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Bisexual Visibility Day, Bisexual Erasure, and Coming Out as Bisexual

Public Domain Image of Bisexual Pride Flag via Wikipedia

Bisexual Pride Flag

Yesterday was Bisexual Visibility Day, which is a day to celebrate bisexuality, bisexuals, and bisexual history. As of last year, the week beginning on the Sunday before September 23rd has been Bisexual Awareness Week. As a bisexual myself, I wanted to honor both today with a discussion of Bisexual Visibility Day, the concept of bisexual erasure (which is part of the reason for Bi Visibility Day), and my own coming out, which has occurred several times over the years privately and which happened more publicly yesterday on Facebook. This is the first post in a new category, Bi the Way, in which I’ll discuss my own bisexuality as well as topics in bisexual history, literature, etc. in the future.

Bisexual Visibility Day

Then called (and still also known as) Celebrate Bisexuality Day, Bisexual Visibility Day was first celebrated on September 23rd, 1999. The holiday came about because of the efforts of three bisexual rights activists: Wendy Curry, Michael Page, and Gigi Raven Wilbur. They recognized that bisexuals have experienced prejudice and marginalization and were largely invisible, even within the LGBT+ community, and wanted to have a party to celebrate bisexuality. They decided on September because it was the month in which Freddie Mercury, who was bisexual and whom they all loved, had been born.

Having grown up listening to Queen, this makes me happy. But wait, Freddie was born September 5th, so you may wonder: why does the day fall on the 23rd? Well, Gigi Raven Wilbur’s birthday happened to be September 23rd, which fell on a weekend that year, so once they’d decided on the month they decided on that as the day to encourage more participation. You can find out some of the things that have happened on each Celebrate Bisexuality Day/Bi Visibility Day here.

Bi Erasure: What contributes? What do you do to promote visibility? Bisexual Resource Center

Image via Bisexual Resource Center. Click to go to their site for several Bisexual Health Awareness materials.

Bisexual Erasure

Also called bisexual invisibility, bisexual erasure is when bisexuality is ignored, and sometimes outright denied to exist. Sometimes bisexuality is ignored or denied blatantly through manipulation or misrepresentation of information, such as this example I came across of Freddie Mercury’s bisexuality being explained away in a Rolling Stone article. In daily life, bisexuals tend to encounter this with people assuming we’re confused, just wanting attention, or that we’re actually homosexual but afraid to admit it.

Bisexual erasure also commonly happens when people assume that people in same sex partnerships are homosexual and that people in opposite sex partnerships are heterosexual. This doesn’t just happen with those outside the LGBT+ community. Even Gigi, mentioned above as one of the creators of Celebrate Bisexuality Day, said that she had been conditioned by society to label couples as either gay or straight based on the perceived gender of their partnerships. Although it may be societal conditioning to do this, being aware of it, we can then make a conscious effort not to make assumptions.

Besides not assuming the sexual orientation of people, one way we can combat bisexual erasure is through word choice. For example, when the Supreme Court ruled that same sex marriages are protected under the 14th amendment, I noticed many people referring to the decision in relation to “homosexual couples”, “gay marriage” and so on. Although probably not intentional, this type of word choice left out bisexuals with same sex partners. Thus, when I wrote about it, I used phrases like “marriage equality”, “same sex couples” and so on as I wanted to be sure to be inclusive.

Coming Out as Bisexual

Coming Out of the Closet as Bisexual on Bi Visibility Day

Me coming out of the closest thing I have to a closet in base housing.

Due to the issue of bisexual erasure and the fact that I’ve often been assumed to be heterosexual, I’ve had to decide whether to come out and to whom several times in my life, and I’m sure that I will do so many more times. Usually I tell people I’m bisexual if they specifically ask about my sexual orientation or if there is an existing conversation in which I can mention it, if I don’t let the moment pass, which I too often have. It’s hard to pinpoint when I first came out because, when I look back, I know I have always been bisexual. I remembering discussing attraction to both men and women as early as high school, but I was slow to identify myself specifically as “bisexual”. I’ll save the process of trying to figure out how to identify and accepting bisexuality as part of my identity for another post.

