Today is Bi Visibility Day, which serves to remind me that I’ve been terribly invisible around here lately.
I’ve been thinking about something Robyn Ochs said during her keynote at the Putting The “B” in LGBT Summit. She articulated something that’s been bothering me for a while — that the ways for bisexuality to be visible at all mirror the most common stereotypes about bisexuals.
Most people seem to assess sexual orientation based on the behavior they personally observe. So if they see a girl with a boy, she must be straight. If they see her with a girl, she must be a lesbian. If they see her with both, either concurrently or in quick succession, she must be bi. And fickle. And a slut. And not to be trusted. (It doesn’t count if there’s a long enough gap between the two, because she’s clearly “switched” “sides.”) Most people won’t even entertain the notion that someone might be bisexual unless they see hir making out with people of different genders in quick succession, or breaking up with someone of one gender to have a relationship with someone of another, or whatnot. So our choices are either to reinforce tired, inaccurate stereotypes, or to be told that we’re not really bi because if we were, we’d do those things. This is not my favorite set of options ever.
I also have trouble with this entire way of framing things, with its implicit assumptions that it’s wrong to be greedy and slutty, and the way it values monogamous, long-term relationships over other romantic or sexual interactions. I often find myself torn about this when blogging. On the one hand, it’s true that not all bisexuals need partners of “both” genders, that bisexuals are probably about as likely to be both monogamous and faithful as anyone else. It’s certainly true that bisexuals are inherently no more likely to lie, sneak around, fail to care about their partners’ well-being, jump from partner to partner in an unethical way, etc. But I also don’t think it’s wrong to want or have multiple concurrent partners, or to have and value and enjoy brief involvements and/or involvements only for the sake of sex, or to generally get around. I have trouble framing my arguments against views of bisexuals as shallow and uncaring in ways that don’t feel sex-negative and anti-poly, that don’t seem to implicitly buy into the same framework I’m trying to critique.
Still, I think it’s problematic that there’s only one way for bisexuals to be visible in our culture, and that it plays into common stereotypes that have such a negative load attached to them. All of the pieces of this are problematic — the invisibility of bisexuals who don’t act in particular ways, the assumptions about those who do, and the idea that behaving in those certain ways is bad.
And I think the fever from my con flu is coming back, so I’m going to wrap this up while it’s still semi-coherent. Happy Bi Visibility day! I hope the ways you choose to be visible, today and always, are successful and joyous for you.