"Don't Be Silly, You're NOT
Why The Bisexual Narrative
Is Being Erased
In a 14-minute video, popular Youtuber Shane Dawson came out to his 6.7 million fans...as bisexual. Famous for his drag parodies of Lady Gaga and Kim Kardashian, the 26-year old weeped as he rehashed the moments that led him to his truth, from kissing a girl at 21 to being intimate with a man. But it was Dawson's candidness about wishing he "was just 100% gay" that made this video different from the coming out videos that came before. The star notes that if he were just gay, it "would mean I knew who I was, and it would be easier for me to accepted by people." While Dawson hoped for acceptance, many bisexual men and women we spoke with are fighting to not be erased from the LGBTQ conversation completely.
via Shane Dawson
Nicole Kristal, activist/author and founder of Still Bisexual, a campaign with a purpose of changing the perception and stigma surrounding bisexuality, provided SWAGGER with a recent Entertainment Weekly clipping in which Henry Goldblatt, a gay man, writes "...this is the first time in 15 years that EW has devoted an entire issue to gay, lesbian and transgender entertainment."
"That's bi-erasure," Kristal said bluntly. "Completely leaving out the "B" in LGBT either out of ignorance or intentionally. Anytime an entire group is excluded from a cultural conversation about issues that impact them, that's bigotry."
Within the LGBTQ community and beyond, the bisexual experience has been snuffed mostly because of choice -- the choice to be with either a man or a woman. Alexandra Hanson, a 30-year old New York resident who identifies as bisexual and is married to a man, told me via email that "much of the gay rights movement has been built on the "born this way" concept - that being gay isn't a choice. If all of a sudden bisexuality introduces the idea of "choice," it has the potential to undermine that entire foundation." Hanson believes that the idea of choice is flawed "because bisexuals don't have a choice as to who we fall in love with." And so the B has been very quietly, and strategically, nestled in between the more immediate, and sometimes culturally "hotter" conversations: Lesbian, Gay, and Transgender.
But "on top of that you have the entire culture erasing you," Kristal notes. Look to Vogue's June issue in which the fashion bible shockingly purports that superstar model Cara Delevingne's relationship with St. Vincent singer Annie Clarke might just be a "phase" ("Her parents seem to think girls are just a phase for Cara, and they may be correct"). Or at how the press calls actor Alan Cumming gay despite his self-identification as bisexual (he was married to a woman before husband Grant Shaffer). Or, finally, at Larry King who was notably dumbfounded when Anna Paquin said she still identified as bisexual despite being married to True Blood co-star Stephen Moyer.
To combat the mainstream dismissal of bisexuality, and specifically Vogue's messy handling of Cara Delevingne, bisexual activist Julie Rodriguez launched a petition titled, "Tell Vogue Magazine: Being LGBT Isn't a 'Phase!'". On it, she writes "People are quick to assume queer women’s identities are a 'phase' and to refuse to recognize the important relationships in their lives — an attitude which can cause depression, result in families rejecting their daughters (or forcing them into abusive conversion 'therapy'), and even put young women at risk of suicide. Vogue should have taken this opportunity to combat negative stereotypes, not reinforce them." To date, Rodriguez has received around 20k signatures.
And there's Still Bisexual, Nicole Kristal's organization which provides a platform for bi people to tell their own stories and address the bi-phobia they've experienced. "Even though bisexuality is my lived experience, for years I was complicit in erasing my own identity and the identities of people like me because I didn't believe bisexuality was a valid option," Hanson, who created her own video for the site, told me. "Increased LGBTQ visibility is hugely helpful, but ultimately I think that changing the perception of bisexuality requires bisexuals to tell our stories."
"That is one of the things I think is so brilliant about the #StillBisexual campaign." she continued. "Our stories are our most powerful tool for changing the narrative. Before I made the decision to come out, I struggled with the question - what's the point? I'm a happily married, 30 year old woman so why does it matter? But I came to the conclusion that it does matter. The more bisexuals insist on being seen in all our many forms, the harder it will be for the world to continue to ignore and stereotype us."
Last year, the New York Times published an article, "The Scientific Quest to Prove Bisexuality Exists". Think about that for a second, and then imagine replacing the word "bisexuality" with aspects of your own identity -- "The Scientific Quest to Prove Gay Exists" or "The Scientific Quest to Prove Black Exists" or even "The Scientific Quest to Prove Femininity Exists." Kristal noted that a common thread she finds among the bisexual community is that their sexuality is flat out denied. "Almost all of the out bisexuals I know have been told they don't know who they really are, that they don't exist, that they're really gay or really straight." That they're "selfish" or "greedy."
"I don't see the gay community having a lightbulb moment and saying, "Oh yeah, maybe now we should include bisexuality as something we will advocate for."
According to Kristal, Dawson's own discomfort, or at least the confusion about the validity of his sexual feelings, could stem from major LGBT organizations' failure to call out bisexual erasure and biphobia. "I don't see the gay community having a lightbulb moment and saying, "Oh yeah, maybe now we should include bisexuality as something we will advocate for.""
The mainstream media is run by monosexuals — people who are only attracted to one gender. Because of this, it's hard for them to believe that bisexuality is a valid identity. It's hard for them to wrap their brain around. And because gay groups like GLAAD or HRC are not firing missives off to the press when they produce bi erasing content or reinforce bi-phobia, it's not seen as harmful to make fun of bisexuals for being confused. It's seen as fact."
And so Dawson received comments under his Youtube page that read "Bisexuals aren't real they always come out as gay or straight later so, you're a liar." And tweets that said:
It should be noted that the CDC's latest reports point to bisexual men and women having a higher lifetime prevalence of sexual victimization, higher rates of suicide, and higher rates of substance abuse than gays or lesbians. And while this isn't part of the CDC's findings, let's just say that bisexuals also encounter higher rates of shade. "I've had lesbians say things to me like, 'I can't get excited about a girl that likes dick," Kristal said.
So what to do in a world that doesn't care to understand one's identity? Well, to Dawson, the answer might be just this simple: "Fuck it. Love who you want to love."
PostedSep 23, 2015