Written by Jack Emberson
“Let’s talk about Bi-erasure” – A sentence which you probably don’t hear too much due to that very erasure. Being Bisexual is something made infinitely hard by the discriminatory elements of society, and harder so by the obliviousness of most people to the prejudices experienced by Bisexuals. This is by no means to be taken as belittling the hardship faced by other members of the community, but the mass naivete regarding Bi issues is problematic and needs to be addressed.
Under-representation in the media is one blaring problem which sees Bisexuality explored extremely rarely; and even those morsels tend to misrepresent the group by hypersexualising their bisexual characters. Even the iconic LGBTQIA television show ‘Queer as Folk’ failed to explore or mention bisexuality once in its ten episode run. Freddie Mercury identified as bisexual and had serious relationships with both men and women, yet people either prefer him to fit into a binary sexuality system, or simply aren’t aware of his orientation due to the media’s lack of interest. The same can be said for Madonna and Lady Gaga, who have both openly identified as bisexual, yet are still portrayed by the media as straight women who ‘dabble’ in lesbianism, belittling both lesbians and bisexuals. This mass under-representation leads to the commonly held notion that bisexual people are simply gay or straight, depending on their current partner- which of course is a highly damaging view as it invalidates the identities of approximately 245,000 individuals in the UK.
Sadly, it isn’t just from the typical hetero-baby-boomer archetype from which opposition is faced. Members within the LGBTQIA community can participate in bi-erasure by excluding the bisexual population during pride marches and other events, discriminating against those in heterosexual relationships for receiving the societal acceptance that comes with a straight relationship. The differences between the hetero and bi members of the community are especially prominent in the same-sex marriage debate. The voice of bisexuals has been belittled, as they are seen as privileged for having the option of marrying someone of the opposite sex. In fact, Robyn Ochs, one of the first women to marry someone of the same sex in America, was frequently referred to as lesbian when she was in fact openly bisexual. ‘Glee’, a show which has been hailed for its portrayal of homosexual teenagers’ struggle during school featured a gay male character who said “bisexual is a term that gay guys in high school use when they want to hold hands with girls and feel normal for a change.”. What message is this sending to young and impressionable bisexuals watching the show, who very well may be questioning their sexuality and looking to LGBTQIA role models for guidance? The media prefers to paint sexuality as a two-way system, ignoring bisexuals, pansexuals and asexuals alike simply because it makes sexual orientation easier to understand for cisgender heterosexuals.
It can be bluntly asked: does any of this matter? The answer is a cold and steely yes. Many recent studies have found the risk of depression for a bisexual significantly higher than that of heterosexuals, and also higher in some cases than homosexuals. It is believed this stems from the suppression of emotions and a fear of ‘coming out’ to family and friends, for fear of invalidation of their feelings. This also leads to a higher suicide and self harm risk for bisexuals, as they receive the littlest social support of any sexual orientation group. These facts alone should be enough to haul the media out of their biphobic pit and set into motion the establishment of a support network for bisexuals globally. Alas, that remains unlikely, although supporting LGBTQIA groups and projects helps to magnify our voices, and together we can make a difference. And hopefully that voice won’t forget the B in LGBTQIA.