We’re not invisible. We’re just not real.
Bisexuals are a trick of the light. There we are, the B of LGBT. We’re acknowledged, included, magnanimously held up by the Ls and Gs as part of the queer family. It’s hard to complain. We’re embraced with far more enthusiasm than transfolk, after all. We get a letter, which is more than can be said for a number of other sexual minorities. Unlike “genderfluid” or “asexual” or “intersex”, if you say “bisexual” in conversation everyone knows the word.
Or do they?
We’re a trick of the light. People make assumptions. They try to translate us, but there’s no word for us in their experience. “Bisexual” too often gets erased from our identities and replaced with something else.
What does bisexuality look like, through the lens of hetero- or homosexuality? What does it mean, not to be gender-exclusive in a world where gender preference defines sexual identity?
Well, for starters:
Bisexuals are gay.
We just don’t know it yet.
We don’t want to admit it to ourselves
Or to our families
Or our lovers
Or our friends.
It’s a softer coming out, coming out bi.
Gay, but with passing privilege.
Gay, but afraid.
The gay community can embrace us: we’re just like them.
We just need to be nurtured so that we can throw off the chrysalid form of the bisexual (which will always be monstrous and incomplete; no one could possibly want such a thing) and emerge into the full glory of homosexuality.
If you’re straight, don’t date a bisexual. She’ll come out for real eventually, leave you for a woman. She won’t mean to, but she’ll break your heart.
If you’re gay, don’t date a bisexual. She might not be ready to come out. She might regress. You’ll know she’s gone back in the closet (poor girl, bless her heart) when she leaves you for a man. She won’t mean to, but she’ll break your heart.
Bisexuals are straight.
We just want to look cool
Reject the norms.
Straight, and a threat to gay community.
We might as well be a goddamn terrorist cell.
We threaten the gold-star gay and lesbian ideals.
(“Ew, she’s done what with men? And I’m supposed to want to touch her?” “I don’t want anything to do with a woman who’s had a cock inside her. I’m a lesbian!”)
Really straight. Really gay. Both accusations are based on a completely insane assumption: that it’s easier to be bi than it is to be straight or gay. That biphobia doesn’t come at us from gay and straight alike. Sometimes even other bi folks will spit it at us like cobras if we dare to not be attracted to them (“I knew you were straight. Bitch. You lied to me. Led me on”). People will keep tabs. Is your attraction split 50/50 between men and women? Your dating history? More than a 60/40 split is evidence: really straight, or really gay. And passing privilege? Don’t ever talk to me about passing privilege. It’s not a privilege to have our identities erased all the time. To have every relationship called a “straight” or “gay” relationship. To be called wrong, lying, confused when we come out. It’s not a privilege to be a member of the queer community as long as we’re in same-sex relationships, and shunted to the role of ally (and outsider) the moment we so much as flirt with a different-sex person. It’s not a privilege to be treated like a bridge between the legitimate heterosexual and homosexual communities.
Bisexuality is a phase.
Maybe we’re bi now
But don’t worry
We’ll get a real, grown-up sexuality when we’re done finding ourselves.
Bisexuality is apparently a rich undergrad’s hostel-hop across Europe;
There will be fond memories, sure, but later we’ll smile and shake our heads at our quaint rebellion against the mainstream.
Don’t date a bisexual. She’ll leave you for someone who never knew her as bi once she’s ready to settle down.
I guess some of us never grow up. I’ve identified as bi since age fifteen, and sure ain’t expecting it to change.
I’d like to clarify something, okay? Sexuality can be fluid. Some individuals are differently attracted to others at different points in their lives. It’s possible that a person might identify as straight, then develop attractions to same-sex persons in middle age. This does not invalidate their identity. If a vegetarian adopts an unrestricted diet, that person is now an omnivore. Not a vegetarian going through a phase. Not a pure carnivore in denial. If they order a salad at lunch, you don’t get to crow about how you knew they were still a vegetarian.
For others, sexuality is pretty much set. The Kinsey zeroes and sixes are nodding at this. But guess what? Some of us are just as firmly planted at two-point-seven-five. It’s part of who we are. Every single time we’re told “it’s just a phase,” we’re being told that our experiences, our passions, our self-awareness and our self-assessment are invalid. Everyone knows our sexuality better than we do, and everyone agrees that we’re wrong. The amazing disappearing bisexual. Now you see me, now you don’t. They do it with mirrors, see?
Bisexuality is all about male fetish.
Female bisexuality exists only in the form of the MFF threesome.
(Or the girl-on-girl performance for men.)
We’re the perfect girlfriend
Because being objectified is all we’ve ever wanted from our partner
(Our real partner, the male one. Not threesome girl; she’s just the prop we bring in on Sundays and every third Tuesday to fulfill the fantasy)
But we’re totally not into people of the same sex
That’d just be weird, yo.
