This past Wednesday, September 23, bisexuals all over the world celebrated Bi Visibility Day. Despite the limitations necessitated by COVID-19, there were online discussions, virtual knitting parties, Facebook profile frames, speed dating events hosted on Zoom, and so much more. Given that the B in LGBTQ+ stands for bisexual, you may be wondering why bis need their own special day to be seen. Even though the first recorded English-language use of the word was in 1892, the bisexual identity is often still scrutinized and invalidated by both the straight and the queer communities.
For decades, the term bisexual meant “attracted to both men and women.” I dare say that there are people who identify as bisexual who still use this description for themselves. However our understanding of gender has expanded beyond the binary of men and women. We now know that gender is more like a spectrum, and people can live and thrive along any point of that spectrum. With this new knowledge, another definition of bisexuality has developed, “attracted to my own gender and other genders.” In this way, bisexuality has a great deal of overlap with pansexuality which is often understood to mean, “attracted to a specific person without regard for their gender.”
Over the last week, I’ve asked some of my bisexual friends about Bi Visibility Day and why it’s still important. Not only was I moved by their responses, I had an even deeper understanding of why people want to wave their pink, purple, and blue bi flag high.
• “I feel like people only care about my sexuality when I’m single. As soon as I get into a relationship, my bisexuality is erased. If I’m dating a woman, everyone assumes I’m a lesbian. If I’m dating a man, everyone assumes I’m straight.” – Laurie*, 39
• “Yeah, I agree with Laurie. The only time people recognize that I’m bi is when I’m single. And then I’m seen as some kind of threat. Like, everyone better lock up their husbands and AND their wives because I want to fuck them all. Ha! As if. I’m bisexual not desperate.” – Taylor, 37
• “We’ve been working on gay liberation for more than 50 years, and still no one ever thinks about bi men. It’s like we don’t even exist. And when I try to come out to someone as bisexual, people assume it’s some kind of code for “too scared to say I’m gay.” – Joe, 24
• “I came out as bi in the late ’90s and that’s what I’ve been since then. It was rough because no one really understood what I was all about. I was told I had to pick—either date women or date men. I got a lot of harassment about that. Now I have a 19 year old daughter who is pan[sexual], and she’s always telling me that my bisexuality is the same as her pansexuality. She teases me that I should just “evolve” and call myself by the “right” label, pan. But I’m bi, and I’m comfortable being me, in my skin. It took a long time and I don’t like being pressured to choose all over again.” – Maggie, 50
• “I’ve known I was bisexual since puberty first started. I mostly dated girls in middle school and high school. I got called lesbo and dyke all the time in the hallways. A couple years after graduation, I actually married my high school girlfriend. About six months later, my wife came out as trans and started transitioning. Now I’m married to a man, and we look like a straight couple. We’re actually so, so, so queer but no one can tell when they first see us. That’s tough. I mean, it has some privileges (no calls me lesbo anymore, for one), but it’s lonely not being noticed by the LGBTQ+ community. And to get noticed, it’s like we have to pass some kind of purity test and divulge our whole history to everyone we meet.” – Arden, 23
*My friends didn’t want me to use their real names, so they all picked a new one for this column.
Curious about cunnilingus? Anxious about anal? Do you have questions about queefs or problems with your prostate? Lucky Tomaszek is the education coordinator at The Tool Shed: An Erotic Boutique, Milwaukee’s only mission-driven, education-focused sex toy store. Send her an email at firstname.lastname@example.org and she’ll get back to you with an answer.