A unique hashtag has been exploding the internet: #bisexualmenexist. Something about this hashtags in the era of Donald Trump’s rhetoric struck a chord of creativity in me. The existence of this hashtag reveals something that is not being pointed out in the rallies, marches, and happy gatherings we see reposted on social media.
#bisexualmenexist, I suppose, was intended to create a haven for the bi unicorns (or vampires) that are still trying to manifest themselves in a post-”Love is love” America. So, I have decided to step down from my rooftop with endless mimosas (temporarily) to make an overdue proposal for my bi brethren, and bi sistren, who still can’t seem to get a break in 2020.
I propose a complete, permanent social divorce of the letter “B” from “LGBTQ” — an acronym born to fight oppression — yes, but not equipped to honor the complexity of bisexuals and thereby not the safest place.
Issues with associating Bisexual within LGBTQ:
(1) One-size fits all mentality (super straight, super gay or transgender — creating muddied conversations about sexuality and gender identity that should be separated)
(2) Prioritization and erasure of bi narratives that contrast monosexual mainstream messages
(3) Bullying people to “blend in,” “come out,” “decide,” “grow up”
(4) Misrepresentation, and misclassification on a macro and micro social level. Using Bisexual interchangeably with gay and queer identities.
If you do a reverse Google keyword search on the term: bisexual people (yes, I’m the nerd to do reverse searches), you may break out into a hysterical laugh-scream from what you already know to be accurate or you may weep at the results.
Hundreds of millions of people appear to be searching “how to meet bisexual people.” Other search results are “how many people are bisexual,” and of course, “why do people hate bisexual people.”
Question: How do hundreds of millions of people who appear to exist in Google coexist with a trending hashtag about their non-existence and feel invisible about their experiences? In a world of dating apps where you can micro-target every preference, every lifestyle, every quirk — what gives?
The public is slowly contemplating alternative reasons for their unhappiness. People are more precise about the dynamic nature of their associations, preferences, lifestyle interests, wellness, and yes-sexual aches, and quicker to call BS. The temperature of the social-psycho-sexual bi disconnect appears to be rising by the year as hundreds of millions of keyboard soldiers get fed up with old storylines and selective prioritization.
WHAT IS BI EXACTLY
Many bi people will tell you (those that exist); a same-sex itch emerges at some point during development; they think they are gay, the opposite-sex itch does not disappear. If puberty is awakening, a bisexual may go through two adolescences. I will describe the bi-state as light at the end of a gloomy tunnel covered in dripping stalactites, suddenly being illuminated. As one approaches the source of the light to explore, they discover the glow is dichotomous — two suns at the end of a tunnel. In its purest sense, let’s call these glows divine masculine and divine feminine energies.
A popular narrative is that a bi person is “indecisiveness between men and women.” Or, the idea of “preference.” Who do you prefer is the first question a bi person may hear dare they admit their bisexuality. Both attitudes grossly lack understanding, on a qualitative level, of how a mind concludes they are not straight and not gay. Those that sell these narratives or simply don’t understand, in fact, indirectly acknowledge that attractiveness, interest, fantasies, and crushes can be perceived but should be suppressed to appear decisive.
A prepubescent virginal bi teen struggles to understand and thereby manage female and male “light” from sheer sensory overload, lack of vocabulary, and lack of appropriately coded stories. Crushes are rampant and debilitating as a teen may struggle to establish lines between crushes, friendships, bonds, and hormones. The internal dialogue of being bi is tormenting itself without delving into sexual relationships. These are qualitative differences that I understand to be different than straight and gay experiences.
Imagine — your straight male friends want to talk about girls all day — normal. Your gay friends talk to girls about other boys all day — normal. And then there is you — bewildered, deer in headlights — with interests and nuances beyond ordinary understanding. Dare you agree with your straight friends and gay friends simultaneously, a middle school scandal would ensue. I can still recall the onset of juvenile attraction and the brightness of these lights. The social experiments to see if what I was experiencing was real. The vowing to myself to avoid stereotypically attractive people at all costs to reduce internal stress and later realizing that you can never escape. There is something distinctly beautiful about every single person on earth — their heart, their mind, yes — their body, if only to be discovered. This was my experience growing up.
BI TRAPPED IN A GAY WORLD
I was able to read a few comments on some of the #bisexualmenexist postings before I remembered why I don’t do such things. A man wrote that he obsessed over his sexuality for years and had never dated anyone because of what he perceived to be the awkwardness of his being and fear of rejection, not only from straight women but from gay men. He felt too straight to be gay, and because he had same-sex attractions, he was sure he was not straight.
