What I want people to understand about bisexuality

Bisexual people often face a specific kind of discrimination

Written by Olivia Dawson


According to Merriam-Webster, the definition of bisexuality is being “sexually attracted to both men and women.” A straightforward definition it would seem. Unfortunately the reason I am writing this bloody post is because so many people don’t understand my sexuality. I am frequently asked questions like “Are you sure?” and “Maybe you should think about it again?” Sound lads, but remember back when I was the tender age of fourteen and I bravely came out? Yeah? I had already thought about it and I was sure! But thank you for your ongoing concern.

The problem that has led me to writing this post is not a personal one. Having said that, this is a personal blog so yes of course I will be referring to myself throughout (as I always do). The real problem here is the misconception of bisexuality alongside homosexuality and heterosexuality. Basically, everyone knows the difference between gay and straight, but how many people stop to think about the alternative? Do we honestly even appreciate that bisexuality does exist? If we don’t we’re simply fooling ourselves. Of course it exists. It’s not like Santa Claus where it exists for a few years and then poof, gone. And it is certainly not “just going through a phase.”

As the definition above does not state, bisexuality isn’t a case of being attracted to both men and women equally. So for those of you that think “Oh, she likes girls more so she’s a lesbian,” go get a fucking dictionary. As bisexual activist Robyn Ochs put it, “bisexuality is the potential to be attracted – romantically and/or sexually – to people of more than one sex and/or gender, not necessarily at the same time, not necessarily in the same way, and not necessarily to the same degree.”

With that said, I am very much aware of how curiosity leads to people tossing the label around like an old hat. I have encountered many individuals who have said to me “Olivia, I think I’m bi.” Turns out most of them were either experimenting or thought it was cool to be bisexual. A lot of people who identify as bisexual do end up coming out as gay/straight in the future, and I’m certainly not denying that. Many people also identify as bisexual because they think bisexuality doesn’t get as much stick as homosexuality. “No, no I’m still half straight” – you’re still gonna get abuse, hun.

In fact, bisexuals face even more abuse than homosexuals. Believe it or not, bisexuality is not accepted as a legit sexuality by many (not all) gays and lesbians. They believe bisexuality to be a compromise of their sexuality. This hostility is not as prominent in recent times, what with the LGBTI+ community rallying together in the fight for equality, and all that jazz. I believe that underneath the surface, however, that hostility still remains.

For many people bisexuality comes as a hard concept to grasp. How is it possible to like both sexes? How do you decide when you want which? The thing is, drumroll please… you don’t. It’s kind of like when you go to a buffet and you’re not sure whether you want the steak or the chicken. Then you go to the counter and see the steak and the chicken next to each other and you’re like “Yeah, I fancy a nice bit of steak tonight.” But at the same time you wouldn’t say no to the chicken either. Get me? What I’m trying to say in a roundabout way is that the attraction depends on who the person is, what their physical appearance is like, and whether or not they’re actually available. Sounds fairly heterosexual doesn’t it?

Something of a pet peeve of mine is people’s’ tendency to use the term “lesbian” to define my sexuality. How kind of you to recognise that I like girls but hey, guess what? Men have a shot with me too! The funny thing is I always joke about my sexuality. I actually have an example from two nights ago. We were all having a few drinks in the house Tuesday evening and I wandered over to the sofa, only to find three lads lying on the ground together. Without even thinking about it I shouted “HEY! I’m the only one allowed to be in same-sex relationships in this house. I’m going to heterosexual it up here.” And so I proceeded to lie across the three of them, in the most non-sexual way possible might I add.

However it becomes a whole other ball game when someone else changes my sexuality. Either get it right or don’t mention it at all. I watched an episode of The Big Bang Theory the other day and in the episode Leonard and Penny get goo all over Sheldon’s seat on the sofa. Howard thought he could help by swapping Raj’s seat with Sheldon’s and he exclaimed “Problem solved.” To which Sheldon replied “If your head had been accidentally amputated, and we transplanted a dog’s head in its place, would that be ‘problem solved’?” Slight exaggeration but that’s pretty much my view when people refer to bisexuals as gay/lesbian.

Even though without reading back I’m sure a lot of this is me going off on a tangent, I hope you can understand the problem here and how it should be addressed. Bisexuality is not a joke, nor is it a reason to make a sexual object out of someone. We all need to show more respect to those who identify as bisexual and to not always try to gently guide them down the path of gay or straight. If you still don’t understand bisexuality, then it is not up to you how a bisexual should or should not act. Bear that in mind next time you try to persuade someone that their sexuality is imaginary.


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