“You are either straight or gay.” To some, that probably sounds like an offensive, or at least incorrect, statement. However, to many others, this statement rings true.
“Bi? No way, he’s just saying that for now. Give him a year and he’ll be out.” Maybe you, yourself, have heard this one before, or have even said it, without blinking an eye.
“Are you having lesbian sex? Then you should read this sex health pamphlet!” This one is great, right? Promoting healthy sexual practices and sex positivity! But the truth is, all of these statements are part of a large problem most people are not aware of; it’s called bisexual erasure.
Bi erasure, according to Wikipedia, is the “tendency to ignore, remove, or falsify evidence of bisexuality in history, media, and everyday life.”
Scholar Kenji Yoshino argues that there are a few key reasons why individuals would contribute to bisexual erasure; one being to categorize sexual orientation, so humans can only have one gender preference. People consciously or unconsciously deny the existence of bisexuals in order to feel relieved of any anxiety toward having their own sexual orientation questioned.
Fearing someone else’s sexuality affecting how another identifies is one of the most troubling aspects of bi erasure, and is the definition of homophobia. That fact that someone identifies as bi doesn’t discount your sexuality.
If I, a woman, have sex with another woman, I am not having lesbian sex because I am not a lesbian. If I am in a relationship with a man, I am not in a straight relationship, because I am not straight. My orientation doesn’t change with who I am dating, fucking, or admiring. I am a queer bisexual woman, no matter how others perceive me.
This is why I am not bothered when my female friends make out with other women and still call themselves straight. Or when past boyfriends confessed multiple attractions to men and still called themselves straight. Or when proud queer friends call themselves lesbians even when they still have sex with men from time to time. The key is that it’s their identity and only they have the power to choose it — no one else.
What bothers me is when people try to define others’ sexualities or dismiss certain identities, and this is particularly a problem with bisexuality.
Sadly, bi erasure is still rampant. Robyn Ochs, who was one of the first to marry a same-sex partner in the US, was called a lesbian despite identifying as bisexual. Other examples of bi erasure exist in our history textbooks, our media entertainment, and within our own social groups.
Erasure is even worse when it comes to the acceptance and representation of bisexual men. Personally, I find there is much more tolerance for bisexual women, and that bisexual men are often assumed just to be outright gay. Why is this?
We’ve heard this all before: we need more representation and more acceptance of minorities. But with bisexuality being erased from society, these notions are a little different. We need to fully recognize that bisexuality exists and has always existed, and we need to let go of the fear that our own sexualities waver based on others’ identities.
I call myself bisexual. What do you call yourself?