming out myself in 2014, I have had friends and family ask, “Oh, you’re still bi?” like it was some passing phase. The implication of bisexuality being a phase erases bisexuality’s validity as well as people who identify as bi.
To start off: what is bisexuality? The prefix ‘bi’ means ‘two,’ which has led people to believe the definition of bisexuality is ‘attraction to both men and women.’ When the term bisexuality was first coined (1892) by American neurologist Charles Gilbert Chaddock, gender was defined on a binary. As the definition of gender evolved, though, so did the definition of bisexuality, it now being defined as “sexual attraction to two or more genders.” This change in definition sheds light on the fact that there are more than two genders and the spectrum of attraction.
Unfortunately, this poses a problem for many people. Many people seem to have an issue with bisexuality, whether it is because it challenges the idea of ‘only two genders’ or goes against the norm of monosexuality––I do not know. What I do know is this perceived threat has led to bi erasure from all sides. Bi erasure is defined as “the changing or re-explaining of evidence of bisexuality on many fronts, such as history, media (books, movies, shows, etc.) and in life to give the impression that bisexuality wasn’t present or did not exist,” (Rodriguez, JM., 2016). The term gay marriage would be considered erasure by bisexual people, for example (Marcus, 2015). Instead, the use of same-sex marriage or marriage equality is more representative and inclusive. Erasure can also be seen in people assuming you are straight when dating someone of the opposite sex, gay/lesbian if you are dating someone of the same gender, or just overtly denying its existence.
Demonization of bisexuality is also a part of erasure, and is extremely dangerous. Stigma surrounds us, whether we are viewed as sexually polyamorous, more likely to cheat, or are constantly asked to participate in threesomes. This hyper-sexualization is dehumanizing. It can also take more violent forms, unfortunately. Bisexual women, specifically, are at an extremely high risk of sexual and physical violence from their partners. For instance, nearly 70% of bisexual women experience violence at the hands of their partners compared to 35% of heterosexual women (2010 Findings…).
Fetishization of female bisexuality is directly rooted in ignorance and lack of education. There is not much we can do about ignorant people except begging them to give us the bare minimum of caring about our lives. Education, however, we can do something about, like adding LGBTQ+ topics to sex education as well as including events and people relating to bisexuality in history/English lessons. Having this inclusion would bring awareness and understanding to the LGBTQ+ community and specifically bisexuality and hopefully we can start to reverse the stigma and move forward towards ending hate.
2010 Findings on Victimization by Sexual Orientation. Center for Disease Control, 2010, www.cdc.gov/violenceprevention/pdf/nisvs_sofindings.pdf.
Berg, Alex. The Evolution of the Word ‘Bisexual’ – and Why It’s Still Misunderstood. 23 Sept. 2020, www.nbcnews.com/feature/nbc-out/evolution-word-bisexual-why-it-s-still-misunderstood-n1240832.
“The Ideas Behind the Words: Opinion: The Harvard Crimson.” Opinion | The Harvard Crimson, www.thecrimson.com/column/the-feminist-closet/article/2018/12/12/ganther-ideas-behind-words/.
Joel, Samantha. 3 Myths About BISEXUALITY, Debunked by Science. 22 May 2014, www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/dating-decisions/201405/3-myths-about-bisexuality-debunked-science.
Marcus, Nancy C. “The Global Problem of Bisexual Erasure in Litigation and Jurisprudence.” Michigan Journal of Gender & Law, vol. 22, no. 2, 2015, doi:10.1080/15299716.2017.1384423.
Rodriguez, JM. Queer Politics, Bisexual Erasure: Sexuality at the Nexus of Race, Gender, and Statistics. 11 Apr. 2016, escholarship.org/uc/item/8hv987pn. Von Krafft-Ebing, Richard. Psychopathia Sexualis. F. A. Davis Co., 1892.