OPINION: We need to talk about... bi visibility

Monday, 23 September 2019 10:57 GMT

PHOTOCREDIT: Performers at London's first Bi Pride event. Ana Pinto (LONDON, SEPTEMBER 7, 2019) @annampinto

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* Any views expressed in this opinion piece are those of the author and not of Thomson Reuters Foundation.

As a gay woman and bisexual ally, it’s clear to me that bi erasure and biphobia are still prevalent in our society

Megan Evans is communications and PR officer for Bi Pride UK 

Monday September 23: a mundane start to the week for some, but it’s a date that everyone should be aware of – Bi Visibility Day.

As a gay woman and bisexual ally, it’s clear to me that bi erasure and biphobia are still prevalent in our society. For several years, I identified as bisexual and I met several girls on dating apps who told me that I was either “trying out” being gay, or in denial about being a lesbian.

Even though my identity did change, these girls could not accept bisexuality as a complete identity. I believe that sexuality is fluid and we all have the right to change our sexual identity; it doesn’t invalidate who we were in the past.

But what had influenced these girls to think in this way?

It seems that media representations only add fuel to the biphobic fire. And with research concluding that bisexual people are more likely to experience mental health problems and a recent study reporting almost 78% of bisexuals had considered suicide, Bi Visibility Day is a great opportunity to reflect on current representations and how we can challenge these.

Currently, representations of bi relationships in the media landscape fall short and individuals are treated differently in their same-gender relationships, compared with how they’re treated in their mixed gender relationships.

Miley Cyrus’s new rumoured relationship with Kaitlyn Carter has been reported with barely concealed excitement. If she had been pictured with a man, reporters would have condemned her for moving on so quickly after she had left her husband Liam Hemsworth. Dismissing the seriousness of bisexuals’ same-gender relationships, is called”benevolent biphobia’ and something many publications accidentally do far too often.

This has a knock-on effect and various bi individuals in the public eye, fail to talk about their sexuality in a progressive way. Rita Ora’s intentionally harmless but equally damaging song “Girls” caused many bisexual females and lesbians to feel like their sexuality was being downgraded.

Lyrics such as “red wine I just want to kiss girls” simply fuels the male gaze and invalidates entire communities.

As representations in mainstream media, often unintentionally, give light to biphobia and bi erasure, we must find ways to challenge this. Last month, NFL free agent Ryan Russell told ESPN he was “a talented football player, a damn good writer… and a bisexual man”.

Encouraging well-respected and gifted individuals to come out as bisexual, and accepting them for who they are, gives others the courage to talk openly and honestly about bisexuality.

Another way we can validate the bi identity is through educating individuals on bisexual issues throughout their childhood. Research commissioned by Stonewall, found that more than two-thirds of 16-24 year olds support LGBT-inclusive teaching. If we educate children on all LGBT+ issues, including bi identities, we can help to alleviate some of the anxiety and stress that many individuals go through when they realise they’re attracted to more than one gender.

Charities supporting bisexual and other gay, lesbian or transgender identities work hard throughout the year to promote bi visibility. A few weeks ago, Bi Pride UK held the largest bi gathering in history at the beginning of the month and our year-round work also aims to provide all bisexual people with a safe space in which to be themselves. As a registered charity, we believe it’s important to educate, inform and make lasting change for those who experience attraction beyond gender.

It’s fair to say that within our public spaces, individuals and charities fight to talk about bi identity in a positive and relevant way. However, I hope that by Bi Visibility Day in 2020, we see less benevolent biphobia and an increase in bi visibility and positive representations.