OPINION: Why do we need Bisexual Visibility Day?

Bisexual Visibility Day is typically held on Sept. 23.

Peter Salanki via Wikimedia Commons

Bisexual Visibility Day is typically held on Sept. 23.

Let’s talk about why we need a bisexual visibility day. There is a misconception that bisexual people “pass” as straight and therefore receive the same privileges as straight people. We are half straight therefore we can’t really be a part of the LGBTQ community, right?

Being bisexual has stereotypes surrounding it, such as we can’t practice monogamy, we are just questioning our sexuality, we are transphobic or we are just seeking attention. It can often feel like no one in the world will accept you; you are too straight for the LGBTQ community, but too gay for the straights. But bisexual people have their own unique set of issues that plague our community.

According to a study done by the Office of National Statistics in the UK, bisexual people report higher levels of anxiety and depression than gay and transgender people. An article published by Stonewall says bisexual people tend to have higher rates of STIs than heterosexual people, and bisexual women have higher rates than lesbians. The National Intimate Partner and Sexual Violence survey shows that bisexual men suffer higher rates of intimate partner and sexual violence than heterosexual women, and bisexual women suffer them at similar rates to trans people in some studies — which is incredibly high.

Bisexual people indeed tend to experience lower rates of homophobic violence, rejection, and harassment. So why are we ending up in these positions so frequently?

It’s inherently invisible — you can’t just look at someone and know for sure where they fall on the sexuality spectrum. Bisexuality is especially invisible because most people assume monosexuality and tend to guess your orientation from your behavior. 

If you have an opposite-sex partner, you’re assumed to be straight. If you have a same-sex partner, you’re assumed to be gay. But that’s not true for bisexual people. We aren’t really straight, and we’re not really gay, either. 

Whatever sex partner we have, people are constantly making assumptions about us that don’t match our internal experience. I know what it’s like to be treated like I’m straight, but I’m not straight. I also know what it’s like to be treated like I’m gay, but I’m not that either. It’s uncomfortable either way.

Studies of the LGBTQ community universally find that being in the closet is negatively correlated with mental and physical health. Given that our orientation is often assumed based on our partner’s gender, we find ourselves, gently and slowly, or more forcefully, pushed back into the “straight” closet or the “gay” closet unless we take effort to fight against it, which is incredibly exhausting.

The other big issue plaguing bisexual people is bisexual erasure.

For years, as the debate over military service for gay people raged, and then the fight for marriage equality, the debate focused over and over on the rights of gay and lesbian Americans. Bisexuality was hardly mentioned, not in court filings by gay rights organizations, not in the newspapers, not in opinion columns. 

About the only people who regularly and consistently mention bisexuality are anti-gay organizations. When they try to pass ordinances to allow discrimination against the LGBTQ community, they never fail to mention that they’d like to discriminate against bisexuals too.

There are very few real-life support groups specifically for bisexual people. The big LGBTQ organizations spend only a sliver of their money funding research or programs to assist bisexual people. Mental health professionals who receive training in LGBTQ issues get a good education for assisting gays/lesbians and trans/gender-questioning people, but none or almost none regarding mental health for bisexual people. 

All this, despite mountains of research that make it clear that the bisexual community has very different needs from monosexual gays and lesbians or people with gender identity issues. All this, despite the fact that fully half of the LGBTQ population identifies as bisexual.

None of this is to say that bisexual people have things harder than anyone else in the LGBTQ community. Things are getting better and the world is becoming more aware of these issues but there is still a lot of work to go. That’s why Bisexual Visibility Day exists, just to highlight the issues that face half of the LGBTQ community.

This is my call to you to combat bi-erasure. Remember that I am not questioning, I am not actually a straight girl who wants to be “different.” I am not any less bisexual because I am currently dating a man. I don’t just always want threesomes, and I don’t have more sex than anyone else.

I am proud to be bisexual. I am proud to be a member of the LGBTQ community.