One of the omnipresent attacks on bisexuals is that they will always break their partner’s hearts, because they will leave them for someone of the opposite gender. I mean, how could someone who uses an identity label indicating attractions to multiple genders possibly be satisfied with just one? I’ve run into this one a few times recently, with one person leveling the attack claiming that all bisexuals need to carry the guilt over her friends who were not only left out to dry by those nasty lying bisexuals but, at least according to her, died by their own hands because of it.
What level of biphobia do you have to have to claim, with apparent seriousness, that bisexuals are directly and morally responsible for the suicide rate among other queer people? More about that later.
Lots of straight people dump their partners, but no one assumes that this means such a thing is a fundamental aspect of being straight. Lots of gay people dump their partners, but at least among gay people, the assumption that it’s part of being gay isn’t one that’s automatically made. Now, plenty of (but not all) straight people do think that gay men, especially, are nothing but sex addicted fiends who flit from casual encounter to casual encounter, and use that assumption to demonize gay men. The flip side of this, of course, are jokes about lesbians and U-Hauls – the idea that women immediately enter into relationships rather than ever being permitted to have a consensual and mutually satisfying one-off sexual encounter – that’s men stuff, girls, how dare you enjoy sex other than through being dominated by manliness or immediately nesting?
Some people, straight gay and bi, do eschew long term commitments, move quickly and easily from partner to partner or even restrict themselves to casual encounters. So what? Not my place to tell them they are wrong, not my place to engage in slut-shaming adults who make choices other than mine. Some people, straight gay and bi, are only interested in long term monogamy. Again, so what? It’s not my place to laud those people and tell them that they are more moral or more acceptable or better than others.
It is, however, my place to say that both kinds of people exist, and that these two examples are points on one axis with a lot of variation not only between these two poles but on other axes altogether.
There is nothing, absolutely nothing, in sexuality that is simple enough to be fully described or adequately captured by a one-dimensional line.
One of the expressions of this particular nasty bit of biphobia is the idea that bisexuals should only enter relationships with other bisexuals. I’m not certain how the orientation of your partner is relevant in any way to the success of your relationship (provided, of course, that their attraction spectrum includes you).
Back to the claims about lesbian and gay people killing themselves due to being mistreated by bisexuals. Hey, this is not a subject I take lightly. Suicide (attempted and completed) among LGBT people (especially youth) is much, much higher than the national average. It’s been my impression from the figures that I have seen (and, as this isn’t an academic paper, I’m not going to go look up the references right now, I have two months of writing without strict adherence to APA guidelines here and I’m going to enjoy not having to deal with inline citations and works cited pages for a bit) that the highest rates are in the Trans* community, which I am treating as a separate statistic because of the intersections between the LGB and the T – people under the T also identify as LGB or S.
Here’s a handy infographic, courtesy of Shiri Eisner:
Now, it’s known that one of the most important things that you can have is a community. For people who identify as Lesbian, Gay, or Bi, this need for community is huge because we are either denied access to community in dominant culture or, even worse, only access it by lying and denying who we are, trading off the ability to be integrated for personal safety that can be taken away in the blink of an eye.
I am not going to try to lay the blame for the suicide and suicidal ideation rates on the doorstep of the Gay and Lesbian community. It was a crock of bull when the commentor referenced way back at the start tried to do it to us, and it would be wrong for me to do it now. However, I will say that the biphobes in the Lesbian and Gay community, individuals like that person, are not helping.
Every segment of the Queer population has problems because of being outcast from the community that straight people take for granted. From the daily grind of microaggressions, from the drumbeat of people telling us how perverted and horrible and unacceptable we are.
Bisexuals are not, as a rule, telling Gay and Lesbian people that they don’t exist. Yes, there are a few who try to use the argument that “everyone is bisexual”. I’m not one of them, and I think it’s irresponsible to do so, and I call it out every time I see it.
Bisexuals are not telling Gay and Lesbian people that they are horrible people just for being monosexual. It boggles my mind that people who throw around concepts of privilege all the freaking time can’t seem to understand that a list of monosexual privilege is not telling them they are bad people. I think the people who are getting upset about it are the people who are actually using privilege conversations to shut other people up rather than to open conversations, and that bothers me a lot.
Bisexuals are not denying Gay and Lesbian or Trans*gender people (contrary to the vicious etymological fallacies floating around) access to the communities of mutual support that are so important.
I blame the Dominant Culture for the issues that Queer people have in relating to it. As for the internal issues of a huge group of people with less political cohesiveness than, well, any random group of people linked together by a trait that any really egalitarian society would note only as matters of individual variation rather than Righteous Cause For Discrimination? They are important, because political cohesiveness (as opposed to political agreement or marching in lockstep, an important distinction) matters.
The raw fact of Queerness binds us together in the eyes of the Dominant Culture. We can protest this all we want, talk about how we’re dissimilar with different goals and aims and situations, but in the end it is not we who have made our sexual orientation important. Some people have criticized me and other activists (in all of the segments of the LGBT community) because we seem to be obsessively focused on Being Queer, saying “It doesn’t make sense to have so much of your identity wrapped up in who you like to have sex with, it’s such an insignificant piece, try talking about something else for a change.” For one thing, this isn’t all I talk about. But it’s a lot of what I talk about in online venues.
It isn’t that we have chosen to define ourselves entirely by one relatively small piece of what it means to be human.
It is that we have had that thrust upon us, been prevented from living authentic lives without pushback from people who, for no good or valid reason, have decided that we are sick/subhuman/dangerous. Every step in the LGBT movement can be described in two words: Step Off.
So to the homophobes and biphobes in Dominant Culture, I say Step Off. And to the biphobes in the Lesbian and Gay segments of the community, I say Step Off and Step Up. Quit tacitly endorsing your own oppression by facilitating the oppression of those who would oppress you.
You see, I agree with the idea that Lesbian and Gay people are not the oppressors of Bisexual people, because they don’t have sufficient power to do so. But what they are doing is giving their support to the people who do have the power, for reasons that I can’t quite comprehend (probably because there are many different reasons), without realizing that every time they express biphobia by propagating a negative stereotype about bisexuals as The Honest Truth, they are feeding the very people who are beating them down with negative stereotypes – often the very. Same. Ones.