Cleaning out the closet: Bi (mis)representation rancid
Once, I was flirting with this guy, Jake, and it somehow came up that I’m bi. Jake’s eyes widened and he said, “Girls like you make the world go ‘round.”
The conversation abruptly turned to the details of my sex life: Who had I slept with more, guys or girls? How many threesomes? Who tastes better?
I was no longer a cute girl Jake was flirting with: I was something to be poked at, an anomaly. Because I was bi, I had no boundaries. Having knowledge of my entire sex life was his God-given right.
Fuck you, Jake.
Stereotypes about bisexual people — like Jake’s — have created a social climate in which we are made illegitimate, not only as a sexual orientation but as people. This climate also creates a standard of biphobia that rules the sexual and romantic lives of the bisexual community, and which manifests itself in the ways bisexuals are (mis)represented — or not represented at all — in media, culture and everyday conversation.
I came out to myself early in high school. I realized that I like boys, girls and everyone in-between sometime around age 14, during a phase of my life when my ultimate goal was to get my tongue down the throat of every bar-goer in downtown Lisbon.
For a long time, I didn’t tell anyone about my orientation, not because I wasn’t attracted to all genders but because I knew that no one would take me seriously if they found out.
I struggled because I was conditioned to be biphobic, too. I walked through queer spaces as a “straight ally.” I told no one about my crushes on girls because I’d previously dated guys, and I didn’t want anyone to think I was “confused.” I doubted myself, my orientation, my sex life — everything.
A study published in Educational Researcher stated that 41.4 percent of bisexual youth reported feeling suicidal at least some of the time in the past 30 days, 15.5 percent higher than the average for LGBTQ youth and 33.3 percent higher than straight youth.
I know so many of these kids felt the same self-doubt I did.
Maybe they felt pressured to fit inside a societally-defined box, because to be considered “truly bisexual” by the general public, you must have equal experience with male and female partners, sexually and romantically. No one cares how you identify or who you’re attracted to. To be bi, you have to prove it.
But we shouldn’t have to defend ourselves to anyone, not to straight people and certainly not to queer people.
LGBTQ folks aren’t always too thrilled about the B. No minority group wants the majority in its closed spaces, and to some, any heterosexual behavior constitutes heterosexual identity. I’ve had girls refuse to date me because I’m bi; they’re scared it’s “just a phase” and that I’ll leave them for a guy. More than anyone, queer folk want you to prove via experience you belong with them and not with the straight people.
And when others don’t want you to prove it, they want to exploit it.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 61 percent of bisexual-identifying women are victims of rape, sexual violence and/or stalking by an intimate partner. That’s compared to 44 percent of lesbian women and 35 percent of heterosexual women. About 37 percent of bisexual men experience the same, in comparison to 26 percent of gay men and 29 percent of heterosexual men.
These statistics shouldn’t shock you. If we aren’t respected as people, we must be property for others to use, to control, to take.
I want and need to be respected.
Yes, I sleep around and I’m bisexual — but I don’t sleep around because I’m bisexual. Plenty of bisexual people have monogamous, faithful relationships. Some don’t. But bisexuality has nothing to do with romantic orientation. A bisexual person fucked you over? Cheated on you? Well, some bisexual people are assholes, too. I promise it’s not because they’re bi.
We’re a diverse population full of different personalities, beliefs and taste; our commonalities are our orientation and how incredibly tired we get of biphobic bullshit.
Bisexuals are stuck between and outside of two worlds, neither accepting us for refusing to limit our scopes based on gender identity. Until the world can accept who we are and that who we’re attracted to isn’t “just a phase,” we will continue to suffer the consequences.
Kat Hermanson is a gender and women’s studies freshman. Follow her @queerwildkat.