It’s Bi Visibility Day today, which should be a reason to celebrate all things bisexual. However, as a bisexual person, I find that many people still don’t understand us.
Some time ago, I saw a doctor who had reason to ask about my sexual activities. When I mentioned that I am attracted to men (as well as women) he asked when I had ceased to be “straight”. He is a health professional; is it any surprise our NHS is in such a state?
That, however, is merely the tip of the iceberg. Misconceptions abound and, given that it is Bi Visibility Day, what better way to make myself visible than challenge some of the myths? Here are a few misconceptions that need dispelling – not least because they diminish the humanity and identity of myself and others like me.
1. Bisexuality is a lifestyle. No it isn’t. No more than liking cats or enjoying sci-fi movies is a lifestyle. (Actually, on second thoughts, the latter might not be a good example). I have encountered this attitude so often that it’s beyond frustrating.
There are many out there who seem, rather judgementally and unfairly, to assume my defence of LGBTI rights stems from my “lifestyle” rather than a well-thought out moral and philosophical position. There are others who imagine that simply by identifying myself as being bisexual suggests a particular “lifestyle”. I’m not really sure what this “lifestyle” thing actually means, but I for one have been with the same amazing woman for the last 15 years. Bisexuality is an orientation – not at all the same thing as a lifestyle.
2. Bisexual people are promiscuous. No, they are not. At least no more promiscuous than anyone else. I’m sure some people would like us to be, but there really is no factual basis to this supposition.
3. Bisexual people are attracted to everyone. I’ve experienced this far too often: “Ah, so you swing both ways. You fancy everyone, right?” Erm, wrong. Bisexual people are attracted to people they find attractive, just like anyone else. Personally I find intellect, a caring personality, and a sense of humour to be far more important a factor in determining attractiveness than an individual’s gender – but that’s just me. Bisexual people simply aren’t limited to being attracted to people of a particular sex.
4. Bisexual people are not straight or gay people who have changed their minds. This is quite a common misconception – and it isn’t just people like the aforementioned doctor who fail badly here. A friend had once come out as gay – when he later announced that he was in fact bi and had a new girlfriend some in the gay community unkindly suggested that he had “once come out, now [he was] going back in”.
Human sexuality is complex and fluid. Many of us will have gone through periods when we are unsure of our identities – in my case it took a long time for me to recognise and embrace mine. Those who look at sexual identity 2-dimensionally, exclusively in terms of gay and straight, don’t seem able to grasp this truth. Don’t put us into pre-determined boxes of socially-defined conformity – see us for who we are.
5. Bisexual people have more fun than others. Erm, no. See point #1 – most of us are in committed relationships and, while we do have a great deal of fun with our partners, have probably no more than straight or gay couples.
6…”But you have such adventurous lives.” Whatever. I work, watch TV, play computer games, go shopping, tweet a lot, play tennis, run a business, enjoy art and look after a two young girls. The latter actually takes up most of my time. While many of us have interesting lives, I don’t think bisexuality is a passport to adventure.
7.“But if you like guys so much, why are you with a woman?” Yawn! Bisexuals are not gay people who have heterosexual bits on the side – how hard is it to understand that?
8. “You ARE gay, you’ve just not accepted it yet”. Bisexual people are not people who lack the courage to be themselves – quite the opposite in fact! It’s a shame that others so often don’t have the courage to accept that not everyone fits into their convenient “two labels cover everyone” view of human sexuality.
9. “Wow! So you’re bi! That’s just, like, so …well, COOL!” Really? What’s really cool is not making assumptions about people based on labels such as “gay” or “bi”. I don’t really see what’s cool about being bi – personally, I think it’s much cooler to have a social conscience.
10. Bi people are different. “So what’s it like being a bi dad?” I was asked when I became a dad for the first time. The person who asked had absolutely no idea how offensive they were being: what difference does it make whether I’m gay, bi, trans, poly or even straight? (can’t imagine ever being the latter though). Becoming a dad is great, whatever orientation you happen to be. The real point being that our lives are not remarkably different because of something as trivial as whether we like men, women or both. In any case, I define myself far more by who I fall in love with than I do my orientation – surely it’s simply a human thing to love and be loved? Why does orientation make it different?
11. Isn’t everyone really bisexual? Sounds like wishful thinking to me.
12. “You’re just curious” or “You’ll grow out of it”. Shut up. Take your ignorance elsewhere. Bisexuality is an integral and significant part of our identity. It isn’t something that’s grown out of.
13. Bi people are never happy in a monogamous relationship and love threesomes. Again, no more than anyone else. I do wonder why some heterosexual people feel the need to project their own fantasies onto bisexual people.
14. And finally…“but you know what bisexual people do?” The attitude behind this kind of remark is a combination of several of the above – but I add it as I’ve heard it personally on so many occasions. Enlighten me…what DO bi people do that others don’t? There is obviously a huge difference between what some think we do and what we actually do – which is just to get on with life.
So…please, let us get on with it!