LGBTQ+ media outlets have offered only token posts to bisexual people in the last twelve months. Stephanie Farnsworth challenges their sincerity and commitment to bisexual people.
In the last year you’d be forgiven for thinking that the media was advancing when it comes to discussing and acknowledging bisexuality. LGBTQ+ sites have had a wealth of posts in some kind of rush to try to claim who is the best at bi inclusiveness, as though they’ve just remembered that we do actually exist. The problem is that all of these posts are exactly the same. Each site has all had the same generic ‘top ten myths about bisexuals’ as if they thought that was enough to bump up their credibility on inclusiveness.
I’m sorry, but a Buzzfeed-style post generated towards maximum clicks with the least effort and making light of the issues of biphobia is not considered journalism and nor is it good practice for organisations that claim to care about the health and wellbeing of their readership. It might be a good laugh to mock the idea that some think ‘bisexual’ equates to wanting a threesome, because ‘oh, isn’t it just funny how narrow minded some people are?’ but without examination of the consequences of this then the frighteningly repeated scenario is clearly only written about to get a few cheap laughs at the price of bisexual people’s experiences. How progressive! These articles have gone out of their way to exclude the realities of daily life and dating for bisexual people, and there’s almost no discussion of how different genders are impacted, or how those of different romantic orientations who ID as bisexual face different specific prejudices.
While you poke fun at the idea that some men and women think bisexuals just mean they want a threesome, what that actually means is that you’re having a laugh at sexual harassment that occurs daily. While you tweet ‘omg really?? LOL’ at the fact that some people think bisexuality means wanting sex anywhere, anytime, you’re mocking widespread sexual violence because so many men (and woman) feel that the bodies of bisexual people are already theirs. That if a bisexual woman sleeps with women it’s because she just hasn’t found a good enough dick yet. People don’t believe men can be bisexual? Well, isn’t that just jokes. I mean, it doesn’t matter that bi men are treated as though they are perverts who automatically have STIs and must just be gay people in the closet so long as I can make a snappy little slide out of it for my rankings. There will at best be a refute that bisexual men are gay but that’s where it ends. There is little exploration of how bi men are often pushed out of gay men’s space or have their identity erased. It isn’t just about women often worrying whether they will cheat (and sexual jealousy is a very serious problem for anyone experiencing it which can also be part of experiencing intimate partner violence of which bisexual people are at high risk for experiencing).
These articles have gone out of their way to exclude the realities of daily life and dating for bisexual people, and there’s almost no discussion of how different genders are impacted, or how those of different romantic orientations who ID as bisexual face different specific prejudices.
It’s gatekeeping journalism. It’s trying to pacify bisexual people who have pointed out that these great LGBTQ+ institutions have completely failed them, even though bisexual people are the ones who really make up the numbers in the community, not that you’d ever think it given how many times the term ‘bisexual’ is ever even uttered. It’s not good enough to throw us one article that’s been done to death already when people are suffering and dying as a result of biphobia. This year isn’t the year bisexual rights were acknowledged, this is the year organisations learnt how to spin it to make it look like they give a damn while in reality they do nothing.
These articles all fail to acknowledge the culture of violence that these ridiculous myths have created but they also ignore the chronic issues facing bisexual people. Bi people are more likely to live in poverty, develop eating disorders, engage in binge drinking and substance abuse, have mental health conditions such as depression, engage in self harm, experience suicidal ideation and experience sexual assault than straight, gay or lesbian people. These stats also shoot through the roof if you happen to be trans too, disabled and/or a person of colour. Bisexual asylum seekers are also at greater risk of being deported and having their claims rejected purely because the Home Office erases their very identity and any relationships with someone of a different gender is taken as ‘evidence’ of being straight. This, the same government that is hailed for its progressiveness when it comes to same sex marriage (also, conveniently forgetting the spousal veto).
LGBTQ+ organisations, and not just the media outlets, are failing bisexual people and the worst part is that they don’t even seem to care. I’m not sure at what point it was deemed progressive or acceptable to solely talk about gay issues and then think adding the tag “and bisexual people” would actually do any damn good but it’s gone on for too long. If you can’t name specific examples of prejudices bisexual people face, and the different experiences based on race, class, gender, disability and religion then you shouldn’t be doing any LGBTQ+ work. You wouldn’t hire somebody who didn’t know what the word ‘gay’ meant and yet it’s standard practice for organisations to falsely claim that bisexuality is the attraction to ‘both genders’.
Bisexual asylum seekers are also at greater risk of being deported and having their claims rejected purely because the Home Office erases their very identity and any relationships with someone of a different gender is taken as ‘evidence’ of being straight.
Stonewall’s employment stats show that they are more likely to hire straight people than bisexual people yet where is the conversation on that (or am I being heterophobic)? We can’t claim our discussions on sexuality and fluidity are improving when in pieces about how likely people are now to engage in same gender relationships nobody even thinks of typing the word ‘bisexual’.
Erasure isn’t just the absence of a word but the absence of recognising that people are being harmed. Those most vulnerable in society are those silenced (and no, I’m not talking about Bindel who wrote that “if bisexual women had an ounce of sexual politics, they would stop sleeping with men.”). They are the easiest to target because they have no voice, they have no community for support because they are isolated. The conversation about equal rights was derailed long ago when the respectability police decided it would be a great idea to make gay rights about love and not the right to do what we like with our bodies. It meant that it was only same gender relationships that were fought for and not identities, which is also partly why sex workers and trans people have been completely abandoned too. We thought making a nice snap shot with two guys in a tux, holding rings would be the dream rather than everyone just getting fair treatment. It was about chasing headlines which reduced the depth of conversation and erased all nuance and identities that didn’t fit into binaries.
The impact today is that bisexual youths are growing up completely lost and not knowing that it’s okay to be but thankfully at least they have the internet and especially Twitter which can at least help with that. Every day biphobia goes unchallenged, health care needs specific to bisexual people aren’t addressed and bisexual people aren’t even likely to be out to their health care provider. So journalists, if you want to start writing about the issues that bisexual people are facing then I’m right here waiting. In fact, I’ve been here a lot longer than it took you to realise that bi people might even have different experiences to gay people.
Follow Stephanie on Twitter (@stephfarnsworth)