Although I’ve been willing to talk about being bisexual one on one and have acknowledged being bisexual in small public ways, such as by having a Bi the Way board on Pinterest, I realized a few months ago I have not been overly open about it either and that this has been harmful. It’s been harmful to me because I have felt like I’m hiding a part of myself and letting a part of my identity to be assumed for me. And I think it’s also been a disservice to other bisexuals, especially those who are not out to anyone–apparently 72% of us are not out to all or most of the important people in our lives–or those who are just discovering their bisexuality.

So, I decided over a month ago that I would come out yesterday on Bisexual Visibility Day. Even though I already knew I wanted to publicly come out and roughly how, I was nervous all day to do so and waited until literally the last minute of the day to post a status introducing the concept of bi-erasure and myself as a bisexual with a profile picture change to a cropped version of the one you see in this post. So far, the response has been supportive, both from those for whom the announcement changes nothing, and from many who confirmed wait I had suspected: there were other bisexuals who had benefitted from knowing that I am too.

 

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8 Thoughts on “Bisexual Visibility Day, Bisexual Erasure, and Coming Out as Bisexual

  1. I didn’t know that Bi Sexuality Day existed, much less the history or nuance behind it. Thanks for sharing and educating so openly. I can only imagine the courage you had to muster to come out openly. Congratulations!

  2. Hi Amanda, I am happy that you came out the closet I know it is not so easy. Because one never know how people in their close lives will react. I find it in society easier for people to accept women who are bisexual or that are lesbian and not men who are bisexual or gay. That two women is classify by many sexy and a dream. But two guys in a relationship or even dating is find to be nasty and unmorally accepted by the vast society.

    I find same sex love, dating, marriage, and etc as “love” that we all have for another no matter how society or religion look at it. Who am I to judge. For me as long as people have love for each other is what important.

    • Hi Lora. Thanks. Yeah it is difficult not knowing how people will react. Fortunately for me the majority who are now aware have either been totally supportive or indifferent. I’m glad you’re not judging and agree that having love for each other is what’s important.

      I am not sure that society really does accept women who are lesbian and bisexual more than men who are gay or bisexual. I once heard it said of both being lesbian and a female bisexual that we are both more sexualized but that this is different than actually being more accepted, and I agree. There are plenty of people who are happy to watch “lesbian” porn but then don’t want real life lesbians to have the same rights as heterosexuals and these are often the same people who are bothered by gay and bisexual men. They are not thinking about the actual real life people but what can be done for them. Lesbians and bisexual women (or those pretending to be in entertainment) provide something to them while gay and bisexual men don’t.

      Unfortunately that’s the situation I’ve run into myself when admitting to certain people that I’m bisexual. It seemed to be acceptable to them only to the point that they thought they could get something out of it (e.g. a threesome) and when they found out that wasn’t going to happen suddenly then it’s not so great anymore. Similarly I once had a girl ask me to pretend to be her girlfriend to “save her” from some jerks who were pestering her. Although a woman shouldn’t need to have the presence of another for her “no” to be heard, these guys didn’t even respect the idea of her being “taken” if it was by another woman. Then they just wanted to be able to watch. I guess the short version is to say that many in society (often heterosexual men) objectify lesbians and bisexual women but this has more to do with what they think they can get out of them (e.g. sex, entertainment) than actual acceptance of them as people.

  3. I didn´t even knew there was a Bi day! Wish there wasn´t a need to have these kind of days though and sexual preferences were not something to be ashamed of. Thanks for sharing this intimate part of your life with us.
    Isabel Raynaud recently posted…Aprende a atraer la buena suerteMy Profile

    • Glad to bring the day some attention. Yeah, it would be nice if it wasn’t necessary. On the other hand, the fact we have such days help for those who relate to have a sense of community and those who don’t to learn something, so it’s not such a bad thing. You’re welcome. Thanks for stopping by. :)

  4. Matthew on January 2, 2016 at 9:24 pm said:

    Good article and love the coming out pic. I’m one of the 72%! It’s a bit different for men, hopefully that will change. Thanks

    • Thank you. Hopefully you’re able to move out of the 72% soon and at least have some around who know and accept you as you are. If you ever want to write a guest post on being a bisexual male (remaining as anonymous or not as you’d like to be), let me know. It’s always good to be able to share other perspectives.

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