Happy Bi Visibility Day!

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.

5 Responses to “Happy Bi Visibility Day!”

  1. 23 September 2009 at 5:08 pm

    There is another way: assertion.

    For best results, wear a bi pride flag—the bigger, the visibler. Eventually, someone will ask what it means, and then BAM! —they’ve walked right into a conversation about bisexuality.

    • 2 Aviva
      28 September 2009 at 10:04 pm

      Well, yes. But even if I were a pink kinda girl, there’s a difference between flagging as bisexual/claiming bisexual identity on the one hand, and on the other hand behaving in a way that people read as bisexual. They’re more likely to believe the latter than the former.

  2. 3 Jen
    28 September 2009 at 5:32 pm

    I’m not sure where it has come from, but I love the idea of rebranding 23/9 as Bi Visibility Day. ICBD is a hell of a mouthful as a name, and a little nebulous as a concept: what do you do for ICBD? Are you being celebratory enough? International enough?

    Whereas BVD, you could sensibly mark with a bi resources stall in a bar or student union foyer, with flyering local gay or straight venues, with a balloon launch outside your town hall, or whatever.

    We’ve had ten years of 23/9 being ICBD. It’s a great time to start using a new name for it that can inspire new forms of visibility activism.

    • 4 Aviva
      28 September 2009 at 10:09 pm

      If there’s an implied question here (“Where did Bi Visibility Day come from?”) when I looked Celebrate Bisexuality Day up on Wikipedia, it gave me Bi Visibility Day and Bisexual Pride Day as alternate names. And I just believed it =)

  3. 5 Shiri
    11 October 2009 at 3:43 am

    Hi Aviva,

    I sent you an email a few weeks ago, to the bi.furious.blog address. Just wanted to poke around and ask if you’ve read it – I promise you it has interesting content ^_^


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