It’s Bisexual Visibility Day in Bisexual Visibility Week. If you haven’t heard of either of those celebrations of bisexuality yet it’s OK. Exercise is good for the mind. Let the brain cells dance a bit. In particular I want to stretch the grey matter on the problem of people telling bisexuals we are ‘just confused’ or that we ‘don’t know who we are yet’. If you are unsure why that is rude or what “bisexual erasure” is there are plenty of articles out there. If you haven’t read any of those kind of articles yet go and Google “What Not To Say To Bisexuals” or “How to be a Bisexual Ally”. But if you’ve done all that and you still feel like querying someone’s sexuality based on who you think they may have slept with (or who they have been open enough to tell you they have slept with) for the record, that is their identity as a bi person you don’t get a pass to be intrusive, rude, crude or cruel. If you heard ‘bisexuals are confused’ or ‘everyone is a bit bisexual’ from a lesbian or a gay man or a LGBT magazine article they are pulling you in to the game of erasing bisexuality.
The easiest way to let someone find out who _they_ are is to let them get on with it. If it is no threat to you, or them, or me, I do wonder how so many of yet another generation have turned into their parents and are telling anyone who isn’t their doppelgänger “You don’t know what you want” or “You don’t know who you are yet.” Telling us we are “confused” is gas-lighting us. At best that’s rude and if you learn to do one thing differently as a friend to a bisexual person, a family member or another member of the Pride umbrella communities, please learn that it’s not OK to tell someone they are confused. It’s NEVER OK.
Perhaps we also need to learn from the mistakes of a generation that calls 25 “young people” and doesn’t think folk under the age of 40 can make up their own minds. That’s a recipe for endless carping from the next generation up and identity questioning by those subjected to the nitpickers and erasure of, “But you went out with a boy/girl/straight person you don’t know who you are yet/you’re confused.” I’m 39 and trust me, I get it from the 60-year-old, the 90-year-old and now people my own age or younger. I’m 39 and STILL being told I don’t know what I want by folk with a shopping list of things they think I ought to be. Telling people who to be and what to do is a surefire recipe for them never learning what their truth is, because you keep trying to tell them first. If folk say they are bi they are bi. They don’t ‘claim’ to be bi, they are bi. You need to accept that say, “Hey great and are you good/OK with that?” throw them a damn party and then let them get on with it, checking in if they seem to be at genuine risk of harm. What if after checking ourselves – and search engines if necessary -for sticky-beak syndrome and the unintended consequences of our assumptions, nosiness, invalidation or prejudices, we accept what we are told by anyone over 16 or 21 or whatever the heck we consider a suitable age to send kids to warzones- and BELIEVE THEM until we are told different, at which point we accept that, too? Hey, it means more parties to throw – and most importantly – listen – it’s the respectful thing to do.
Could we all just live and let live and quieten down the ‘what if’? Life’s miserable enough, it needs more fun! People who get a kick out of criticism for the sake of it are not fun. There is too much assumption and judgement of other people around. In truth, assault, abuse, ill-health, commitments and stress can all change the way people feel attraction and desire. That does not mean their identity has changed, though others may see them differently. I’m a proud bisexual woman whose potential for attraction is my business and whose identity is not defined by notches on a bedpost, by what you think you see, or by what I wear but I am often read as straight, married, non-sexual, fragile and – frankly in this disablist and body-shaming culture simple-minded and uncertain or ripe for manipulation and abuse. It seems that even if _I_ know who I am, or my friends do, _others_ see a set of stereotypes and the results are not pretty. We’ve all heard the variations of stigma on bisexuality: “Confused, greedy, sleeps with men, has threesomes, desperate to sleep with anything, too proud of our sexuality, too unsure of our sexuality. With a flood of poorly thought-out assumptions like that around is it any wonder any minority group is disenchanted and there are so many unhappy individuals out there and not a few will be confused and distressed about ‘being different’ or treated poorly in a world that gives most attention to heterosexuality and monosexuality as the thing to be.
