Alienation and delegitimization of queer identities within the LGBTQ+ community is nothing new. From isolating members who are not ‘gold-star’ lesbians or gays, to doubting the legitimacy of transsexuality and genderfluidity, and completely ignoring the identities of asexual or agender people. And these examples do not even address the extending layers of oppression that people from intersectional backgrounds face.
Bisexuals (focusing on but not ignoring the others), unlike monosexuals, suffer stereotyping from both within and outside the queer community. This is unique to other subgroups of the LGBTQ+ community, because dominant stereotypes which exist in straight or hegemonic narratives, also oppress individuals within the queer community. Some stereotypes include: bisexuals are confused, promiscuous, opportunistic, ‘actually’ gay or ‘actually’ straight and carry STI’s. These ideas create suspicion and doubt of bisexuality and mistrust of individuals identifying as bi.
This biphobia has led to activism that speaks out against these stereotypes, but that in turn has also seen that a “myth busting” approach is taken up. This involves the denial of stereotypes against bisexuals. Examples may include, “No, we are not confused!”, “We are monogamous” or “We do practice safe sex”. Although well-intentioned, this creates a mirror image of the previously ‘extreme’ image of the imagined bisexual. As it moves away from confused, unfaithful and infectious it reaches an aura of certainty, faithfulness and safety. In reality, bisexuals may indeed be confused, unfaithful, promiscuous or HIV positive, and this may create self-hate or guilt for being a ‘bad’ bisexual or contributing to these ‘bad’ bisexual stereotypes. These binaries of ‘good versus bad’ or ‘real versus fake’ bisexuals can alienate people who are still learning about their sexual identities. It can go against an individual’s prior understanding of themselves resulting in them feeling like they are not legitimate or ‘real’ bisexuals.
So why do bisexual advocates, whose only wish is to defend the bisexual image, immediately take up this myth busting/rejection approach when debunking stereotypes? If we look at the nature of these stereotypes, they denote similar sexual behaviours which are considered immoral even in the dominant heterosexual sphere. So, it would only seem obvious that if bisexuals were to partake in these similar sexual activities, they would be received as even less moral than the average ‘immoral’ heterosexual (who may participate in polygamy, BDSM and female domination etc.). And so, in defence, bisexuals are not only defending themselves against oppressive structures against queers and bisexuals, but also, the overall oppressive patriarchal structures which dictate human sexuality. The radical bisexual activist, Shiri Eisner, referred to monogamy as one of these oppressive structures, and states that it, both historically and currently is used as a capitalist and patriarchal tool for controlling women.
Hence again, we see how the overarching matrix of economic and patriarchal hegemony work to dominate, oppress and control the minority. We see how oppressions become internal, invisible and emotional. We become so desperate to save our people from the oppressions of society that we try to fit ourselves into existing structures, rather than building up new, accepting and non-oppressive ones. So be free, be slutty and be the true bisexual you are, and accept other bisexuals going through their own honest bisexual journeys.
I’ll end this post with a quote from the lesbian activist Dorothy Allison, in hopes of bringing radical bravery into the lives of every marginalised queer.
“I want to have adventures and take enormous risks and be everything they say we are.” - Dorothy Allison
By Patricia Chaar