Our society is captivated by false binaries (female versus male, gay versus straight). Too often, the people who exist outside those limiting frameworks have to fight for recognition. The bisexual community has experienced erasure for decades. Finally, the concept of bi erasure has shifted in the spotlight.
Bi erasure is a pervasive problem that occurs when the existence or legitimacy of bisexuality, either in general or in regard to an individual, is questioned or outright denied. Bi erasure is real and has harmful consequences, including isolation and negative outcomes for both mental and physical health. Here are six ways to fight it.
Recognise Bi Erasure
Learning to recognise bi erasure is the first step towards combating it. Some forms of bi erasure are more blatant than others, for example telling someone that bisexuality is “just being greedy”, “a passing phase”, or “a stop on the way to being gay”. Other forms of bi erasure are more subtle, for example, referring to two married women as a "lesbian couple" without considering that one or both women identifies as bisexual.
Don’t Make Assumptions
Bi erasure is fuelled by erroneous assumptions. One harmful myth is that bisexual people can never be sexually satisfied in a monogamous relationship because they will always be missing out on sex with someone of a different gender to their partner. This is a misconception and contributes to the false and harmful stereotype that bisexual people are likely to cheat.
Similarly, bisexuality is frequently assumed to go hand in hand with promiscuity. First of all, there is nothing wrong with consenting adults having multiple sex parters (this is part of a different conversation around slut-shaming). But bisexual people can be prudish, promiscuous, polyamorous, demisexual, aromantic, and monogamous. The gender of the people they are attracted to is irrelevant.
Another common assumption is that bisexual people find dating easier because they have a more options. The fact is, bisexual people are queer and the dating pool for queer people is always smaller. Being bisexual is a matter of attraction, not a hack to get more likes on a dating app.
Challenge Harmful Attitudes
If you see something, say something. Calling out bi erasure can be as simple as gently correcting someone when they use non-inclusive language or questioning them when they make an assumption about someone’s sexuality. As always, lead with kindness and be willing to genuinely engage. If we focus on educating others and leading by example, we can challenge harmful attitudes and come together as a community to end bi erasure.
Affirm Bisexual Identities
Celebrate your friend’s bisexual identity, whether they are single, dating or partnered. Invite them to queer events. Use inclusive language when it comes to their dating life. If they are entering into a relationship, they may be particularly apprehensive about being perceived as gay or straight going forward. You can interrupt this pattern simply by continuing to affirm their identity.
Make Space For The “B” In LGBTQ+
Bisexual people have been a part of the LGBTQ+ movement since its conception. If you are a member or ally of the queer community, make sure you include bisexual people in your work. Well-intentioned statements such as “everyone’s welcome, whether you’re gay or straight” can inadvertently exclude people who do not identify as either. When creating queer-only spaces, you may need to clarify that they are not designed for straight allies. Just make sure you are not operating on assumptions about gender and sexuality when doing so.
Everyone can help to increase bi visibility. Learn about, engage with, and discuss prominent bisexual figures on social media. Consume work produced by bisexual creators. Support bisexual community organisations. If you are creative, consider incorporating bisexual representation in your work. If you have a public platform or are a leader in your community, you have even more power to build bi visibility by demonstrating your support.
Support the people in your life who identify as bisexual. And if you are confident and comfortably out as bisexual yourself, do not underestimate the power of talking openly about your sexuality. When you make yourself visible, you also make space for other bisexual people to be seen.