A few months ago I wrote a post entitled “Identity and the True Self,” in which I alluded to the concept that none of us truly exists. The “not existing” referred to in this meme is something else– it’s a deliberate attempt to erase or marginalize someone, in this case someone who identifies as bisexual and thereby makes someone else uncomfortable.
I was halfway through another planned post about being treated as if I don’t exist because my entire profession is considered by some to be nonexistent, to deal in the unreal. Then it came to my attention that this is Bisexual Awareness Week, and that today, September 23, is “Celebrate Bisexuality Day (often abbreviated CBD), an international awareness day that is also referred to as Bi Visibility Day and Bisexual Pride Day. Three bisexual advocates– Wendy Curry, Michael Page and Gigi Raven Wilbur– conceived of the event as a way to combat bisexual invisibility. CBD, which began in 1999, is celebrated with events around the world celebrating bisexual culture, community and history. In 2013, the White House held its first bisexual community issues roundtable on Celebrate Bisexuality Day.” http://www.bisexualweek.com/about/
We have a day? We have a whole week? We have White House roundtables? How did I not know this? Until last year, I didn’t know we had a flag, either. (It’s what you see behind the words in the meme above.) I’m honestly not sure why none of this came to my attention, especially since I’m very much interested in gender politics and I follow gay and transgender rights issues assiduously. Is my ignorance simply my own, or could it be in part a measure of that erasure and invisibility?
What also had not come to my attention until the past year or so was the fact that people who identify as bisexual are often seen as untrustworthy, disease-ridden, greedy, sexually voracious, shallow, unable to commit, confused, actually gay but afraid to say so, actually straight but looking for attention, and/or basically lying cheating creeps. In addition to not really existing, that is. We sure have a lot of awful qualities considering that we’re not supposed to exist.
I must admit that I’ve lead a rather sheltered life in some ways. I’ve been with my husband for 36 years, since I was 19. I never really was part of the dating market and I am blissfully ignorant of its workings. I have not been much pursued by members of any gender, and those I would have liked to pursue have tended to run the other way. So I can’t claim to have a complete picture of what’s going on out there.
I’ve also been extremely lucky in not being given much guff about my 360-degree sexual orientation. Some guff, but relatively little. As a teenager, I knew other people who had attractions to both males and females, so I felt, if not normal, not too terribly outré. My husband has always been fine with me being me. I haven’t remotely experienced the oppression that a great many people have. (There was that one woman I had a youthful crush on for years, who, when I told her how I felt, looked at me as if I’d crawled out from under a rock and refused to ever speak to me again. That was the worst of it.) The straight world has been pretty gentle to me for the most part. The gay world has been too, in terms of my interactions with individuals. I didn’t know that there was a deep prejudice about people like me. Here’s someone’s take on it, which may or may not reflect what any specific person thinks:
Well. Perhaps people would have had more of a problem with me if I were trying to date them? Then I’d be rejected by all sides? I decided to ask some trusted gay friends for their point of view and what they were hearing out in the world. I’m not going to quote them directly, because I want to preserve their privacy, but what I was told was eye-opening, to say the least. In one case it was positively vicious. Even the more compassionate statements concerned why the person would never want to get into a relationship with a bisexual. I was taken aback. No wonder a lot of people like me want to use some other label.
If it’s necessary to use a label at all, that is. I hear that the young whippersnappers increasingly are saying what I’ve always said, that they are interested in the person, not the plumbing, that sexuality is fluid, and that labels are too limiting and they don’t want them. Maybe at some point all of this distinction-making will seem quaint and outdated, and people will just be who they are and feel how they feel. That day isn’t quite here yet, but there’s hope.
I do “pass” and that has probably been a benefit to me– a degree of “bisexual privilege” for real. I’m not trying to pass, though, and don’t particularly want to. I’m still using the old-school label bisexual, understanding its limits*, because it is what I’ve always called myself, what I’ve known myself to be ever since I was aware of having any sexuality at all. But now I’m beginning to think of myself as:
*“Pansexual” might be better but doesn’t feel quite right. And I haven’t come up with a word for someone who is in love with a person who has been dead since 1849, or who is almost exclusively attracted to musicians, or who thinks pianos are a turn-on. “Sapiosexual” is a great word and fits me well– someone who is attracted to intelligence. Mary Oishi expanded this to “sapiocardiosexual”– attracted to a fine brain and a good heart. Far more important than the organs lower down.
Whovians may very well have a word for those of us who think the Tenth Doctor was seriously hot. He’s the one who explained that time is not linear, but instead is more like “wibbly-wobbly timey-wimey.”