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Posted under: Opinion

9 stereotypes about bisexuality we need to stop reinforcing

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At the end of September people everywhere celebrated Bisexual Awareness Week, with September 23rd being Bisexuality day. Unfortunately, many others weren’t even aware of it. Earlier this week on October 11th we celebrated National Coming Out Day. In the spirit of visibility, we wanted to dispel some common stereotypes about being bisexual. No matter when you read this article, there’s never a wrong moment to partake in the humanization of a marginalized group. I wanted to take my time in writing this because the message still needs to be spread that sexual identity doesn’t define a person. I hope this brings you closer to getting to know someone before making assumptions based off of one aspect of who they are.  
  1. Being bisexual means you like women and men only.

As we’re thankfully acknowledging more these days, gender doesn’t fall neatly into just the categories of men and women. Some people are trans, and some don’t want to be classified into any gender at all. A more appropriate and updated definition of bisexuality would be “people who are not monosexual: they are not attracted exclusively to members of the opposite sex, and they are not attracted exclusively to members of their same sex.  
  1. They are greedy/promiscuous/will automatically want threesomes and orgies/they will cheat on you

These stereotypes all boil down to the idea that because bisexual people aren’t exclusive in their attraction to a gender, they must want all of their options at the same time. This is the kind of black and white thinking that children exhibit, as well as an argument against any sexuality that goes against the perceived societal norm. For example, that’s why so many homophobes say or think that if a gay man is in a men’s locker room, he’ll be attracted to all the men there. There’s an agenda there to convince others that these “alternative sexual lifestyles” are harming monogamy and family life. Raise your hand if you were ever cheated on in a heterosexual relationship. I can’t see your reaction,  but I know there are tons of hands up. The implication is that cheating is tied to sexual preference, which completely takes away the personal responsibility and accountability of a person. Whether heterosexual, bisexual or something else, the potential for your partner to be attracted to others is present. If they cheat, that is determined by the kind of person they are, not their sexuality.  
  1. They aren’t actually oppressed

I refuse to get into competitions about who suffers more because bad things happen everywhere and to everyone; I won’t exploit one person’s “more tragic” struggle to invalidate someone else’s. I will say that marginalized people experience different (and sometimes the same) struggles. Bisexual people (and anyone who doesn’t conform to the cis, hetero lifestyle) are marginalized people, so they do indeed face oppression. For bisexual and lesbian women, many people just sexualize them and don’t take their relationships with women seriously. Think of how it would feel if you loved and supported someone but people just wanted to see you make out. For bisexual men, they are often just assumed to be gay or less masculine than other (straight) males. And these are just two examples — refer to the rest of this list for others. The point is, whether you consider these serious forms of oppression or not, they add up to dehumanization. As a site for black millennials, we should all know a thing or two about being dehumanized because of one aspect of who we are. And we shouldn’t be responsible for making other groups feel that way just because we might identify differently.  
  1. It’s just a phase/they’re confused and will “pick a side”

It’s interesting how sometimes the same arguments used against gays or lesbians, such as their sexuality being a phase, are thrown in the face of bisexuals by gays and lesbians. This idea of not really fitting in with the LGBTQIA community is another oppression bisexual people face. Confusion in relationships isn’t exclusive to bisexuality, though. Can a heterosexual man not feel confused or torn between two women? Once again, this is a method to almost infantilize bisexual people. Instead of trusting them to know who they’re attracted to, some people write them off as if they’re immature teens trying drinking for the first time. The idea of "picking a side" also reinforces the wrong idea that sexuality can’t be fluid. We’ve got to leave behind this binary way of thinking. It’s pure reality that there is nuance to everything and for our own intelligence and growth we need to start seeing all sides.  
  1. No one is really bisexual/everyone is bisexual

"No one is bisexual" comes from the same idea that you’re either gay or straight and haven’t decided yet, and I already talked about why that’s wrong. I can see where the argument that everyone is bisexual is coming from — I think it wants to acknowledge the fluidity of sexuality but ends up erasing a bunch of other sexual identities. Generally, like I said above, it’s not smart to consider people in all or nothing terms, because people can be contradictory things at the same time (like sometimes shy, sometimes outgoing).  
  1. You can’t identify as bisexual unless you’ve had experience with the genders you claim to be attracted to

This is just stupid. It would be like if your straight friend saw a guy she thought was hot and you said she couldn’t think so because she hadn’t kissed him yet. It would be like saying virgins can’t be interested in sex just because they haven’t gotten the chance to experience that yet. People have no right to assume, throw someone’s sexual history back in their face, or tell them what they can or can’t identify as.  
  1. You can’t be bisexual unless you like the genders that you do equally

Again, if you applied this to straight people it would be like saying you can’t be straight unless you like all members of another gender the same. Straight people have preferences on physical attributes and personality aspects; why is that valid but a bisexual person liking guys more than girls isn't? The spectrum of bisexual people includes all kinds of individual preferences.  
  1. They just want attention

People get this concept from the media, where two girls will just make out in a bar full of men while they look on cheering and salivating. If you’re going around thinking everything you see on TV sets the standard for real life, please come over here and join the rest of us in reality. And maybe you saw this with your very own eyes, but the point is that for most bisexual people, the goal of being bisexual is not attention. This being described as a goal implies being bisexual is a choice, with targeted results. Bisexual people just want to go about their lives loving and having sex with whomever they want to without some outsider who was never on their radar assuming everything on this list about them. Let them live!  
  1. They could just stay in the closet or just pretend to be straight

This would be asking someone to hide part of their identity to make the general public more comfortable. It would be asking someone to change how they interact with different groups of people that they know, which is sometimes useful (your work self vs. your club self). But in this instance, it would be telling someone to sacrifice who they are, with the potential result of feeling ashamed or alone. “Just pretend to be straight” makes it sound much easier than it is. I’m sure someone is thinking, “Well you just said that sexuality doesn’t define a person so why does it matter?” That's still true. But sexuality is still part of who we are, not the whole. And asking someone to hide a part of themselves that they value is unfair.   After writing this up and seeing the stereotypes bisexual people face, it reminds me a lot of being mixed — the idea that you should be able to fit in multiple places, but ultimately end up not fitting in. Some people in the LGBTQIA community treat bisexuality like it’s less legitimate than being “fully” homosexual, and some straight people just lump that whole community together without seeing the nuances. The comparison is not to bring up any “boo hoo, I’m mixed” stories, but rather to show that although there is a perceived straight-passing privilege, bisexual people still face oppressions. They are people that can and do feel pain, and it upsets me that others are so averse to caring about or acknowledging the feelings of their peers that they let generalizations guide how they treat each other. Giving a damn doesn’t make you lame or weak. It’s also so important to remember that not every bisexual person (or gay person, or straight person, or any other orientation) is going to think about their sexuality in the same way. To some, it might the most important thing about them, but others might not guide their entire lives according to their attraction. While we want to dispel these myths about this group, we also want to remind readers that members of the group might not be so focused on labeling themselves. Everyone has their own agency when it comes to who they are — don’t expect your agency to be respected if you can’t do the same.

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