1 Bisexuality is not real
A lot of people are convinced bisexuality isn’t a real thing, and sadly a lot of those people are in the lesbian and gay communities.
This is very confusing if you’re a bi person. It’s bad enough having your sexual identity insulted, having denied altogether is quite scary.
Hessie says: ‘At college once I got told by a pair of short-haired lesbians they were fed up of “obviously straight” long-haired women turning up and claiming to be bisexual – everyone knew bisexuals didn’t really exist.’
If someone tells you they’re a particular sexuality, just believe them. It’s polite.
2 So are you going through a phase?
This is only one step up from ‘there’s no such thing as bisexuality’. You’re saying that whatever we might think we feel right now, it can’t be a proper identity like being gay or straight.
Christopher Biggins said last year: ‘People who fear homosexuality most are the ones who could be gay. The world is full of bisexuals because that’s the way they want to do it. What do they do? They ruin a woman’s life. It’s so wrong, because you’re not owning up to what you are. You lead a double life so how can you be a real person?’
It’s true some people do come out as bisexual and then later come out as gay. Maybe they’re actually changing their sexuality, or maybe they really were gay all along. And that’s fine. It doesn’t mean all bi people aren’t really bi, though, does it? If someone is vegetarian and then starts eating meat, does that mean vegetarians don’t exist?
3 Being bi is trendy these days
People have been describing bisexuality as trendy since at least the 1980s. It can’t have been in fashion non-stop for four decades. That’s not how fashion works.
If being bi was a cool, trendy thing to do, the bi community would be a very different place. I love my community, but ‘cool’ is not the first word that comes to mind.
The implication is that bi people are in some way pretending.
There’s a lot of hostility around towards people who ‘pretend’ to be bisexual, for example two girls who snog each other for the enjoyment of men. But bisexuality is a very broad church. Maybe one of the girls, or both of them, are acting out their actual desires in the only way they safely can. You don’t know, so don’t judge.
4 Prove it
Sometimes if you tell people you’re bi, it’s as if you’re suddenly in a courtroom being ordered to defend your sexuality to a hostile jury.
How many people exactly have you slept with, and what genders were they? Who’s your current partner? Are you sure you really feel this way?
Bisexuality doesn’t need to be proved any more than any other sexual orientation does. If you wouldn’t cross-question a gay person about whether they were ‘really’ gay, don’t do it to bi people either.
There’s a worrying side-effect of this, too: bisexual asylum seekers often experience more intrusive questioning by agencies of the state in order to ‘prove’ their sexuality than lesbian and gay asylum seekers, and they’re often sent back to countries where their lives are in danger with instructions to ‘simply’ live a heterosexual life.
If people just accepted bisexuality as a legitimate identity, this wouldn’t happen.
5 Can’t you decide?
‘Ever since I told my boss I was going to a bi event she seems to treat me as a flake. She makes little comments all the time about how I can’t stick at things, how I’m not a team player. One time she told me not to apply for a promotion because they wanted “someone loyal, who could commit”. I wish I’d never mentioned it now,’ is one story from The Bisexuality Report.
There’s this idea that bisexual people are confused about who they ‘really’ fancy, haven’t decided on their sexuality, or are trying to have it both ways.
People failing to choose a side, or trying to be on two sides simultaneously, is traditionally a sign that they’re untrustworthy – they’re trying to play both sides off against each other, they’re double agents, they’re disloyal.
Analogies are powerful. One popular description of bisexuality is ‘batting for both teams’. In any game, playing for both sides at once is clearly unsportsmanlike. Even switching between games would be seen as dodgy.
So it’s easy to see why the idea of bisexuality looks like a kind of betrayal.
However, just because you can make a metaphor doesn’t mean it’s true. Bisexuality is just a type of sexuality. It doesn’t imply anything else about you or your personality.
6 Everyone’s bisexual really
This is something often said by bisexuals and non-bisexual alike: everyone’s a little bit bisexual. It feels right to a lot of people, and it’s a positive thing to say, surely?
Well, not necessarily. First, it’s not true. Most people aren’t bisexual and don’t identify as such.
The rules about not imposing your labels on other people apply here too: don’t label your gay, lesbian or straight friend as bisexual if that’s not something they’d call themselves. It doesn’t help bi visibility.
Everyone isn’t bisexual, and that’s ok.
7 Oh, so you’re 50% straight and 50% gay?
‘I was once told by a lesbian friend that I wasn’t a proper bisexual because I had slept with more men than women,’ recalls Cat.
‘I then told her that she couldn’t be a proper lesbian because I’d slept with more women than she had. Not entirely fair, I know, but saying something that stupid deserves an equally stupid answer.’
The idea that proper bisexuals are exactly 50-50 in their sexuality is obviously ridiculous, but it’s extremely popular.
Non-binary genders tell us gender is not neatly divided up into half-and-half. But even if that weren’t the case, bisexuals don’t have to like men and women equally.
How would that work, anyway? As soon as you see a man you fancy, you have to look round for a woman you also find attractive, so the Sexuality Police don’t get you? Do you have to keep a scorecard of everyone you sleep with and make sure it adds up at the end of every year? Or are you allowed to wait till the end of your life before you calculate your final score?
And what counts? Is it sleeping with precisely equal numbers of men and women, or is it who you eye up in the street? What about kissing? Or do only actual relationships count towards the total.
Maybe fancying equals one point, kissing two points, sex five points and dating 10 points? It feels like a sexuality test.
Let’s just accept that sexuality isn’t a pass or fail, and let bi be bi.
This list was created using extracts from upcoming book Purple Prose: Bisexuality in Britain, edited by Kate Harrad.
If you liked this, consider pledging to the Purple Prose crowdfunding campaign to improve bisexual visibility and understanding.