Bi The Power Vested In Me: Bisexual visibility in the LGBT community

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(OFO) “You know, we gay guys have it so good,” my friend said to me over lunch one afternoon.

I looked up from my plate and, for the millionth time, gently reminded someone in my life that I am not a we — I am a me.

“Bi,” I corrected him, pointing my fork at him, then back to me. “You’re gay. I’m bi.”

Related: 5 Ways to Celebrate Bisexual Visibility Week

“I know, I know. It’s just hard to remember,” he replied. “You’re seeing a guy right now. You feel gay to me.”

“Sure. But that doesn’t mean I’m straight when I’m seeing a woman. It doesn’t change,” I reminded. He rolled his eyes and kept eating, politely changing the conversation.

Perhaps the most difficult, and hurtful, conversation I had recently was with my sister after she c*ck-blocked me (again) during a night out. It’s particularly hard to make a move when you’re the FAB-U-LUSS(!) “gay brother.”

To be clear, I’m not making the case for bisexual exceptionalism; I’m making the case for bisexual visibility.

Coast to coast, there are 10 million or more LGBTs. That’s a lot of alphabet soup. According to the Williams Institute, almost half are bisexual.

So … where are they hiding? Is there a bisexual convention I’ve been missing out on? An invitation that keeps getting lost in the mail? Are we just … invisible?

The answer may lay in what goes unsaid. According to Pew Research, a little more than a quarter of all bisexuals are “out” to close family members, as compared to 77 percent of gays and 71 percent of lesbians surveyed. My suspicion is that it’s easier to stay silent than to correct every single transgression.

Then again, perhaps the stick is better than the carrot.

Perceptions of bisexuals vary widely. We’re “promiscuous.” We’re sexually “confused.” We’re sexually “confusing.” If we remain background noise, we get the carrot. If we speak up and open the closet door, we get the stick.

While it’s true that some of us love a good spanking, perhaps it’s more true that we’re all just like you.

Are some of you promiscuous? (Don’t lie.)

Are some of you confused? (Especially before your morning coffee.)

Are you a sexual mystery, replete with hidden fetishes and fantasies? (Yes. Yes you are.)

If bisexual exceptionalism is not the answer, what is? Perhaps the lesson here is to practice being sex positive. You do it, I do it, even educated fleas do it. Our orientations don’t change, but our attitudes toward sex can. How many times have gay men and heterosexual women alike proclaimed, “I follow the No Bi-Guy policy”? If that’s actually the case, why does a recent study published in the Archives of Sexual Behavior demonstrate a 200-percent increase in the number of men and women who engaging in same-sex activity? Double the number of men and women are playing with members of the same sex as opposed to a decade ago — yet the same, tired old stereotypes persist.

These sex-negative policies don’t just harm closeted bisexuals. They harm everyone — trans, lesbian, and bisexual women who are fetishized by creepy old men; sex workers who are fighting for legitimacy, fairness, and recognition; the kid next door living a life of quiet desperation, praying he’ll meet the person of his dreams … someday.

The truth is, this Bisexual Awareness Week, when we practice being sex positive and affirming, we’re practicing something deeper: compassion.


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