So … the eagle-eyed among you may have noticed that I normally post once a week, on a Friday. Those with a good sense of time will also have noticed that this particle post has appeared a few days early. Why is that? Well, it’s because today is Bi Visibility Day!
Now, I can fully appreciate that there are a lot of different celebrations out there. In fact, I honestly would not be surprised if every day of the year had at least one thing allocated to it. That being the case, it would be all too easy to say “Bi Visibility Day? Pah! ‘Tis nothing more than another silly ‘[insert random thing] day’.” In truth though, this one is actually pretty important.
Bi Visibility Day is an annual event designed to raise awareness of Bisexuality and the issues faced by those who identify as such. So how do I fit into all this? Well, as someone who is openly attracted to people regardless of gender, I very much fit into the Bisexual bracket (or possibly Pansexual depending on your viewpoint). As such, I wanted to give my take on the day, the issues people such as myself face, and how this has affected me in my writing.
So. Let’s cut right to chase here. I know that a lot of people don’t see Bisexuality as needing a dedicated day. I mean, it’s all covered by that LGBT stuff, right? Pride surely does a great job of promoting Bisexuality Awareness, doesn’t it? Well, yes. The B is certainly there in LGBT, and Bisexuals do indeed attend Pride. You’d be surprised how much more work there is to do though. The Equal Rights movements around the world continue to make leaps and bounds (albeit at different rates depending on the country) and as a result, the world is slowly but surely coming around to the idea that there is nothing wrong with Homosexuality. In fact, more people now have a clear understanding of what Homosexuality is than in any time in the past. The problem is, Bisexuality hasn’t had as easy a ride.
To this day, people have trouble getting to grips with Bisexuality as a concept. Certain phrases and beleifs that are prevalent even now, include:
- It’s just a phase
- You’re not really Bi, you’re Gay and in denial
- You’re just attention seeking
- Bisexuality isn’t a real thing, you’re just curious
- You’re Bi? So you have to be with both a guy and a girl at the same time then, right?
- Bisexuals are all untrustworthy and unfaithful in relationships
Now, some of this stuff is remarkably similar to how people used to view Homosexuality, so it should be a pretty safe bet that, even if Heterosexual people don’t fully understand Bisexuality, then Homosexual people should be pretty welcoming. Unfortunately, reality is a little different. The fact is, us Bisexuals are just as likely to hear the above (and more) from the Gay community as we are from the Straight community. Why? For much the same reasons that the L and G in LGB used to be persecuted: a lack of understanding.
For me, growing up feeling this way was difficult. Nowadays, there are admittedly a lot of good resources online that are designed to help and support someone who is or thinks that they may be Bisexual. In my teens though, the internet was far less vast. Plus, in the beginning at least, I had no idea that the term ‘Bisexual’ even existed, so how exactly was I supposed to find what little stuff that did exist?
As I’m sure you can imagine, I had a lot of confusing signals in my head. On the one hand, I had a major crush on Kiefer Sutherland in Lost Boys, but then on the other hand I also had a major crush on Sigourney Weaver in the Aliens franchise (in particular Aliens 3 when she shaved her head). “I like Kiefer so I must be Gay. But I like Sigourney, so I must be straight. But I like Kiefer so …” That argument went back and forth constantly in my head for a long time. And to top it all off, I had my Parents telling me on a regular basis that it was ‘OK if I was Gay, they’d still love me just the same’.
Now, I am fully aware of how lucky I was with my parents in that respect, especially considering that my family is predominantly Catholic. I really am grateful that they took that view with me when so many others have had truly awful experiences coming out. The problem was, it did have the unfortunate side-effect of adding to the confusion for me. “My parents think I’m Gay, so maybe I am … but Sigourney …” It was an uncomfortable cycle to repeat.
That being said, do you know what the oddest thing was? When I did hear the term ‘Bisexual’ and had it explained it to me, it didn’t occur to me that that was what I was. There was a good reason for that though: The three people in my school that proclaimed themselves as Bi were not good role models. One was open about the fact that he wasn’t Bi and just pretended to be to ‘get girls’. One likely was Bi, but everyone seemed to hold the opinion that ‘He isn’t, he’s just Gay and in denial’. The other … he had a reputation for lying and as such, whether he was or wasn’t was irrelevant, no one really believed him. So my representatives for Bisexuality basically amounted to a faker, someone in denial and a liar. I wasn’t any of those things, and so rejected the label. Until adulthood.