If we were into the same-sex partner,
We’d just leave you for them
So we’re totally not into them
(We don’t get to be insecure that our different-sex partner will leave us for someone who shares our gender though. Don’t be silly.)
Bisexuals can’t be monogamous.
We need one of each to be happy.
We’ll never settle down.
We’ll never really love you.
You can only ever be half good enough.
If a bisexual does form a monogamous relationship, we can expect to be told it means we’re straight or gay.
If we were really bi, we’d always be looking for both.
We’re all right for one night stands but we’re not relationship material.
We’ll break your heart.
We won’t even care.
Can’t even empathize.
We don’t have a heart to be broken.
Don’t date a bisexual. We’ll leave. You won’t be enough, and we’ll leave.
I don’t want to get started on the fact that polyamory has nothing to do with being “enough” for your partner. It’s–no. Ngh. No. Moving on. There are some monogamous bi folks who want nothing to do with us poly types. If we can get people to understand bisexuals are real, the poly ones suddenly get pointed out as evidence that bisexuals can’t be monogamous. Everyone knows that all people who identify as a certain sexuality are exactly the same, after all. There’s some tension, some vitriol. Monogamous bisexuals are normal people who want to be in normal relationships. The only difference is that they don’t know, when single, whether that next normal relationship will be same-sex or not. The poly bisexuals? We’re not regular bisexuals. We’re freaks and deviants and sluts.
Bisexuals are sluts.
We’ll fuck anything that moves.
And it’s all about sex. It’s only about sex.
Forget intimacy. Forget attachment.
We’re not like that.
We’re just looking to get laid.
We’re just looking for a good fuck.
Don’t drop your guard, don’t open yourself up to us because if you do we will hurt you.
Don’t date a bisexual. We’ll leave you for the next attractive creature to walk by.
This one hurts. The inability to receive intimacy because we’re perceived as unable to provide it. Becoming attached, knowing we’re just an object. It’s fear, often. The fear of rejection that comes with any relationship, coupled with the messages we’ve all seen for as long as we’ve known bisexuality was a word. And God, I empathize with fear. I know it better than anyone. Fear has been my seeing-eye dog. Fear is the voice that translates the world–all of you–from whatever strange languages you speak into my native tongue. But what you’re afraid of isn’t true. We’re not different from other people. Not smoke and mirrors, flesh and blood. We might just give you our hearts. We know it’s risky. It’s always risky, for anyone. But please don’t throw it on the ground just because you think it isn’t real.
Bisexuals are a health risk.
Make sure to whisper, we might be listening
All that sleeping around?
Bisexuals are riddled with STIs
We’re a vector.
Like a mosquito or a plague rat
We introduce disease to the innocent.
See, bi women sleep with men, and some forms of sex with men carry higher transmission risks for some STIs. So we get these gross man-diseases and give them to lesbians, obviously.
Bi men sleep with men. MSM are higher risk for HIV. So bi men are the vector for AIDS among straight women, obviously.
If you find yourself nodding along with this, thinking it’s not biphobic at all just basic health consciousness, kindly go to hell. Those of you about to say “but–” the answer is no.
Safe sex practices matter in all relationships regardless of sex and gender configurations. Risk communication and regular testing matter for all of us. Saying someone’s a public health risk on the basis of orientation alone is bigoted. Period. There are folks who insist that bisexuals present a sexual health risk when they’re serially monogamous, have had few or no sexual partners, and/or receive regular STI panels. These folks aren’t afraid of STIs. They’re afraid of cooties. They’re exhibiting a disgust reaction to our identity and trying to frame it in a socially acceptable way. This is not okay.
But we should set that aside. There’s another thing, and it’s worse. Any woman who has been penetrated by a man is a risk to lesbians everywhere? Shun and shame and definitely do not date? I’ve heard it more than once: gold-star or go home.
Lifetime prevalence of penetrative rape of lesbians is over 13% . More than one in eight. Are those one in eight still unworthy? Not lesbian enough for a partner who shares her sexuality? Who ought to be ashamed, here? I think someone got it wrong.
Bisexuals are deranged.
Wild and promiscuous as we are, we’re definitely mentally ill.
We sure as hell ain’t normal
Must be crazy.
And so ungrateful, when you deign to want us despite our sluttiness, even though everyone else thinks we’re going to leave you for someone not your gender.
The suggestion is that bisexuality is a symptom of mental illness, rather than a valid sexual identity unrelated to illness. It is certainly not something that warrants treatment, let alone stigma. The jokes I’ve heard conflating bisexuality and bipolar disorder are awful, ill informed about both the sexuality and the disorder, and stigmatizing of both. I didn’t want to discuss this stereotype in depth because I’m uncomfortable with it. I feel guilty for being a person with mental illness (none of y’all’s business what) identifying as bisexual. Proves the stereotype, right? I have a similar sense of guilt for being nonmonogamous and bi. It upholds the can’t-be-monogamous stereotype.
