Video: Let’s talk about bisexuality! Myths and misconceptions
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On Wednesday, May 13, Charlotte Pride’s Programs Associate Nada Merghani (she/they) and friend Druzy (they/them) hosted another of Charlotte Pride’s continuing weekly Facebook Live broadcasts, this time talking about some of the stereotypes surrounding bisexuality and discussing their impact and why they might exist. The livestream was an opportunity to debunk ideas around bisexuality being inherently promiscuous, transphobic, or a sign of someone being confused about their sexuality. This was also an opportunity to uplift the voices of bisexual individuals having a conversation about bisexuality as so many public media narratives surrounding bisexuality are led by either gay or straight people.
Nada, who identifies as bisexual, joined Charlotte Pride last year, after many years of LGBTQ community organizing work. Druzy is an incredible spoken word poet and writer who also identifies as bisexual.
The following blog post has compiled Nada’s and Druzy’s conversation. It has been edited for clarity and brevity.
Stereotype #1: Bisexual people are selfish or want to have sex with everyone
This stereotype exists sometimes because of a sense of possessiveness from our partners, who may think they lack something that will keep us committed. They may be afraid they’ll be replaced by someone else. We all know this isn’t true. We are just people. In the same way that other people don’t want to have sex with everyone they see, we don’t either. The same logic applies. Sometimes, there’s a sense of competition, too. Our partners think that because we may be attracted to more kinds of people than them, that we’ll not be committed. But, it’s not true. If I’m committed to my partner, I’m committed to my partner, regardless of my sexual orientation. A lot of this stereotype boils down to our partners working on trust issues or self-confidence. Work through those emotions instead of projecting them on your partner.
Stereotype #2: Bisexual people are just confused about their sexuality, Bisexual Women are actually just straight and bisexual men are actually just gay, or being bisexual is just a stair step to being gay or straight
This just goes back to society being so centered on the experiences and desires of cisgender straight men — the idea that everyone would naturally want to be in a relationship with a straight cisgender man. It’s not true and comes from an incredibly misogynistic view that women are lesser than. Some people may use the label bisexual as an in-between as they are exploring their sexuality; there’s nothing wrong with that. People grow and change and learn more about their sexuality throughout their life. We shouldn’t stigmatize people for “trying on hats” to see what fits them personally, but the idea that bisexuality is inherently some kind of confusion is not true. We all deserve a chance to explore, but exploration doesn’t invalidate the very real identities and experiences of bisexual people. It’s also important to note that identifying and living as a bisexual person is not easy, precisely because of the stigma and discrimination we face. It’s hard to imagine that a straight person or some other monosexual person would just take the label of bisexuality for fun; why would someone do that and open themselves up to so much stigma if they aren’t truly identifying as bisexual?
Stereotype #3: Bisexual people are willing to be unicorns or always down for a threesome
We hate this. So much. It’s such a pervasive stereotype. It just comes down to objectification of bisexual people and a stereotype that we are over- or hyper-sexualized or naturally promiscuous. Inherently, it’s a degrading stereotype that sees us not as full people and only as sex. People like all kinds of relationships and experiences. There’s nothing wrong with wanting a threesome. But not all bisexual people want that, just as not all straight, gay, lesbian or other folks with differing sexual orientations want that. We think folks should respect bisexual people as people, instead of seeing us as solely sexual objects.
Stereotype #4: Bisexual people are inherently transphobic/Pansexuality is the “trans-affirming” version of bisexuality
This is just ahistorical and blatantly untrue, resulting in a lack of investment in political queer discourse and history. Labels like pansexuality and bisexuality popped up at similar times. This comes from a lack of understanding around language or concepts. In many respects, this view is a conflation with the gender binary. People see “bi” in binary and “bi” in “bisexual” and think it means the same thing. The only way to combat this stereotype is education, and people need to be willing to learn. There is some messiness here, because of some parts of the bisexual community — like all people — who are cisnormative and transphobic; folks who insisted that bisexuality meant attraction only to cisgender men and cisgender women. The overwhelming majority of bisexual people don’t believe this and it doesn’t describe our sexual orientation. We’ve never seen bisexuality as a cis-only affirming label.
