The B in LGBTQ
The bi-sexual woman: the magical unicorn of the queer community. Tell anybody you’re bi-sexual and they’ll have an opinion. To my work colleagues I’m ‘greedy,’ as though I’ve simply piled my plate too high at the genital buffet. To the porn industry my sexuality is reduced to a spectacle for the satisfaction of the assumed straight male viewer, with none of the pleasure reserved for the female participants.
To my ex-boyfriend it was just a ‘phase.’ How could I possibly sustain a long-term relationship with a woman when the pull of his gender is just so inevitable? To Hollywood I’m a hyper-sexualised, mentally unstable caricature whose sexual identity is nothing more than an executive producer’s wet dream.
To myself, I am misrepresented.
Many people, including myself, struggle to accept bisexuality as an identity. For a long time I denied my status as a bisexual woman to the detriment of my mental well-being and, at times, my relationships. I simply did not see where I fit in the gay/straight dichotomy of society. Why couldn’t I just ‘pick a side?’ Am I really just ‘confused?’ Perhaps it was just a symptom of some mental instability that hadn’t been diagnosed yet. It took me a while to realise that none of this was true and if you’re reading this and are still unsure let me make it clear; I don’t need to choose a ‘side’ I am certainly not confused.
According to the statistics, the mental health of bisexuals is in dire straits. The Bisexuality Report UK published in 2015 found that bisexual people were more likely than any other identity group to suffer from mental health problems including depression, anxiety, self-harm and suicidal thoughts. The study also found that bisexual individuals were far less at ease with their sexuality than their gay/lesbian counterparts. While I’m not here to bore you with the statistics, these results are profoundly shocking.
Bi-erasure, lack of community and internalised bi-phobia are all contributing factors to poor mental health within the bi community. Healthcare professionals play their part too, often treating bisexuality as a ‘transitional’ stage or symptom. But I believe it all boils down to lack of accurate representation. In the mainstream media, bi-sexual woman are over sexualised and bi-sexual men, well, they simply don’t exist.
When bisexual characters aren’t being used as sexual objects, they’re probably being used to illustrate some abstract concept, usually a negative one. Bisexuality, in the world of TV and film, has become a tool to underline characteristics such as mental instability, duplicitousness, hedonistic and amoral behaviour.
Whether we like it or not, media consumption has a huge impact on our thinking and values. For many, the only exposure to bisexuality is what we see on our screens. At present the only representations of bisexuality visible are those meant to symbolise the most contemptible aspects of human nature. Should we be surprised that bi-phobia thrives within both the straight and queer communities? Without accurate representation, without our stories and experiences truthfully told, we will never find validation.
Acceptance and validation are congruent to healthy mind-set. For our own well-being, I think it’s time we start telling a different story.