The thing I should have remembered is that this stereotype doesn’t just hurt bisexuals. It hurts anyone with mental illness. There’s a stigma attached to mental illnesses as a class that one sees with only a select few physical diseases and conditions. Any mental illness will be seen as synonymous with “crazy” or “deranged” or some other sweeping generalization that people will use to invalidate anything we do or say.
Mental illness isn’t substantially different from physical illness. It takes different forms, affects our lives to varying degrees. For some it can be debilitating. Others find treatment regimens that allow recovery. A persons ideas, identity, and self are no more invalidated by their having a mental illness than they would be by asthma.
The point here, to reiterate, isn’t that bisexuals are exempt from mental illness nor that we’re universally mentally ill. The point is that bisexuality is not a symptom of mental illness, nor a cause thereof. And unless they’re backed with well-presented peer-reviewed evidence to the contrary, those statements need to die in a fire.
Bisexuals are damaged.
You know what?
Yes we fucking are.
We’re damaged by the attacks, the erasure, the distrust of our partners, the beliefs that we’re all lying or insane or sex addicted.
We’re damaged by the constant dehumanization and objectification.
We’re damaged when we’re mentioned alongside the gay and lesbian population only to be ignored or subsumed.
Even in scholarly articles about sexuality.
- Articles that mentioned bisexuality and articles that examined bisexuality in their analyses (N = 348).
We’re damaged by having higher rates of rape, sexual assault, and stalking than either straight or gay folks.
74.9% of bisexual women experience sexual violence at some point, compared with 46.4% of lesbians and 43.3% of straight women. 
47.4% of bisexual men experience sexual violence at some point, compared with 40.2% of gay men and 20.8% of straight men. 
We’re damaged by being treated as unclean, impure; as traitors and turncoats
As if gay and straight were bitter enemies.
We’re damaged by being thrown back and forth between mainstream heterosexual culture and GLBT community based on current relationship status. By being unsupported in either, unwanted by both.
Bisexuals will leave.
That’s what it all boils down to, really.
People can’t see us as what we are.
We’re perceived as a dizzying, unpredictable flicker.
Look now, stage left: she’s straight! No, wait, stage right: she’s gay! Wherever you look, we’re already a shimmer, already somewhere else.
If we can’t even be steady and constant in our sexuality, how can we be steady and constant to a partner?
But that’s the trick. We’re not sometimes-gay-sometimes-straight.
Those are just reflections. That’s where monosexual norms want you to look; the only options.
We’re not even on the stage.
They do it with mirrors.
Bisexuals are really:
All the rest? It’s what other people say about us.
And to us.
Just like you.
1. Kaestle, C.E., Ivory, A.H., A Forgotten Sexuality: Content Analysis of Bisexuality in the Medical Literature over Two Decades Journal of Bisexuality 2012, 12(1), 35-48. Available online here.
2. NISVS 2010 Findings on Victimization by Sexual Orientation. Available online here.
Things I Didn’t Reference But Check Them Out Anyway
The San Francisco Human Rights Commission’s Bisexual Invisibility
What Lesbians Think About Bisexuals (a video, informal survey)
Bisexuality: Myths vs. Facts (another video)
1. This is written from a mostly cis-female perspective, because that’s my experience. Other sexes and genders’ experience may vary. Other individuals’ experience may vary. Funny how that works.
2. I am aware that not everyone does this. There are people who are not biphobic. Yay! If you feel the need to shout “no fair! I’m not that guy! You’re the bigot for pointing out biphobia exists because I’m totally not that guy!” please do me a favor. First, realize that biphobia is pervasive and harmful even if not every single person participates in it. Second, realize that shouting “I’m not that guy” is a recognized silencing tactic, and “not that guy” guy is totally always 100% that guy. Third, go eat a shoe. It’s a better use of your time and hands than making that particular argument.
3. Please don’t tell me that no one says these horrible things. I’ve experienced all of them, and I have no doubt there are more that I haven’t had to deal with. Lovers, partners, family, friends, even a PhD in LGBT studies have stood and told me “this is what you mean when you say you’re bisexual. You are wrong about your identity. The thing you say you are and say you feel does not exist.” It fucking hurts. Telling us that people don’t do this to us doesn’t make it hurt less, it just tells us that here is yet another person we can’t talk to.
4. Gender binary language is used here. In this case it is deliberate: the assumptions above are by and large made by binary-identifying people who see people neatly divided into a gender binary. “He’s going to leave his boyfriend for a woman” is not only biphobic, it assumes trans/genderfluid/genderqueer/intersex people either don’t exist or couldn’t possibly be of sexual interest. And yes, it’s a problem, just not the subject of this particular rant.