Confronting Bisexual Erasure

· LGBTQI,Allyship

Members of the LGBTQI+ community frequently experience minority stress. Today I wanted to share some thoughts specifically about bisexuality and some prevailing stereotypes which can lead to the tendency to overlook, negate or dismiss the existence and experiences of bisexual individuals.

Bisexuality is the capacity to experience emotional, romantic and/or sexual attraction to individuals of more that one gender. Bisexuality stands as a vibrant and valid expression of love and desire but is often dismissed by those operating within a rigidly dichotomous view of sexuality.

Conceptualising Sexuality

There are many models used to try to conceptualise sexuality; of these, the Kinsey Scale is perhaps the most well-known. Helpful as that proved back in 1948, scaling sexuality as a continuum between heterosexuality and homosexuality can lead to the invidious assumption that bisexuality is somehow unreal or simply ‘a phase’ which will pass.

The stigma experience by bisexuals, often even within the LGBTQI+ community, is particularly chilling because of this attempt to completely erase their lived experience.

Navigating society’s binary view of sexuality can be a daily occurrence: bisexuals are often assumed to be straight, gay or lesbian solely on the basis of the gender of the partner they happen to be with. The psychological distress of having one’s identity and agency constantly challenged should not be underestimated.

Challenging Biphobia and Bisexual Erasure

I want to end with a few thoughts on how we can be better allies to our bisexual friends:

1. Confront Binary Assumptions

Being aware of one’s own internalised assumptions about sexuality is key to our capacity to embracing the rich tapestry of human sexuality and to affirming the nuances of the bisexual experience.

Binary assumptions manifest at both societal and interpersonal levels and it is important we confront and challenge these when they arise to avoid contributing to the feelings of invisibility, isolation and invalidation within the bisexual community.

2. Use Affirmative Language

The importance of affirmative language applies both at the level of conversation and also in written communications.

Be conscious about using inclusive and affirmative language that acknowledges the spectrum of attractions human beings are capable of feeling. Affirming the bisexual experience and communicating solidarity is vital to empowering the bisexual community.

3. Beware Media Representation

Bisexual erasure is perpetuated through the limited and often inaccurate portrayal of bisexuality in mainstream media. We should all be critically engaging with media messages. What is more we can all identify bisexual role models to celebrate, thereby affirming the bisexual experience.

Please do share your bisexual role models and any other practical tips you think are helpful for challenging biphobia and bisexual erasure.