At 38 years old, sex with a woman did not occur for him. The fear of being emasculated by a woman felt debilitating. He decided that being gay would be easier, although he did not fully identify with the popular portrayal of gay life. Additionally, his gay friends told him that his desire for women would fade the less he thought about women. His friends assured him that being bi did not exist, and if he were sexually interested in a man, he was gay. Perhaps you see what I see, but if you don’t, I will ask — (1) is the value of women solely one of sex? (2) what kind of friends are these? (3) what are the long term effects of suppression?
Some men proceed to animate their gender expression to ensure people perceive them as gay as not to expose their emotional wounds. These choices inadvertently darken this man’s inner world as they don’t appear to be made from a conscious place, or are they in alignment with how he feels in his heart.
BI TRAPPED IN A STRAIGHT WORLD
A prepubescent, virginal bi teen experiences sensory overload somewhere in a darkened cave. He does not identify with stereotypical flamboyance. He may decide that a straight “lifestyle” is more comfortable for the dynamics of his life and more likely to result in sex with women. This man may animate his gender expression to ensure he is not perceived as “gay” by being openly homophobic, and overstating how many women he has had sex, or wishes to have sex with. These choices inadvertently darken this man’s inner world and don’t appear to come from a conscious place, nor are they in alignment with how he feels in his heart.
BI NARRATIVES IN FILM & TV
According to GLAAD’s inclusion report of 2018 & 2019, Director of Entertainment Research, Megan Townsend stated that “television still has work to do when it comes to telling our [bi] stories overall with nuance and depth beyond shallow stereotypes or problematic tropes….Bisexual+ women far outnumber bisexual+ men on every platform.”
Maybe you are familiar with these common storylines that are used to shock viewers:
(1) A married woman permits her “gay” husband to have a boyfriend outside of the marriage. Or the married woman in a loving, monogamous relationship discovers her straight husband has a “secret” boyfriend or discovers he has been watching same-sex adult films.
(2) Lesbian suddenly leaves her long-term girlfriend to start a family with a man cutting off all contact.
(3) Gay man falls deeply in love with his female best friend.
(4) Secretly gay man abandons his wife and kids to be with his long, lost same-sex lover.
(5) A man or woman experiment with the same-sex during college, choose to be straight, and their same-sex romance reappears in a supermarket line causing internal distress about their decision to be straight.
Pop culture codes these stories as “gay” for the man, and “erratic bisexual” or “straight” for the woman. While the representation of bi women has gained speed and been synonymized with sex positivity, bisexual narratives for men remain inaccessible. Their invisibility apparent.
To trained ears and eyes, a confident bi person would see through these narratives and one-sidedness, and maybe like me, scoff at the producers of these images.
Perhaps there is not a visual or caricature that can necessarily contextualize a “bi person.” We exist in socially contradictory, paradoxical ways, which fuels anger in some because of perceived straight-privileges. Society links one’s gender expression (playing basketball, painting nails) with their sexuality. Bisexuals tend to harmonize with society’s gender roles, which creates a dilemma around visibility.
It’s important to note that a bi man and bi woman in a relationship will be perceived as a straight couple. Two same-sex bisexuals will be regarded as gay. So until we unlearn judgment itself, or create safe spaces for bi men and bi women to raise their hand confidently, bisexuality may be inaccessible for well-meaning storytellers but also unavailable for bisexuals searching for safe-haven from bisexuals.
STEREOTYPES THAT ACCOMPANY BI ABSORPTION/ERASURE
If a bi person can survive being gaslighted in social groups and TV messages, common conversational stereotypes, and ideas amplify their stress:
- He’s two stops to gay/not gay enough (toward bi men)
- He has diseases (toward bi men existing in secret)
- She’s a fake lesbian/she can’t relate to lesbian issues (toward bi women)
- She’s a psycho (toward bi women)
- They are in denial/unserious partners (toward both)
- They can’t be trusted and will cheat and cannot commit (toward both)
- They are “greedy” (toward both)
- They are promiscuous/oversexed/suitable for threesomes (toward both)
- They are different/alien (toward both)
Society permits straights, gays, and lesbians to be messily imperfect in their being, but bi people are not afforded this privilege.