Stereotype #5: Your sexuality is inherently tied to your relationship status (if you are a woman dating a man then you’re straight, if you’re a man dating a man then you’re gay).
A person’s sexual orientation doesn’t change because of their relationship status. Think of how people explore. Many people experience sexual exploration with a wide range of folks with different genders, and at the end of the day, they may end up identifying with a sexual orientation that is in no way reflective of their previous sexual exploration, relationships, or actions. A lot of this just comes from a societal expectation that people find their identity, sexual orientation or otherwise, from your relationship status. This stereotype can cause real damage, too. Think of the experience of bisexual men dating or in a relationship with a women; many find that they’re accused of just being “on the down low” and that they’re hurting their partner by seeking out relationships with men on the side. This kind of view judges other people in an unfair way.
Stereotype #6: If your friend is bisexual, it’s okay to ask them to be a third for you and your partner or There’s nothing wrong with unicorn hunting.
Number six is really similar to stereotype number three. Again, a bisexual person isn’t inherently interested in a threesome or being a third. Quite simply, don’t treat people as solely sexual objects. It is incredibly dehumanizing. We are more than our genitals. We are people. You’re bi friend does not automatically exist for your sexual pleasure.
Stereotype #7: Bisexual people are “doing this for attention”
Aren’t we all doing something for attention? We kid, and it’s beside the point, but everyone likes attention. We don’t see anything wrong with wanting attention. We’re all human. We all want to feel like we matter or feel like we want attention sometimes. If someone is experimenting with their sexual orientation for attention, who cares? Why do you care? What’s the problem? This is a little bit of a sidebar, but also important to note. If someone is identifying as bisexuality for attention, perhaps Usually when people are seeing attention, it’s for a reason. They could feel unheard or they’re going through something they don’t fully comprehend or is hard to deal with. And, ultimately, if someone is identifying as bisexual or some other label, they likely do identify somewhere on the queer spectrum. It’s an opportunity for you to be affirming, to take this person in, to give them whatever it is they need in this moment as they are exploring themselves. There’s nothing inherently wrong with seeking attention from the people around you.
Stereotype #8: Bisexual people like men and women 50/50 or that bisexual people only like men and women.
Simply, not true. Again, it’s a product of language and the conflation between bisexuality and the gender binary and attempts to make bisexuality cisnormative and transphobic. In terms of 50/50, we just don’t understand why people want to measure attraction. How can you measure attraction? Sexual orientation is fluid. Attractions shift, it ebbs and flows. This also is a product of folks wanting to classify, label, and put other people in a box, trying to define our sexual orientations for us.
In conclusion, what does bisexuality mean to us?
Druzy: I think when I was young and was just discovering my queerness, bisexuality was the easiest term for me to grasp on Eventually, as I figured out the rest of my identity and I’ve become older, I’m less attached to my labels. It might just depend on the conversation I’m in — sometimes I use bisexual and queer interchangeably, if I choose to use a label at all. As a baby queer, this label was important to me, so the language around it, the politics behind it is important to me know. I think we need to preserve the history of this language and the meaning of it, so that people who come after us have access to it.
Nada: Growing up, I was scared to identify as bisexual. I skated around it constantly, because I knew the stigma around it was intense. As I grew up, I stopped caring what other people thought. I realized that not only was this label probably the most accurate way to describe myself, it also makes me feel comfortable, because I felt there were no restrictions. I had a lot of freedom to love and exist in the way that I wanted to without being tied to any particular gender or individual. It means so much to me, including politics behind it. The arguments and debates are important, and I hope that as a bi community we continue to have these conversations and analyze what it means to be bi.