Ironically I’m writing this piece about Celebrate Bisexuality Day, a day I'd never even heard of before receiving the assignment. As a bisexual woman all too familiar with bi erasure, I’d been looking forward to Bi Visibility Day, which Google now informs me is the same thing as Celebrate Bisexuality Day and is also called Bi Pride Day. My ignorance of the holiday dedicated to honoring my own sexuality seems an apt similitude for the bi erasure endemic to our society and serves to highlight the necessity of CBD.
First recognized in 1999, CBD falls on September 23 during Bisexual Awareness Week. It honors the triumphs and tragedies throughout bisexual history and brings to light issues the bi community faces. To recognize the day, various organizations host workshops, discussions, public outreach efforts, and lobbying events. BiVisibilityDay.com lists 40 CBD events across the globe including burlesque performances, film screenings, and mixers. Scotland’s Equality Network is running an experiment wherein global participants wear bisexual t-shirts and submit anecdotes about their resulting experiences and treatment.
Celebrate Bisexuality Day is necessary because bi people make up 50 percent of the LGB population in the U.S. And in addition to bi-erasure and biphobia, the bisexual community faces higher rates of anxiety, depression, eating disorders, smoking, and suicide than their straight, gay, and lesbian peers. They also suffer higher rates of sexual and domestic violence and poverty than gay and lesbian populations.
Although bi folks can and do experience homophobia for their same-sex attraction, it differs from biphobia, which includes damaging beliefs about bisexuality specifically—that bisexuals are greedy, confused, promiscuous, transphobic, seeking attention, going through a phase, can’t be monogamous, etc.
But none of these things are true.
Bi erasure refers to mislabeling bisexuals as lesbian, gay, or straight based on their current or past relationships, denying that bisexuality exists, and calling bisexuals “allies.” I knew since I was a teenager that I was bisexual, but it was nearly a decade before I understood myself as more than an ally to the LGBTQ community, and I’ve found this to be an unfortunately common experience for other bisexuals, too.
Though LGBTQ funding hit a record high in 2013, it consistently fails to support bi-specific issues despite the obvious need for social, medical, and financial assistance on a large scale. This isn’t just a case of that mythical bisexual greed; charities focus on the needs of specific sub-populations—gay men being the top group to receive funding, followed by transgender people and then lesbian women, with organizations for intersex people and bisexuals receiving less than 1 percent each of awarded grants.
But it’s not all bad news. Bi Visibility Day in 2013 marked the first ever bi-specific event sponsored by any White House. Over 30 bi advocates from across the country met with government officials to discuss bi issues and policy needs. Slowly but surely, bisexuals are gaining visibility and respect.
What can you do for CBD? Come out if it’s safe for you to do so. Increased visibility creates safety for more people to come out as bisexual and make our community’s needs heard. Refute biphobia when you see or hear it. Correct bi erasure: don’t call a same-sex couple a “gay couple” unless you personally know their sexuality, and don’t assume different-sex couples are straight.
Learn and share info about influential bisexuals throughout history such as Sylvia Rivera, a bisexual transgender activist and key figure in the Stonewall Riots. Break free of the gender binary; understand and share that the bisexual community defines “bisexuality” as ‘attraction to people of genders both like and unlike one’s own’ rather than ‘attraction to both men and women.’
Tell others about Bi Visibility Day and make your own plans to Celebrate Bisexuality!