Bi Visibility Week – On Being Bi/Pan-(romantic)

bi-flagSo apparently being bisexual is frowned upon by many (ridiculously rude and shitty) people. Honestly, though, even having to type that is so ridiculous that I almost deleted it twice. Because it doesn’t seem like it should be true. But it is true–biphobia is a big thing. I’m lucky enough that,  in the circles I move in, I’m not subjected to it at all in my personal offline life (my friends are literally all varieties of queer; and this happened organically, without any of us knowing about one another’s queerness before we met, and without meeting in a specific queer community or setting), but I know from basically existing in the world and online that people get twitchy (and paranoid and downright nasty) about bisexuality. They get mean about bisexuality. Really mean.

Before we go any further, repeat after me: bisexuals are not confused or greedy or going through a phase. Bisexuality is a valid sexuality; we exist and we are here and there is no qualifying “test” or lifestyle checklist we have to complete.

And once again for those in the back: bisexuals are not confused or greedy or going through a phase.

OK, good.

Men who are bisexual are faking and are actually gay and women who are bisexual are straight and faking liking women (funny how the world revolves around we dudefolk, isn’t it? (Except that it’s not funny at all…)).Of course this is incorrect and also so incredibly damaging. To constantly invalidate someone’s sexual preference–especially when said sexuality can be easily erased or hidden (being “straight-passing” or “gay-passing” depending on relationship status)–is cruel and hurtful and damaging.

If you like one or more gender(s), then, congratulations! You’re bisexual. Bisexual guy married to a woman? Are you still bi? You betcha! Same if you’re a bisexual woman and married to a man. And this works for bisexual people who “pass as gay” by being in a relationship with people of their own gender. They’re all bisexual and they’re all valid.

Some people use pansexual synonymously with bisexual (though many don’t)–and I’m one of them. Whilst I don’t technically identify as bisexual (note the emphasis) or pansexual (again, emphasis), I do identify as panromantic.

Yep, that’s right: it’s the sexual part that becomes the deal-breaker. I am definitely attracted to pretty much any person of any gender whatsoever–therefore making me very bi/pan–but in my case, the attraction is as far as it goes. I’m asexual (there will be a post on this in the near future) and therefore would usually rather read a book or eat oatmeal or honestly just pet a cat instead of engaging in any business relating to the between-the-sheets activity. I’m just not interested.

But that doesn’t mean I’m not attracted to how people look or the notion of them as romantic possibilities. Asexual simply implies that, when it comes to the down-and-dirty, I don’t harbour any real interest or physical desire. It’s not simply a matter of choosing to abstain, but a literal physical, emotional and mental disinterest in the deed, generally speaking. Sure, many asexual people still have physical relations with their partners (whether to have kids, or simply because they enjoy–but do not feel pressured into–making their partners happy, or even because, however often they feel like it, they don’t mind having sex with people they’re in a stable relationship with), but the cinching point for many is that we are simply not that bothered by the idea. 

I could go on, but then I could also write whole essays about asexuality, and this is all about being bi this week. So…

Regardless of my asexuality, I consider myself bi/pan. Strictly speaking, I do prefer the term bi/panromantic, but most of the time our dialogue on sexuality doesn’t stretch to inclusion of these terms (or any terms that fall outside of allosexuality, for that matter) because there isn’t a widespread acknowledgement of the difference between physical sexual desire and the magnetic pull of one person’s heart towards another’s (purely romantic attraction; attraction to a person based on who they are as a soul, instead of a physical, sexual being).

Yes, this is crappy, but since my panromantic-ness isn’t a performance for anyone/thing, I’m perfectly comfortable broadly identifying as bi alongside asexual. I’m open about most things, so if people really get confused by the seeming contradiction of bisexual asexuality, they can always ask if it’s that big a deal!

I’ve always been comfortable in my happy little bi self. I’ve had relationships/harboured attraction towards people of quite literally every gender variant, including straight people, gay people and those that fall somewhere between. But it’s also not something I realised was a Thing until far later than I should have. With little to no bi rep in the media I grew up on, it’s no wonder that, years later, I’m looking back at what seemed to be peculiar crushes on other people of my own gender, wondering if what was really happening was my own burgeoning bisexuality.