If we base sexual and romantic identity on who someone thinks about sleeping with aged 16 a lot of different possibilities will come up and some folk will come out as bisexual because thank GOD we no longer have to come out as only heterosexual or monosexual, nor do we all have to identify with the gender assigned to us at birth. Our teens and twenties are the age most feel most desire and good luck to it! Hormones are rampaging and in a world that is here, queer and here to stay if young (and not so young) people think they might be OR KNOW THEY ARE bisexual, gay, lesbian, transgender, agender, asexual, pansexual, genderfluid, non binary or anything in between then you know they are ALIVE and more importantly, THEY know they are alive. The miserable alternatives of child abuse, forced marriage, trauma, neglect and domestic abuse are all out there, and very, very real for many of us, so thank God there are teens who can feel desire before the world comes crashing in before you think that your teen demonstrating a healthy desire for any sex or person of any gender, orientation or sexuality troubles your heart!
To my fellow bisexuals: don’t be afraid, to the uncertain about anything whether it is your sense of self as a person in a minority group or your attempts to rebuild yourself after abuse and rejection, you are ‘enough’. You may feel broken but you are human, you may be ill physically and mentally but YOU are not wrong, you have BEEN wronged. Your sexual feelings or lack of them, your closeted (or out) sexuality, your orientation, wherever you are now it is yours and it is not worse or less valid for being uncertain unsure or derided by others as something imperfect or unfinished. No true work of art is ever ‘finished’. If you feel unsure, confused or alone, you are far from alone in that. It’s a messed up world where people band together to be ‘in the group’ for safety. Not fitting is down to a social glitch in human nature that pushes some of us out to the margins of any group while welcoming the loud, the strong or the seemingly confident to the centre. Don’t be ashamed if you find yourself ‘outside’, even if you are an outsider every time. You have a unique view on what still needs fixing and you’ll never be complaisant. No one ever ‘chose’ to be negative, or depressed, or less happy than those around them no matter what people tell you. Life IS harsh for many people and it is OK to NOT be OK with that, that makes you one of the healers, one of the fixers of broken places.
Be kind to yourself when you can, because ‘positive’ isn’t everything – even batteries have a negative end and even if you are on the losing side AGAIN it is better to have something stolen than to be the thief who takes it away. Society may not accept this but in a deeper sense of values where the hurt is, no one should ever tell us we are less for being the victim of marginalisation, illness, injustice, treachery, or poverty. Don’t be a people-pleaser if you can help it, because no matter how much you try for the approbation of critical people it will never be enough. You are a bisexual [or whatever you choose to call yourself under the bi umbrella] You do not have to be a chameleon always changing, always trying to blend into your background for safety, unless you choose to be. your soul will wither trying to be all things to all people and your head will explode like a Boggart trying to be all things to all people . I know this is me saying it, but, enjoy the debate and avoid the embryo gas-lighters and remember to step away and do self-care: don’t drain both ends of the battery at once. Remember to seek support from the bisexual community and any other communities you identify as a part of but remember you are you, not them, you are made up of YOUR experiences and they are valid. You don’t have to have done, or been or seen the things others have to be you. We don’t have binormativity yet, thank goodness. Let’s make difference a virtue even as we stand together and find community. Let’s make bi-normative when it comes, inclusivity and acceptance, the ability to let others be who they are and if the phrase ‘binormative spaces’ is ever a reality I hope people will be able to say that what that is the space to find ourselves and be in ourselves as we are in the travelling present.
To our allies: Learn what it means to be a bisexual ally, read about what not to say, write and speak to people who erase or gaslight or demean us, BE our allies and don’t just say you’ll be there for us.
To lesbian, gay, monosexual, heterosexual and non-bisexual people: if someone makes a perfectly good point and if it isn’t identical to yours what _you_ get is a debate. What is NOT up for debate is WHO we are and what we call it. There is a B in LGBT and this is what it looks like.: Here, queer and here to stay. Just like you.
(Note: due to only writing this morning this is the rough draft of the rambling and often medication and brain tumour-muddled brain of a cis bisexual disabled activist who isn’t always too good with words. If I have unintentionally erased anyone, made things sound too binary, confused terms or identities or muddled gender and sexuality while trying to explain anything, please give me a gentle nudge and I’ll be happy to edit accordingly.)