Some or most of you guys may know, last week was Bisexual Awareness Week. Where us bisexuals got together and had a big bi party. But alas, that wasn't the case. We celebrate this week to show the world that we're out there and can't be dismissed. Being bisexual has many positive and negative sides. But today, I have author Tristina Wright talking about what it means to be a bisexual, and the impact it has on your mental health.
The In Between. That sometimes peculiar, sometimes liberating, sometimes weird space between boxes. Those alternating slices of shadow and light that fill the alleyways between boxes filled with Just So.
Western Society (well…America) loves their boxes. If they could neatly put everyone in one of those boxes, they’d be pleased as punch. But not everyone wants to be in a box. Not everyone can fit into a box. Some of us wander those alleyways and turn them into community gardens and parks for kids to play in. We build our own homes in those spaces, brightly lit and welcoming no matter how many times people from the boxes on either side smash our porch lamps.
Identifying as Bisexual is a house in one of those alleyways. It’s not worse or shameful. It’s just different. It’s carving out a space in a world that wants us to be in the Homo Box to the left or the Hetero Box to the right. However, almost at the same time, neither box actually wants us.
You’re really straight.You’re really gay.You’re lying.You’re confused.You’re trying to trick people.You just want everyone for yourself.Greedy.Slut.Whore.You don’t belong here.
It’s a tired refrain played outside the windows of our little bungalow nestled between two perfect boxes.
The queer community faces discrimination from the outside world on a daily basis. It took until 2015 for the Supreme Court to legalize same-sex marriage nationwide. And even then, some states still fight it to this day. Cities and entire states are passing laws which legalize businesses discriminating against members of the queer community, prevent transgender people from using the correct bathroom, and a host of other hate-filled actions.
Now imagine discrimination from not just the outside world, but also the very community you’re supposed to be a part of. Bisexual (and really all polysexual people) receive discrimination from the queer community as well. Bisexual people in “straight” relationships are jeered at Pride celebrations. We’re told in casual conversation that we’re not good enough to be dated because we’ll definitely cheat. Bisexual women are shunned by lesbian women because “a penis has been there.” Bisexual men are shunned by gay men because “ew vagina.”
It’s isolating because when it gets right down to it, we have no community of our own. We’re shunned from the straight community. We’re shunned from the queer community.Members of the queer community already suffer from mental illnesses at an alarmingly higher percentage than straight people because of the ostracizing, hate, and discrimination we face on a daily basis. PTSD, Anxiety Disorder, and Depression are the three most common.
Now imagine being bisexual and having a mental illness. A report done in 2014 by BiNet USA and the Bisexual Resource Center (http://www.lgbtmap.org/understanding-issues-facing-bisexual-americans) showed that bisexuals are six times more likely to hide their orientation than gay or lesbians. Six times.ABisexual women experience far more sexual violence than straight or lesbian women, according to the report. When a bisexual woman comes out, the stereotypes play into everyone’s response. She’s expected to indulge in threesomes. She’s expected to be easy. She’s asked how many partners of various genders she’s had. She’s subjected to lewd comments, jokes, and even imagery. She’s asked personal and invasive questions which amount to little more than sexual assault. Bisexual women also reported getting little to no help from their HR departments at work simply because they were out and bisexual. The hate crime laws and discrimination policies may state gay and lesbian, but they’re not for bisexuals.
The saddest statistic in the report was the fact that bisexuals are four times as likely to commit suicide than gays or lesbians. Two times as likely than straight people. This is because of fear of being out to anyone in any community. Even health care providers don’t even consider their patients could be bisexual. They’ll ask sexual history for one gender only. They never ask for multiples and you’re left with the decision of whether or not to tell them. Most opt not to tell them, which means they may not get the right treatment for what they have.
When you’re pushed out on both sides, it damns you to exist in loneliness. Many bisexuals, because of this, don’t accept the label until much later in life because they had no community to guide them as they figured things out. You’re either gay or straight – no in between.
And even when we learn the word bisexual, we’re met with stereotypes and assumptions borne from media and inaccurate representation in books. Many don’t want to or cannot deal with that, so they eschew the label because it’s simply easier. It’s safer.
I’ve been lucky to form an online community of bisexual and pansexual people. Folks who understand the microaggressions and the othering that can occur in any space. But many of us don’t have that community because we’ve been told time and time again we’re too gay to be straight and to straight to be gay.
But we aren’t either. We’re bisexual.
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