Bi-Sexuality and Bi-Erasure: Acknowledging and Challenging Invisible Barriers
Bi-sexuality, the sexual attraction to individuals of both the same and opposite sex, is a unique and beautiful expression of human sexuality. Despite its prevalence, bi-sexual individuals often face unique challenges and discrimination, both within and outside of the LGBTQ+ community. One such challenge is bi-erasure, a phenomenon that results in the erasure or denial of the existence, experiences, and unique struggles of bi-sexual individuals. In this blog post, we will explore the concepts of bi-sexuality and bi-erasure, while discussing the importance of acknowledging and challenging these invisible barriers.
Bi-sexuality is a sexual orientation that encompasses a spectrum of attraction to individuals of multiple genders. This can include attractions to people who identify as male, female, non-binary, and genderqueer, among others. Bi-sexuality is fluid and varies from person to person. Some individuals may experience equal attraction to different genders, while others may feel more inclined toward one gender over another at different times in their lives.
It is important to recognize that bi-sexuality is not synonymous with promiscuity or polyamory. Bi-sexual individuals, like anyone else, can have monogamous relationships and be committed to their partners. Being bi-sexual does not automatically make someone more likely to cheat or have multiple partners. These are common misconceptions that contribute to the stigma and discrimination faced by bi-sexual individuals.
The Problem of Bi-Erasure
Bi-erasure is the process through which the existence and experiences of bi-sexual individuals are diminished, ignored, or invalidated. It can manifest in several ways, such as:
Denying the existence of bi-sexuality: Some individuals may believe that bi-sexuality is not a valid sexual orientation, claiming that people who identify as bi-sexual are merely "confused" or "going through a phase." This harmful belief invalidates the identities and experiences of bi-sexual individuals.
Assuming a person's sexual orientation based on their partner: People often assume that a bi-sexual person's sexual orientation aligns with the gender of their current partner. For example, if a bi-sexual woman is in a relationship with a man, she may be perceived as straight, and if she is with a woman, she may be perceived as a lesbian. This overlooks the reality that bi-sexual individuals maintain their sexual orientation regardless of their partner's gender.
Overlooking bi-sexual representation in media: The media often fails to depict bi-sexual characters, or when it does, it may perpetuate harmful stereotypes. This lack of visibility contributes to the erasure of bi-sexual experiences and can make it difficult for bi-sexual individuals to find validation and understanding.
Discrimination within the LGBTQ+ community: Surprisingly, bi-erasure can also occur within the LGBTQ+ community. Some gay and lesbian individuals may question the legitimacy of bi-sexuality, accusing bi-sexual individuals of being "indecisive" or "not truly queer." This type of discrimination is known as "biphobia" and further marginalizes bi-sexual individuals.
The Impact of Bi-Erasure on Mental Health
Bi-erasure can have a significant impact on the mental health and well-being of bi-sexual individuals. A lack of validation and support can lead to feelings of isolation, shame, and self-doubt. Moreover, bi-sexual individuals may internalize negative stereotypes and societal expectations, causing them to suppress or question their own identities.
Research has shown that bi-sexual individuals are at a higher risk for mental health issues, such as depression, anxiety, and substance abuse, compared to their heterosexual, gay, and lesbian counterparts. According to a study published in the Journal of Bisexuality, bi-sexual individuals reported higher rates of psychological distress and lower levels of social support than individuals of other sexual orientations. This increased vulnerability to mental health issues is likely a result of the unique challenges and discrimination that bi-sexual individuals face, including bi-erasure. Challenging Bi-Erasure: Steps Toward Inclusion and Support To challenge bi-erasure and create a more inclusive and supportive environment for bi-sexual individuals, we must first acknowledge and address the misconceptions and stereotypes that contribute to this phenomenon. Here are some steps to consider:
Educate yourself and others: Learn about bi-sexuality, its unique challenges, and the experiences of bi-sexual individuals. By understanding the nuances of bi-sexual identities and the impact of bi-erasure, you can help dispel myths and challenge stereotypes.
Be mindful of language: Avoid making assumptions about a person's sexual orientation based on their partner or their appearance. Instead, ask about their preferred pronouns and how they identify when appropriate. This shows respect and validation for their identity.
Advocate for bi-sexual representation: Encourage and support accurate and diverse portrayals of bi-sexual individuals in media, literature, and public discourse. This can help raise awareness and provide a platform for bi-sexual voices to be heard.
Foster inclusive spaces: Create safe spaces for bi-sexual individuals within the LGBTQ+ community and beyond, where they can feel comfortable expressing their identity and seeking support. This includes promoting inclusivity within LGBTQ+ organizations and events and ensuring that bi-sexual individuals are represented and welcomed.
Listen and validate: Listen to the experiences and concerns of bi-sexual individuals without judgment or assumptions. Validate their feelings and experiences, and offer support when needed. Recognizing the unique challenges faced by bi-sexual individuals and showing empathy can help combat bi-erasure.
Bi-sexuality is a valid and diverse expression of human sexuality, and bi-erasure is a harmful phenomenon that perpetuates discrimination and invalidation. By acknowledging the existence and experiences of bi-sexual individuals, challenging stereotypes, and promoting inclusivity and support, we can work towards a world where bi-sexual individuals feel seen, heard, and validated. Let us commit to dismantling the invisible barriers of bi-erasure and fostering a more understanding and inclusive society for all.