Bi Visibility Day is celebrated on the 23rd of September to raise awareness of the bisexual identity and bi voices. This day provides an opportunity to continue to spread positive change throughout our society in how we perceive bisexuality and actively accept, rather than just tolerate, those around us who identify this way. We can see through national data that more people are identifying themselves as bisexual with 7.6% of 16- to 24-year-olds in the UK identifying as bisexual in 2020.
Bi Visibility Day was founded in 1999 by bisexual activists in America and this year will be its 24th Anniversary. It is important we continue to fight against bi erasure and biphobia.
What does being bisexual/ biromantic mean?
In order to celebrate the bi identity, we must first understand what it means.
The Stonewall definition of bisexuality is “people who have a romantic and/or sexual attraction towards more than one gender. People under the bi umbrella may describe themselves using one or more of a wide variety of terms, including, but not limited to, bisexual, pan, and queer.”
Put simply, bisexuality is the attraction to more than one gender. Bi visibility also celebrates those who identify as biromantic which can be interpreted as experiencing romantic feelings for more than one gender, rather than necessarily also feeling sexual attraction to more than one gender. This means someone can identify as biromantic without being bisexual and vice versa.
Why is bi visibility important?
Bi visibility is crucially important in spreading awareness of bisexuality and acceptance. Bisexual people face bi erasure and biphobia from both within and outside of the LGBTQ+ community so it is vitally important we address these issues as a society and work to accept and celebrate our differences. The more we celebrate individual identities such as being bi, the more we can encourage individuals to be themselves and accept themselves.
What is bi erasure?
Bi erasure is when bisexuality is disregarded and stereotyped as ‘a phase’ or simply viewed as something that doesn’t exist. For example, the idea that bisexual people are simply either gay or straight and they haven’t made their mind up yet. Bisexual women are often stereotyped as actually being straight and bisexual men are often stereotyped as actually being gay, erasing the existence of bisexuality altogether.
Common examples of bi erasure:
- Terms commonly used such as ‘gay marriage’ can erase the bisexual community and more inclusive terms such as ‘same sex marriage’ should be used instead
- Bi people being classed as ‘straight’ when in a straight-presenting relationship and classed as ‘gay/lesbian’ when in a same gender presenting relationship.
- Bi people being told their preferences don’t exist and that they need to simply ‘pick a side’
- Bi people being under-represented in the media
- Bi women being sexualised by straight men, with straight men perceiving their bisexuality as something that is there for them to consume, rather than a genuine sexuality.
What is biphobia?
Biphobia is the prejudice against bi people based on their sexuality. Biphobia can present in many forms and unfortunately comes from both outside of and within the LGBTQ+ community. This term can be labelled as experiencing ‘double discrimination’. Those who identify as bi can experience homophobia as well as discrimination from other members of the LGBTQ+ community. Some examples of this are:
- Being excluded from queer dating – bi erasure comes from within the LGBTQ+ community in the form of some gay and lesbian people refusing to date bisexual people based on their sexuality due to outdated and offensive stereotypes such as:
- Bi people are more likely to cheat
- Bi people are really just straight
- Biphobic stereotypes can also be damaging to the bi community. These include ideas such as bi people being more sexually promiscuous, bi people simply being ‘greedy’, bi people secretly being gay.
As someone who has previously identified as bisexual, I can say from personal experience that bi erasure and biphobia are very real and that I have sadly experienced and been affected by both. It is demoralising and exhausting to feel a constant need to validate and justify your own sexuality, when you can see other members of the LGBTQ+ community aren’t doubted in the same way. Although I myself no longer identify as bisexual, this is not to say that I went through a ‘phase’ of bisexuality. It is simply that sexuality can take time to figure out and can even change over time and the only person who can identify someone’s sexuality is themself, so it is important we listen to and believe people’s identities when they tell us who they are. Validating and believing someone’s sexual identity can help them to feel accepted and most importantly, accept themselves.
Bisexuality and suicide
Members of the LGBTQ+ are at a higher risk of suicide. It is vitally important we continue to work to remove the stigma and discrimination against LGBTQ+ people in order to help create a suicide-safer community.
If you are struggling with discrimination against your bisexuality or with anything surrounding bisexuality, the following organisations can help to support you. Included below is a link for Pride Counselling – it is important to note this is private counselling that would require payment where you can request an LGBTQ+ identifying counsellor.
Additionally, it is important to remember that if you are struggling with thoughts of suicide, our helpline HOPELINE247 0800 068 4141 is here from 9am until midnight every day to support you. All our suicide prevention advisers are trained and understand key issues such as the struggles faced by the bisexual community and can help to support you to stay safe from your thoughts of suicide.