BISEXUAL AS AN IDENTITY
According to the National Health Statistics Report conducted by the CDC on 9,175 adults in 2016, Among those aged 18–44, 92.3% of women and 95.1% of men said they were “heterosexual or straight”; 1.3% of women and 1.9% of men said they were “homosexual, gay, or lesbian”; 5.5% of women and 2.0% of men said they were bisexual; and 0.9% of women and 1.0% of men said “don’t know” or “refused.”
Bi people must remember that identification itself, to a label with a lot of baggage or a soothing idea like “two suns at the end of a tunnel,” or to no label at all, does not equate to inner healing or freedom.
Whatever identity one chooses to make, the label must be at service to the soul. Any identification that does not come from a place of awareness will be in vain regardless of the air time, social media hashtags, or parades, it receives. Clinically, we can measure eye-dilation against adult films to “prove” bisexuality exists; we can publish research studies to refute ignorance and biases, but in the end, the judgment will be on those that lead with their heart or those who did not.
People existing on the bisexual spectrum must viscerally understand, urgently, that no matter what they see or hear “outside” at any point — they lack nothing. That’s the goal. That’s the call — to honor the light in men and women as you perceive it, but also to be the light that is perceivable and absorbable.
If we reframe our understanding of the bisexual label that has been assigned, there is a gift to be unveiled-I promise. Right now, I am speaking to the people who have discovered this article from a Google search for relief.
Just think, every single person has at least one discernible attractive quality that they may be unaware of. That’s quite powerful. A gift that comes with high levels of intuition and character-based discernment; A gift to connect with others from an authentic place; The ability to appreciate and savor in the beauty of humans; and, the potential to heal others from our devotion to our light. We may never know someone else’s heart or the story they tell themselves. All that truly matters is our conviction to our inner world and the story we tell ourselves. From very young ages, bi people may be asked to be hypervigilant to identify safe spaces. Trust yourself.
LGBTQ, while well-meaning, has positioned itself as “everything but straight.” Bisexuals, by definition, are not the opposite of straightness nor should we be grouped with “everyone else” who have specific needs and hopes for their lives.
The Human Rights Campaign sites that “Bisexual people suffer significantly higher rates of depression and anxiety, domestic violence, sexual assault and poverty than lesbians, gay men or straight cisgender people.” According to the Bisexual Resource Center (BRC), approximately 40% of bisexual people have considered or attempted suicide. The Human Rights Campaign has sited bi-erasure and biphobia as leading causes of suicide. In 2016, CNN reported that bisexuality was on the rise and that “it was not an easy orientation to adopt.”
The statistics in communities of color, who have additional pressures of income, health, and education disparities, reveal even more horrific conclusions that would require a separate article to unpack fully.
There were many moments in my formative years, where I never thought I would be able to navigate straight and gay messaging over a lifetime. I believed that erasing my truth, even partially, and for the comfort of a straight audience or a gay audience, was normal. It felt wise to do this in order to not make myself a target or become defensive. I realized that (1) no-one cared that much; everyone is concerned about their own needs and survival, but (2) I cannot complain about erasure and “the evil vendetta of society against bisexuals” if I devalue myself in any way and if I’m complicit in the erasure of my own heart.
YOU HAVE, YOU WILL ALWAYS EXIST WHOEVER YOU ARE!
It’s important to note that bisexuals (that is fluid people, questioning, no label, biromantic, pansexuals — everyone with behaviors and ideas that are not straight or gay) have been tasked as educators. The pain of our existence is also the strength of our existence if you analyze it. As a black man, I know this very well and count my blessings daily.
It was Martin Luther King, Jr. who said that “it is not possible to be in favor of justice for some people and not be in favor of justice for all people.” That statement seems impossible to entertain as an oppressed group, but there lies the strength of being.
Bisexuals must understand even with anger and a high probability for exclusion, if we want grace, we will need to show it over and over again. Grace to those who set out to crucify us. Grace to those who unintentionally cause us pain. Grace to those who may be allies and aware of our mindset, but will never bear responsibility for our lives. Policymakers and tastemakers are invested in propping up established narratives. So instead of yelling at a wall, we must teach our heart and hold our heart accountable for its role in our unwavering, permanent, safety. The world will catch up, bisexuals will rise.
When this all gets too much to handle, there is a rooftop somewhere serving endless mimosas. I’ll be there with good music, great food, and great people. Let’s do reverse keyword searches on Google and laugh about what we find about a world in disarray and toast to a dichotomous sunset.