Today, 23 September, We Celebrate Bisexuality Visibility Day

23 September – Today we celebrate Bisexuality Visibility Day, an international awareness day combatting bisexual invisibility.  The International LGBTQI Youth and Student Organisation (IGLYO) seizes this opportunity to highlight and recognize the pervasive discrimination, verbal harassment, bullying and social stigma faced by bisexual young people both within and outside of LGTQI communities.

We, bisexual[1] young people, face the same challenges as LGTQI young people, including homelessness as a result of family, school and community rejection; discrimination, bullying, social exclusion, violence, harassment. However, we also face distinct challenges, such as a lack of trust and validation of who we are. Both within and outside of LGTQI communities, bisexuality is very often denied space or is ignored. It’s very existence and legitimacy is questioned, resulting in bisexual erasure and invisibility. This leads to widespread stigma and discrimination that cannot be escaped even within assumed ‘safe’ LGTQI spaces.

Very often bisexual people are subjected to verbal invalidation of their sexual orientation  based on stereotypes, such as: ‘ ‘’it’s just a phase, you probably still can’t accept and/or decide if you are gay or lesbian’’; ‘’you are just confused, indecisive’, ‘’you can’t commit to one person, you can’t be monogamous,’’, ‘’bisexual people are more likely to cheat on their partner(s)’’ ’it’s just a coping strategy for your internalized homophobia’’.

What is deeply wrong here is the pervasive generalizations that treat bisexual young people as a homogenous whole. This lack of acceptance and understanding of the individual nature of identity is what drives stigma.  It is a result of normative, binary perspectives on gender, sexual orientation and relationships that place the expectation on young people of diversity to put the totality of who they are into neat categories. To tick single identity boxes. To mold their identities based on other people’s experiences rather than their lived reality. Essentially people are asked to choose “a side” and to conform.

Bisexual young people are expected to be ‘’all the same’’. But in reality we are diverse, we have different gender identities and expressions. We can be trans, non binary, agender, gender queer, cis gender. We come from different socio-economic, cultural, religious and ethnic backgrounds; health and mental health statuses, educational attainment levels, ability statuses, sex characteristics, bodily diversity and so on. Our identities and material realities can intersect in so many ways and we can be marginalized based on more than one of the criteria mentioned above. But we are also marginalized by being bisexual. Bisexual people from particularly vulnerable  groups, for example, bisexual people living with a disability and trans people, are very often invisible and ignored.

We are expected to be equally romantically, emotionally, spiritually and sexually attracted to people of different genders, without a realization that we can be aromantic, or predominantly attracted to one gender and slightly to other genders; or that we can be romantically attracted to one gender and sexually to some other genders. Bisexuality does not exist in one form. We are part of the wonderful diversity of the LGBTQI community and we are diverse in ourselves. This should be celebrated as we celebrate the other diverse identities of the LGTQI spectrum with pride.

This general lack of awareness that our romantic, emotional, spiritual and sexual attraction do not necessarily align (and that it doesn’t have to be expressed towards one person), together with pervasive discriminatory beliefs that we always want “more” and seek to deceive and cheat on our partners, are what harms us. It is hurting us. Many of us hide our sexuality, afraid to use the term bisexual for fear that our intentions, our love, our identities will be rejected.

All of these issues  create an atmosphere in which it seems like other people and not ourselves, are entitled to define, acknowledge, and validate us. That is why we are using this opportunity to highlight that only we have the right to define ourselves. No one, not even if they are LGTQI, has the right to assume and assign labels and norms to us, without getting to know us at an individual level.

Within LGTQI circles, bisexual people are often accused of  having ‘’passing privilege’’, considered not to be full fledged parts of the community, as we can ‘choose’ to be in what is perceived as heterosexual relationship. Let me say this clearly. Regardless of who we date, we do not move between heterosexuality and homosexuality. Our choice to enter into what can be perceived as a heterosexual relationship is not a betrayal of the community. Refusal to recognise our sexual orientation as it exists is a betrayal of the community. It is not a privilege to be rendered invisible. Being forcibly closeted is not a privilege. We are not ‘half-straight’ or “not oppressed enough”, we are not here to be bullied. We are here to be taken seriously.

Stereotypes that stigmatise bisexuality can discourage young bisexual people from coming out — leading to more invisibility, lower representation, more stereotypes, and more internalized shame and social stigma. The pervasive nature of this discrimination also has a serious impact on our mental health and well being. It’s a vicious cycle which contributes to bi-erasure and bi-phobia, and it needs to stop.

 

 

Ksenija Joksimovic, board member

ksenija@iglyo.com

[1] Bisexual people are those whose attraction is not limited to one gender, while pansexual people are attracted to people regardless of gender. Some people may use both terms to describe their sexual orientation.

 

© 2018 IGLYO, Chaussée de Boondael 6, Brussels B-1050, Belgium