Bisexual people often encounter unique myths and stereotypes that other members of the lesbian, gay, and transgender communities do not face. Today, on Celebrate Bisexuality Day, we delve into the truth behind harmful and inaccurate assumptions about bisexual people in order to raise more awareness and understanding.
MYTH: “Bisexuality is just a phase before someone comes out as gay or lesbian.”
FACT: It’s true that some people identify as bisexual before later identifying as something different, just as some people identify as straight before coming out as LGBT. Other people identify as gay or lesbian before coming out as bisexual. Bisexuality is unique because it recognizes the often fluid nature of romantic, emotional, and sexual attraction, but this does not make it any less legitimate than other sexual orientations. For the vast majority of people, it is not a phase, and anyone who identifies as bisexual deserves to have that identity respected.
MYTH: “All women are bisexual.” or “There are no bisexual men.”
FACT: Making an overwhelming generalization about the sexual orientation of an entire gender of people is irresponsible because it dismisses the individual experience and self-identity of each person in that category. For example, some women are exclusively attracted to men, some are mentally but not physically attracted to other women, and some are attracted to both women and men equally. Similarly, some men are exclusively attracted to women, some are mentally but not physically attracted to other men, and some are attracted to both equally. Declaring that a person’s sexual orientation does not exist makes that person invisible. Every person’s romantic inclinations and identifiers are unique and valuable, and they deserve respect.
(Remember that these two stereotypes go hand in hand as ways to enforce rigid and harmful gender norms. They are akin to notions such as “all women are nurturing” and “all men are masculine,” which serve only to harm those people who do not belong in those categories or do not have those traits.)
MYTH: “One cannot identify as bisexual unless they have been in a relationship with both a man and a woman.”
FACT: Many people know they are bisexual before they are ever in a relationship, just as many people know they are gay or straight at young ages. It is not necessary to have romantic experience with both genders or either gender before identifying as bisexual. Moreover, when a bisexual person gets married, their orientation does not change.
MYTH: “One cannot identify as bisexual unless they like both men and women equally.”
FACT: Some bisexual people are overwhelmingly attracted to men and occasionally attracted to women. Some bisexual people are overwhelmingly attracted to women and occasionally attracted to men. Some prefer to date genderqueer or gender non-conforming partners. The spectrum of bisexual people includes all kinds of individual preferences. The only thing that bisexual people have in common is that they are attracted to people of more than one gender.
MYTH: “Bisexuals must be in a relationship with both a man and a woman at the same time in order to be happy.” or “Bisexuals are promiscuous, polygamous, and/or immoral.”
FACT: Many bisexuals are in loving, committed, monogamous relationships with one person. Many bisexual people eventually get married. Bisexuals are not any more likely to engage in multiple relationships at one time than straight or gay people are. Bisexuals are not immoral, deceiving, or less safe than people of other orientations. Being bisexual has to do with who a person is attracted to, but has nothing to do with how they date or what kinds of relationships they prefer.
MYTH: “Bisexuals are transphobic.” or “The word ‘bisexual’ is transphobic.”
FACT: Bisexual people are not any more likely to oppress the transgender community than straight or gay people are. Many bisexual people are strong allies to transgender people, seeing commonalities between the fluidity of sexual orientation and the fluidity of gender. Many bisexual people are transgender, and many date transgender people. The word “bisexual” refers simply to people who are not monosexual: they are not attracted exclusively to members of the opposite sex, and they are not attracted exclusively to members of their same sex.
MYTH: “Bisexuals aren’t as oppressed as gay men and lesbians because they have heterosexual privilege/they are ‘half-straight.’”
FACT: Bisexuals struggle to be visible in both the straight and gay communities. Bisexuals often encounter both the discrimination that gay men and lesbians face in addition to discrimination rooted in biphobia. Bisexuals do not attempt to hide their identities under a guise of heterosexuality any more than gay men or lesbians might.
Keep in mind that all bisexuality refers to is a sexual orientation in which a person is not limited to one gender in their attraction. GLAAD encourages media and members of the community to be wary of the negative connotations often associated with bisexual people, and to remember that all identities are equally legitimate and should be respected as such. Happy Bisexuality Day!