(Note: In this article bisexual is used as an umbrella term that includes pansexuals and all other polysexuals too.)
Each year, bisexual visibility is celebrated on bisexual visibility day, September 23rd. This leads to the question: Why do we need a visibility day? Visibility is important for bisexuals to combat bisexual erasure, the tendency to ignore and exclude bisexuals, or claim bisexuals they just don’t even exist.
People Do Not Believe Bisexuality Exists
As humans, we like to put things in tidy categories and boxes. There is a tendency to do this for human sexuality and has resulted in many people believing that people can only be gay or straight. Nearly one third of people believe that there is no middle ground to sexuality and everyone must be heterosexual or homosexual.
These attitudes result in many people thinking bisexuals don’t exist and that anyone who says they are bisexual is doing it for attention, is in a phase, is confused, is actually straight if they are a woman, or is actually gay if they are a man. Dealing with this form of biphobia is taxing for bisexuals. No other declaration of sexual orientation is so mistrusted as bisexuality. Bisexauls deal with their sexuality constantly being invalidated as well as being expected to prove they are bisexual enough.
Bi Visibility Day is a day where bisexuals are more visible which can help combat these attitudes. When people see many people identifying as bisexual it is more difficult to deny they exist.
Bisexuals Are Less Likely To Be Out
Compared with gays and lesbians, bisexuals are far less likely to be out as bisexual. It is extremely likely that this is caused by the biphobia surrounding bisexuality from straight people as well as the LGBT+ community. There are a lot of potential risks to being out as bisexual as bisexuals are more likely to experience poverty, a pay gap, negative work decisions, domestic assault, rape, and suicide that keep people from coming out.
Understandably, some bisexuals cannot be out. Those who can need to be out and visible to help normalize bisexuality as a legitimate, real sexuality. The hope is that visibility now will help more biesxuals be more out later. In this way, visibility is important to bisexuals as Pride has been to the LGBT+ community.
Bisexual Erasure Is Hurting Bisexuals Bisexual erasure sounds like more of an annoyance than a serious problem to some, but has a profound effect on bisexual’s lives. Visibility and representation is how erasure is fought.
Bisexual erasure runs rampant in the LGBT+ community, a community that should be supporting bisexuals too. As a result, bisexuals are left feeling like they aren’t a part of their own community and are barred from support and resources. Bisexuals have a more difficult time finding and fostering community which is vital for marginalized people.
When gay, lesbian, and trans identities are often mentioned, but biesxual identities are ignored it reinforces the idea that gay, lesbian, and trans identities are things to be proud of, but bisexuality is shameful and not to be spoken of.
The erasure of bisexuals has also led to a decrease in support from gay and lesbian people. Bisexuals have always had a part in the LGBT+ rights movement, but their inputs are largely erased when LGBT+ history is discussed. As a result, many lesbians and gay men now have an attitude that they shouldn’t be allies to biexuals because bisexuals have never been allies to them, even though this is far from the truth.
Not only does bisexual erasure bar bisexuals from access to a supportive community, but it also exacerbates the severe issues bisexuals face. For example, recently gay and bisexual men in Chechnya are being murdered for their sexual orientation. However, most coverage of the story and discussion left bisexual men out of the conversation and erased their struggles. This also occurs in research on the LGBT community. Bisexuals are rarely specifically studied and this leads to people ignorance of the specific issues bisexuals face.
When bisexuals are left out of discussion and research, the issues they face are ignored and not addressed. Issues have to be called to our attention to be solved.
Increasing bisexual visibility is the best way to combat the attitude that bisexuality doesn’t exist and bisexual erasure. Bisexual Visibility Day is a great start to increasing visibility, but increased bisexual visibility is something we need to fight for year round to improve bisexual lives.