That’s right, it took me until adulthood to come to terms with this. At the time, I was dating someone who was openly Bi. I also came to realise that my circle of friends at the time were near enough all also Bi. I had gravitated towards them without realising it and lo and behold, when I came out, not one person was surprised. The relief was immense.
The thing is, I know that others struggle coming to terms with their own Bisexuality, both before and after they come out. Again, the lack of understanding that exists is very much to blame for a great deal of this, and in part that can be attributed to how Bisexuals are portrayed in the media. Historically, if you look back at stuff like the Glam Rock era, there was a certain air of Bisexuality being a form of rebellion or a fashion statement. While it likely was these things for some, this view has kinda persisted for a lot of people and as such, Bisexuality is not always taken seriously. For a long time, there weren’t really any Bisexual characters portrayed in popular TV shows. While that doesn’t seem like a big thing, a lot of people take their cues for how to act or indeed view groups of people from how they appear in various forms of entertainment. If there are no characters, it can’t exist, or if it does, there can’t be many who fit into the category. It’s sad, but people really do think that way.
Now, Bisexual characters are beginning to pop up a little more often, which means that people will slowly form a good image in there head as to how those of us who happen to like people of both the same and different genders act. With that being the case, do characters like Oberyn Martell (Game of Thrones) and Lachlan Campbell (Hollyoaks) being portrayed as overly promiscuous and/or unfaithful really help people understand what Bisexuality is all about? No, they do not.
Now, don’t get me wrong. I’m not trying to say that there are no promiscuous Bisexuals, that no Bi person cheats on their partner or that open relationships do not exist in the Bisexual community. I’m not even trying to say that promiscuity or open relationships are fundamentally bad, especially when all parties are consenting. What I’m trying to say is that when that is the prevailing viewpoint as to how Bisexuals act, it doesn’t help those of us who want long term, monogamous relationships. I’m lucky to not only want that, but to have found it. Many others either don’t find it at all or lose it once they come out to their partner. The modern media has great power to shape people’s views, and in my opinion, some changes need to be made.
This issue of portrayal is something that I try to counter in my own writing. In my most recent novel, ‘WICK’, the character Fahrn Starchaser is an out Lesbian and her long term partner, Maria Grace, is openly Bisexual. Rather than show this by having Maria cheating on Fahrn with a man, it is simply mentioned in a throwaway comment early in the book: Fahrn, while preparing for her first round match-up (see the SYNOPSIS for more information), asks the wardrobe department to apply a certain effect to her hair. She had seen a guy in a nightclub doing the same thing and thought it would look cool on camera. The makeup artist, a friend of Fahrn and Maria’s, replies, “Maria thought he was cute, didn’t she?” So now we know that Maria likes both guys and girls. Most importantly, we know this without her having to cheat or sleep around to show it. The focus never shifts to that side of her because no one has an issue with her sexuality, it’s just a part of who she is. Honestly, I would love to see more Bisexual characters portrayed in that way in mainstream media.
On the other hand, when I wrote the webcomic ‘Tales of the Winterborn’, there was a Bisexual character called ‘Sparx’ whom I did portray as being promiscuous. All his encounters were consensual, and when he came across someone who was clearly wanting more than a one night stand, he sat down and discussed this. He explained why he slept around rather than settling down and eventually decided that, in this case, he wanted to stop sleeping around and be with one person. Did he relapse? Not in what I wrote, and certainly not in anything that I had planned out before stopping the webcomic. So to summarise, his sexual habits were all consensual and in the end he did in fact settle into a monogamous relationship. Again, despite initially playing into what has become a negative stereotype, he demonstrated that past habits do not dictate future behaviours. It wasn’t perfect, but I like to think that it wasn’t the worse portrayal of Bisexuality out there.
Bisexual characters shown in a positive light are essential in fiction right now. I honestly believe that. But do you, dear reader, agree? Do you have a favourite Bisexual character or know of a particularly good portrayal in mainstream media? If so, please do leave a comment. Meanwhile, if you want to know about the day that inspired this article, feel free to check out the official BI VISIBILITY DAY WEBSITE.