Saturday, September 24, 2011

Erasing Bisexual Invisibility (Bisexuality Pride Day)

By: Annie U.

Yesterday was bisexuality pride day. 

September 23rd Celebrated Bisexuality Day or Bi Visibility Day. The event, which was started in 1999, is an opportunity to combat myths about bisexuality and help people find the bisexual community.

While bisexuality is included as the B within the LGBT acronym, people in the bisexual community often feel that their sexual orientation is misunderstood. A lot of people believe that sexuality is binary and that people are either attracted to people of the same gender or people of the opposite gender. However, bisexual people are attracted to people of the same gender and of the opposite gender.

Bisexual invisibility is a result of many of the misconceptions about bisexuality, including:

  • Doubt about the existence of bisexuality
  • Bisexuality being seen as confusion or just a phase by people who haven’t yet figured out their true sexual orientation
  • Famous bisexual people in history being assumed to be lesbian or gay, rather than recognizing their bisexuality

Even within LGBT communities, some organizations do not truly support the bisexual community and their materials, events and support are all geared towards people in or seeking same-sex relationships.

People in the bisexual community often face discrimination from the straight and gay/lesbian communities. According to an essay on Biphobia by Robyn Ochs:

Bisexuals are frequently viewed by gay and lesbian-identified individuals as possessing a degree of privilege not available to gay men and lesbians, and are viewed by many heterosexuals as amoral, hedonistic spreaders of disease and disrupters of families.This “double discrimination” by heterosexuals and the gay and lesbian communities is seldom recognized or acknowledged as a force of external oppression, yet this oppression is real and has many damaging effects on bisexuals.

Bi Pride is evident in the events that are planned each year for September 23rd, as well as the participation of the bisexual community in broader LGBT pride events. The Bi Social Network’s YouTube channel also includes numerous ‘I am Visible’ videos by bisexual individuals who are speaking out about their sexual orientation.

It is important to teach our children and other members of society that they can love anyone they want. Last year, on Bi Visibility Day, I wrote about what we teach our children about love:

When I talk to my kids about love, as in romantic love, we talk about sweethearts. Not boyfriends or girlfriends. Not husbands or wives. I don’t want to teach them that heterosexuality is the default. I don’t want to teach them that marriage is the default either. When I talk about their future, I talk about the possibility of them having a sweetheart, who could be a man or a woman. I want them to know that they can love women or men or women and men. I want to teach them that before society teaches them something else. I want to teach them that long before they are at the stage of feeling romantic love and perhaps feeling that their love is wrong or misplaced if they love people of the same gender or if they love people of both genders.

Ensuring that our children understand the options that are available to them and the options that are available to others is critical to building a society that accepts and values diversity.

A new study from researchers at Northwestern University has shown that men identifying as bisexual do in fact respond sexually to both men and women. This will be unsurprising to bisexual men and indeed the wider population, but it is significant because a previous and much cited 2005 Northwestern study concluded that evidence for male bisexuality was lacking and that bisexual-identifying men may in fact just be closeted homosexuals.

From the New York Times:
In the new study, published online in the journal Biological Psychology, the researchers relied on more stringent criteria for selecting participants. To improve their chances of finding men aroused by women as well as men, the researchers recruited subjects from online venues specifically catering to bisexuals.

They also required participants to have had sexual experiences with at least two people of each sex and a romantic relationship of at least three months with at least one person of each sex.


In both [the 2005 study and the latest investigation], men watched videos of male and female same-sex intimacy while genital sensors monitored their erectile responses. While the first study reported that the bisexuals generally resembled homosexuals in their responses, the new one finds that bisexual men responded to both the male and female videos, while gay and straight men in the study did not.

Both studies also found that bisexuals reported subjective arousal to both sexes, notwithstanding their genital responses. “Someone who is bisexual might say, ‘Well, duh!’” said Allen Rosenthal, the lead author of the new Northwestern study and a doctoral student in psychology at the university. “But this will be validating to a lot of bisexual men who had heard about the earlier work and felt that scientists weren’t getting them.”

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