There’s still so little representation of bisexual people in our media. I can likely name more gay characters than I can bisexual–which is a big problem. Gay rep is very important, yes, but bi rep deserves just as much attention. In a way, since it can be a complex issue, it arguably deserves more attention. Conveying a same-gender relationship is easy: boy meets boy, or girl meets girl. Easy. But a bisexual relationship, to be explored on the page as a sexuality, needs a little more, unless a character is constantly reaffirming their own preference. This is why we need #ownvoices authors telling our stories: I don’t think it would be possible for me to write something without a queer character, because it’s such an integral part of who I am, it comes so naturally to the characters I write.

But it is important to acknowledge bi characters when we see them, and to not fall into the systemic biphobic habits of labeling these characters as gay or straight depending on their current preference/history of relationships, and thereby denying them the deserved and valid identity of queer.

I did this recently, having lamented the lack of queer rep in one of my favourite series. I fell into the trap of taking away a character’s queerness by not considering their bisexuality as being “queer enough”. Which is really, really crappy of me, let’s me fair. Yet, this is the systemic bi-erasure hard at work, right there. I’m talking about Aedion Ashryver in Sarah J Maas’ Throne of Glass series, which now features a queer character as part of the main cast. Bisexuality is valid. Aedion Ashryver is valid.

Aedion is my current bookish crush. And he’s a great crush for me to have, as a bi guy, because he is also bisexual. It matters. His past relationship with a member of the Bane is important but in no way invalidates his current feelings towards a female character. Aedion wasn’t gay when he dated the soldier and he isn’t straight now he’s attracted to a woman. He is–just as he has always been–bisexual. Having a crush on a fellow bi hottie feels good, because there’s the notion that the character gets me, gets my sexuality. That’s really important.

I don’t have many bookish crushes (girl or guy), and perhaps my asexuality tempers any attraction based purely on how a character looks or presents, but I think it’s more that the characters I could crush on feel unattainable. With bisexuality so easily erased across the board, it’s easy to feel invalidated as a bisexual person, when the choice of crushes leans either towards gay imaginary romance or straight imaginary romance.

That’s not to say that bisexual people will always want to/need to date other bisexuals, but with this ingrained sense of biphobia, it’s little wonder that those who identify as bisexual will do so openly around only those they trust the most, or they may conceal that part of themselves altogether, lest they be judged for their preferences. The gay and straight communities are equally guilty of this treatment.

There are many married men and women in my circles who are bi, but rarely consider/announce themselves as queer, even though their letter (the B) is right there in the LGBT+ acronym. That’s hugely problematic.

In the same way that the L and G seem to come together and form one big gay supervillain, bent on stealing the focus and attention entirely for themselves, whilst the other letters are shoved into the background, taught to be grateful for whatever scraps of (often bad) representation they’re given, any focus on the gender elements of the queer/LGBTQIA spectrum are similarly often forgotten. Indeed, talk of “queer rep” is so often reduced to simply “gay rep”, which is telling in and of itself.

Queerness is about so much more than who you’re attracted to and shouldn’t be reduced to an overarching label of “GAY”. There’s a lot of work to do, but hey, hopefully with more attention on the important issues of queerness, through awareness periods such as Bi Visibility Week, maybe we’ll eventually gain some ground and open the dialogue all the wider for it.

And before I go, once again:

Bisexuality is valid. Bisexuality is valid. Bisexuality is valid. Bisexuality is valid. 

 

 

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3 thoughts on “Bi Visibility Week – On Being Bi/Pan-(romantic)

  1. Hi Leo. I get that you find Aedion Ashryver is a believable bi character in the Throne of Glass series. With so much bi erasure happening, are there other solid examples that you can name? Thanks. Chris

  2. I’m really happy that I found this post, because I agree with so many points in your text and it’s always relieving to find people who think alike.

    I’ve actually faced situation, when my workmate (who is gay) shows disrespect for bisexuals. For example stating that some strange habits of his date is because he is bisexual etc. So I think biphobia is really a thing, and not even only with people who are gayphobic. And I think it is absurd.

    I’ve also faced that even when people somehow are ok with me having girlfriend (I’m female), telling them that I’m not interested in sex really gets me looked weird. “You’re not just had good sex then” etc. Umm, right. Asexual is unknown concept. People treat you as you were ignorant, not them.

    But, I’m looking forward for your post on asexual subject and maybe discuss more then.

    – Tiia (catnipreads from instagram)

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