In light of recent biphobic articles published by queer media outlets, Lois Shearing addresses some of the myths perpetuated both outside of and within the LGBTQ+ community.
It feels like there’s been an uptake in biphobic articles in queer media recently. They’ve always been there, every now and then, but the last few months has really felt like there’s been a spike in pieces coming from queer media that perpetuate insidious myths about the bi+ community. So let’s debunk a few:
Myth 1: There are fake, predatory bi+ women out there preying on lesbians
According to Queer Voices, a very real and dangerous phenomenon worth dedicating your time to, is pretending to be bi for all the well-known privileges that come with it. You know, benefits like higher risk of intimate partner violence, higher rates of mental health disparities likely due to lack of community and double discrimination and of course, all of the threesomes.
I certainly don’t think that girls who want to spend the night drinking fruity drinks and flinch when random women whisper “indelicate suggestions” in their ear are fake, and are preying on the attention and validation of unwitting lesbians.
Call me a conspiracy theorist, but I don’t believe in the fake bi girls trope. I don’t believe there are women out there pretending to be bi just so they can trick lesbians into giving them attention. I do believe in bi girls who are coercively closeted (that is, erased, passed as straight against their will), girls who want to act on their same-gender desire but feel ashamed or afraid, and girls who don’t feel like they can call themselves bi for whatever reason. I certainly don’t think that girls who want to spend the night drinking fruity drinks and flinch when random women whisper “indelicate suggestions” in their ear are fake, and are preying on the attention and validation of unwitting lesbians.
So Queer Voices mag, but you don’t get to decide who is bi and who isn’t. If someone says they’re bi, they are.
Myth 2: Bi people are actually straight
Oh boy. How, in the year of our Lord Sara Ramirez is this stereotype still alive and kicking? There are two articles I want to discuss here. The first was published by Autostraddle entitled “I Went to Skirt Club, a Lesbian Sex Party for Straight Women”. Skirt Club is actually self described as a space for bi & bi-curious women but this doesn’t phase the writer who happily acknowledges that nearly half the women there identify as something other than straight but “I went to a bisexual club night and judge the women for having sex wrong” doesn’t drive as many clicks. Instead of looking into why so many of the women who had attended an event to have sex with other women might identify as straight, she talks about a bi women who rejected her in college for a man and then compares a women at the party to a dog.
There’s an underlying fear to this whole article. As much as the writer manages to erase bisexuality in the piece, it’s presence is clearly a threat to her. Not because she might be bisexual or “[fear] accidental lesbian home wrecking”, but because a type of bisexuality that want to be monosexual and is expressed in it’s own unapologetic way, might exist.
The answer is that writing entire books about “mostly straight” dudes is easier than looking at how biphobia might be driving people away from the label
The second is “Why ‘Mostly Straight’ Men Are a Distinct Sexual Identity” published by The Times. Okay, not queer media but a few queer outlets did pick it up (PinkNews actually did a good job at mocking it). The problem with these kind of articles is the absolute refusal to look into why people might not identify as bisexual when they are behaviourally at least interested in other genders. Especially as bisexual men are the least likely to be out to anyone.
The answer is that this would involve both gay and straight communities looking into the way they have demonised bisexuality and how that might drive people off of the label, but it’s apparently easier to write entire books about ‘mostly straight’ dudes instead of examining how your biphobia might be negatively affecting people.
Myth 3: Bi people are actually gay
You see where this is going? Anything that suggests that bi people don’t actually know who they are, and you do, is biphobic. Saying we’re actually gay and can’t or won’t come out is biphobic. Myth number 3 is brought to you by Curve’s article “Lesbian Is Not Just an Identity—It’s Something You Do”.
The article was written in response to a letter asking why Curve call themselves a lesbian magazine instead of a magazine for lesbian, queer, and bi women. For the record, I completely agree that Curve isn’t being biphobic in being a magazine just for lesbians, just like Biscuit isn’t lesbiphobic for being just for bi women, it’s the way they phrase their response that causes the problem.
Although lesbian used to be catch-all term for women who were attracted to and slept with women, that’s pretty far from how the community functions now. To tell bi women that their same-gender desire is lesbian is to suggest we are partly lesbian and in turn, that bisexuality is a fragmented type of identity. Implying bi women are just semi-lesbians and therefore should be happy with segmented representation and community, and that we can’t ask to be more visible is biphobia.
Despite all this, there has been plenty of great coverage of bi lives and experiences in the queer media over the year. Media outlets like Attitude, PinkNews, Autostraddle, and Diva, despite their slip-ups have produced some great articles and videos about bi+ people, our lives, issues, and triumphs. So the negative articles I’ve talked about here have tended to be the exception, not the rule.
With 2018 fast approaching, the queer media now have a fresh new slate to write about bi+ people the way we deserve to be written about. To have widely accepted definitions used, to be interviewed, paid to write, and celebrated in all our multi-gender loving glory. Because like all bi+ people, I’m sick of being scared to kiss my girlfriend goodbye in public, only to get home to find my identity and community is being smeared by those who are supposed to be our community. So please, queer media, it’s time to #DoBetterBiUs.
Follow Lois on Twitter (@LoisShearing)