Demystifying Bisexuality: 5 Common Misconceptions
Photo by @emsuptosomething
It’s 2018, but bisexuality is still so surrounded by myths we might as well be talking about unicorns. These myths are perpetuated both within the LGBTIQ community and by straight folks alike. Many of them are contradictory. It comes as no surprise, therefore, that bisexuality often tends to be misunderstood (even by the best intentioned people). Take it from a real-life bisexual, it’s about time to leave all this nonsense behind.
Here are 5 of the most common myths associated with bisexuality:
1. Bisexuality is not real
It turns out that it can be quite challenging for some monosexuals (i.e. people attracted to only one gender) to understand that there are individuals who experience attraction regardless of a person's body parts. There are those who go so far as to claim that bisexual men are in denial about being gay and bisexual women are just going through a phase. While this can and does happen (and its ok if it does), we can’t make a generalization of an entire group of people based on a few examples. It’s interesting to note that there’s evidence of bisexuality– as we understand it today– in many cultures throughout history. Furthermore, there are a series of studies that attempt to explain the science of bisexuality, although not without their fare share of criticism and controversy. Notwithstanding what science can teach us about sexual orientation, specialists in human sexuality agree that, in the end, only you can truly know the nature of your desire and who you are attracted to.
2. You can’t be Bi unless you’ve had sex with people of the same gender
This myth, which actually sounds more like a rule made up by the bisexual police, can be expressed in different ways:
“You cannot identify as bisexual unless you have been in a relationship with both someone of the same sex AND with someone of the opposite sex.”
“True bisexuals have EQUAL attraction for both/all genders.”
Luckily for us, the bisexual police doesn’t exist (at least not yet). There’s no test you have to pass, no proof you have to show, in order to identify as bisexual. Still, many people and researchers have doubts about what qualifies as “bisexual”. What kind of experiences? how many? What percentage of attraction should be experienced? Is it behavior, desire or identity? In his beautiful paper about Bisexual Erasure, Kenji Yoshino explains that a definition of bisexuality should include any individual who desires different sexes, even if they haven’t expressed that desire either through conduct or through speech. Why? Because there are many bisexual folks who do not act out their desires as a consequence of the stigma surrounding bisexuality, or simply for the reason that they are in love and happily monogamous with a person of another gender.
There’s an infinite amount of variability when it comes to bisexual experience, precisely due to the often fluid nature of bi folks’ romantic, emotional, and sexual attraction. What it all comes down to is this: the only thing that bisexual people have in common is that they experience desire towards folks of more than one gender.
3. Bi folks are hypersexual
The stereotype of bisexuals as "greedy" or "promiscuous" is a common one. For people who are only attracted to one sex/gender (straight, lesbian or gay), it may seem like bisexuals have double the odds and possibilities. In reality, having the POTENTIAL to be attracted to different genders is nowhere near the same as liking EVERYBODY.
This myth perpetuates other harmful prejudices about bi folks such as :
• Being incapable of commitment,
• Liking trios and group sex,
• Spreading STIs more than other groups.
There’s no evidence to back up the notion that any of the above statements are more likely in bisexuals than in their straight and gay/lesbian counterparts so, please, never assume. It’s also important to understand that someone’s sexual orientation does not presuppose their sexual conduct, or potentially risky sexual behavior.
4. Bisexuals aren’t as oppressed as gay men and lesbians due to ‘straight privilege’
There’s a belief that bisexuals tend to pass as straight so, therefore, get to have all the sex and none of the homophobia. However, compared with their exclusively homosexual and heterosexual counterparts, bisexuals have reported higher rates of depression, anxiety, substance use, victimization by violence, suicidal ideation and sexual-health concerns. To learn more about bi erasure, the idea that bisexuality is systematically minimized and dismissed, and biphobia click here.
5. Reinforces the Gender Binary
Bisexuality used to be defined as “sexual and/or romantic attraction to both men and women”. With many trans, queer and gender non-conforming folks rejecting the gender binary — or the classification of gender as two polarized expressions of masculinity and femininity– some have claimed that the “Bi” part in ‘bisexual’ ends up reinforcing this antiquated conception of gender (male vs female). While every individual has a right to define their orientation however they like (some preferring the “pansexual” or “fluid” labels), today the bisexual community embraces the following definition:
“I call myself bisexual because I acknowledge that I have in myself the potential to be attracted – romantically and/or sexually – to people of more than one sex and/or gender, not necessarily at the same time, not necessarily in the same way, and not necessarily to the same degree.”
If you think about it, it’s quite transgressive: this idea that genitals don’t determine who you have sex or fall in love with. Bisexuality challenges our traditional conceptions about sex and gender in a different way from homosexuality. Recognizing bisexuality as a legitimate sexual orientation may feel subversive in that it presents a world where a person’s biological sex doesn’t have to be as important as others would like it to be. •
Originally published Feb 13, 2018
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