Rewriting the Terms of Bisexuality
Growing up in the South, particularly around my family and peers, who more often than not held strong conservative ideas, I was always conflicted about how I felt about my own sexuality. I saw the way my peers degraded women who identify as bisexual by limiting them to being “great for the pornography industry” and the way my family would tell me at every holiday dinner that “I’d better give them some grandchildren in a few years.” This constant rejection of the possibility and validity of bisexuality caused me to stray away from identifying myself with the term. It also caused me to wonder why we so often neglect those who identify with being bisexual or Bi+.
I always believed that this constant erasure of bisexuality came from those who had simply had not dealt with the internal conflict and didn’t have the lived experience to know that this silent rejection of bisexuality existed. It wasn’t until I decided that I would come out to one of my past teachers, who I knew would continue to look at me the same way regardless of my sexuality, that I realized it’s not just bisexual or other queer individuals who are capable of understanding this issue. I remember the first words that she said after I told her were, “I know you’re not ashamed of who you are, you just don’t want a high school boy telling you he wants to see you kiss a girl because he thinks it’s hot.” In this one sentence, I felt relief and anger all in one. I was relieved to know that people understood the problem, and I was angry that not enough people take the time to understand why it was a problem.
It wasn’t until I began reading books and blogs about this idea of the erasure and fetishization of bisexuality that I understood that most people who contribute to these ideas are victims of a patriarchal standard that has been set to make them believe in such a way. Blogger JL Heinze for the National Sexual Violence Research Center writes that “Patriarchy relies on strict gender and sexuality binaries because it is a system in which power is unevenly vested in heterosexual males. This is why we often see discrimination that depicts bisexual men as “less manly” and bisexual women as a fetish to be consumed and enjoyed by heterosexual males.”
Oftentimes, we see that these patriarchal standards are so deeply rooted in our ways of thinking that we cannot blame them for being erased. Problem-solving comes by taking the time to deconstruct and question these ideas that we let guide our ways of thinking. Take the time to hear the experiences of others. Shut down degrading comments when you hear them at school, in public, or in your homes. Understand the lack of queer representation in certain communities. Acknowledge that a person’s sexuality is not the perception of them you have in your head. In doing so, you can act as a voice for those who may be often overlooked.
Natalie J O'Brien