If you have contact with me on Twitter, or at Facebook or The Lady Garden, or you've spoken to me in the last few days, you'll have seen me pimp Emily Dievendorf's HuffPo column on bisexual invisibility. If you haven't, please go and read it now, or the rest of this column of mine will be a complete waste of time for you.
Seriously. I mean now.
Right. I'll admit I'm pushing that so hard because I feel like I could have written it myself – so much so that I did wonder if I had anything left to add. I've ended up writing two* responses to it.
There are obvious differences between Emily and myself. For a start, I'm not the Director of Policy for Equality Michigan talking about feeling excluded from the LGBT community. This still rings very familiar, though:
I'm currently dating a man. I refuse to hide him because being in a relationship with him is part of who I am... I feel like a traitor, I feel like I took the easy way out, I feel like I'm not relating and might, therefore, not be able to represent the queer community.
I also feel a tiny bit guilty when she says:
Bisexuals are seen as promiscuous, confused, invalid, incapable of monogamy, oversexed, greedy, going through a phase, and on and on...
It might just possibly be true that I'm not doing everything I can in my own life to combat stereotypes about bisexuals. I shouldn't really have to, of course. It should be okay for a few of us to still be dirty slappers.
It should be, but it takes until the second page of the comment threads for a couple of the old tropes to come trotting out.
One, female bisexuals are straight women making out to get attention. And even if they aren't, the fact that straight women will pretend to be bi means that socially, being bi must be awesome-cool. Quite why this argument doesn't also invalidate lesbianism I'm not sure.
And two, some gay men have been left for women by bi men. Therefore all gay men are just sensible to be "cautious" of all bi men. That makes perfect sense, and is in no way bigoted. Just like being scared of all African-American men isn't racist.
But really, being bisexual's just not that big a deal, right? I have a harder time, social-acceptance-wise, being a poly sub. And when I read this:
The stigma, or biphobia, that comes with being bisexual has serious consequences. Bisexuals have higher incidences of depression, suicidal thoughts and attempts, alcohol and drug abuse, and poor physical health in general than their heterosexual, gay and lesbian counterparts... Bisexual women with monosexual partners have an increased rate of domestic violence compared to every other female demographic. Compared to lesbians, bisexual women are twice as likely to live in poverty.
I feel oddly uncomfortable. I mean, I live a pretty good life. I'm not actively discriminated against. I haven't been subject to abuse from my partners... well, okay, that one** time. And yeah, I've been suicidal at a couple of points in my life, but who hasn't? Poverty, physical health... Ha! No drug abuse! Take that, statistics!
Once I got over my discomfort, I started to wonder why. Why, for instance, are bisexual women more likely to be abused by their partners? Why do they have, apparently, such unexpected problems with self-esteem?
Dievendorf argues that it relates to the lack of support bisexuals find in LGBT communities, and the lack of bisexual-specific resources. I'd also argue that the stereotypes of bisexuals are damaging in and of themselves. We're promiscuous, heartless, self-absorbed exhibitionists lacking in empathy and compassion. We're sluts. We're "over-sexed" – a phrase deliciously packed with social conditioning. We are, in short, the women of least value. If you're the kind of man with jealousy issues who needs to control his partner, it's not just men you have to keep away from your bisexual missus, it's everyone. Seriously, the slag could be getting it on with anyone at all. Imagine the strain that places on your average rat-bastard.
On the other hand, we're supposed to be happy. Full of laughs, and probably vodka. We should never have trouble getting laid as much as we want, which as I'm sure you'll be aware is a literal fuckload. We have, after all, the best of both worlds. Right? That pressure to be performatively sexy, there's no way that could ever get you down, right?
The conflict between our stereotype and our statistical reality means that even someone as stroppy as I feels somewhat uncomfortable complaining. I mean, the way the character of Michele makes me uncomfortable, that's just me being over-sensitive, right? Wait, no, not possible: bisexuals are never over-sensitive. Also, to be honest, I would totally hit that.
Poor choice of phrase.
*For very large values of two.
**Four. Those four times. And by 'times' I mean 'partners'.