LIFESTYLE

6 Bisexual People On How Biphobia And Bi-Erasure Impacts Their Lives

'Visibility is vital.'

07/11/2017 16:36 GMT | Updated 09/11/2017 11:09 GMT
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Ruby, Lewis and Abigail spoke to HuffPost UK about how bi-erasure isolates an already alienated community. 

Twitter has been accused of “bi-erasure” and “biphobia”, after photo and video search results for the term ‘bisexual’ and ‘bisexuality’ disappeared.

The social media site apologised for what it said was “an error with search results for certain terms” on 5 November, however the apparent block still exists at the time of publication. It’s also worth noting that results for ‘gay’, ‘lesbian’ and ‘transgender’ were not removed by the error.

“It’s extremely disappointing and damaging for a social media platform to erase bi people by excluding the term bisexual from its searches,” a spokesperson for Stonewall, which campaigns for LGBT+ equality across Britain, told HuffPost UK.

“Erasure or the dismissal of bi identities is one of the reasons why some people find coming out as bi so difficult.”

This was echoed by interviewees, who shared their experiences with HuffPost UK following Twitter’s so-called error.

HuffPost UK
This is what comes up in Twitter's photo and video search results when you search for 'bisexual'.

Sarah*, 15

“Most of my experience as not being straight has come from being young, where often everything you know and understand isn’t taken seriously by those older than you. Apparently it’s ‘normal’ to question your identity or sexuality, but it isn’t ‘normal’ to confirm you’re anything but ‘normal’ - whatever that means. 

“Along with not being allowed to make a decision when you’re young, there’s a stigmatisation of bisexuality, not only amongst heterosexual society, but the LGBTQ+ community. Bisexuality, as simple as it is, is often synonymous with confusion, as you don’t identify as straight, and you don’t identify as gay, so in other people’s eyes you don’t really identify as anything at all. For other people, if you can’t be placed into a category or a box then you’re just a confused teenager, still learning and trying new things - not someone with opinions, emotions or ideas.

“The relaxed use of negative stereotypes when it comes to bisexuality aids to the biphobia that runs quite deeply within society. The whole idea of you simply being bisexual because ‘it doubles your chance of a date’ is narrow-minded and harmful, when in fact, you’re simply just attracted to someone, regardless of gender.”

Rob, 41

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Rob and his daughter.

“Growing up in the 1980s, bisexuals were so invisible I didn’t even know that bisexuality existed. I knew from a very young age that I liked boys and girls but I also knew I wasn’t gay and I certainly didn’t know of any bisexual role models - I think the only one I had heard of was David Bowie but he seemed fantastical and I didn’t relate to him. I didn’t come out as bisexual to myself, never mind anyone else, until much later.

“There is a cliché that bisexuals are confused but it was actually when bisexuality became visible to me that I realised I was bi and my confusion vanished completely. Visibility is vital.

“Bi-erasure may seem like a small problem but it is thought that bi-invisibility is one of the reasons that, according to several reports, bisexuals have higher rates of depression, anxiety, self-harm and suicide than straight, gay and lesbian people. Had Twitter existed when I was a teenager I would have been searching for #bisexual to try to make sense of what I was feeling and the site has just made that much more difficult for today’s teens by censoring pictures and videos. 

“The bisexual community have used social media to raise visibility and understanding of our sexuality and this move by Twitter literally erases our identity.” 

Ruby, 27

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Ruby

“We get excluded from the everyday language used to discuss sexual identity (eg. gay marriage), and it often feels like our issues and struggles aren’t seen as serious enough to deserve attention or support. The limited resources and spaces that are specifically for us make it difficult to form support and social networks where we can talk to each other. And we need that. Bi+ people, particularly women, deal with extremely high levels of sexual violence and mental health issues and only about 28% of bi/pan people ever feel safe enough to come out to their friends and family.

“My family, a therapist, and my friends all challenged me for years after I came out as bi, and the doubt and confusion lasted a long time. Then, a year ago, I started working on a community radio program about bisexuality. It was my first time speaking with other bi+ people and the same struggles and frustrations and doubts that I had lived with for years came up again and again, until it was obvious they were issues we all faced and not the character flaws they had been made to feel like.

“Being able to find and talk to each other can make all the difference when you’re bi+. We don’t need it to be any harder.”

Abigail, 26

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Abigail

“Throughout my childhood, my identity existed only in unpleasant slurs. Growing up in a religious home and going to school under Section 28 legislation [a law banning councils and schools in England and Wales from intentionally promoting homosexuality], the only pattern I saw around me was ‘grow up, meet someone of a different gender, get married, have babies’, so I assumed that was my life too.

“I tried to ‘train’ myself to be straight - reward, punishment, guilt - but nothing worked. I suppressed myself through my teens and convinced myself that if I could fall in love with a man, I could put it behind me. Even after I came out as bi/pan [attraction towards people regardless of their sex or gender identity] at 21, I was determined to conform with the heterosexual norm, because it was quite simply easier. But it wasn’t who I really was.

“Over time I’ve come to embrace my whole identity and this growth in confidence is the driver behind co-founding Bi Pride UK, a charity working to create public spaces for celebrating attraction beyond gender. I’ve still got a way to go personally, though: I’ve been single since I came out and getting into a relationship scares me, because I know that over time I’ll be re-binarised as either straight or gay by society. I’ve fought too hard to be myself for that.”

Ella, 15

“I suppose I’ve always known that I liked girls. I was never into boys when I was younger and my first kiss was with a girl. For a while I thought I was gay until I discovered the LGBT+ community online and learnt a variety of terms that I’ve been sheltered from by my country, having grown up in Northern Ireland, and my family.

“I’ve met some supportive people in my life and some people who aren’t. I recently came out online to my friends and received some support, but in Catholic school the following week I heard whispers and some offensive and derogatory names being shouted.

“People still in this day and age ‘don’t believe in bisexuality’ saying that people are ‘greedy’ and need to make a decision. I’ve heard that I’m ‘confused’ and that I’ll ‘get bored soon enough’ or ‘find a nice boy’ - and sometimes people say these comments without realising how offensive and hurtful they’re being.

“Coming to terms with your sexuality is a big deal and when you get the courage to tell people, the last thing you need is people questioning you and being hurtful.”

Lewis, 26

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Lewis

“Bisexuality is completely unexplored, there were never any characters on TV or film going through what I went through. You really are on your own trying to figure out your sexuality. No role models, no examples, no perspective. 

“Sadly, bisexuals are often invisible from each other. The UK has no mainstream bisexual magazines for us to discuss our issues in. We have no apps to connect us. We have no venues to meet others like us and make friends. I’m one of the most profiled bisexual men in the country yet sadly I’ve never been in a room with even 10 other bisexual men my age. It’s a lonely sexuality, I have no one to talk to that understands some of the unique bi issues I face.

“Another thing that isn’t talked about is the attacks on our straight partners. My girlfriend and I have been together for 18 months, in that time I’d say she has received more abuse than me. People don’t think twice about telling her that I’m going to cheat on her, that she’ll never be enough for me, that’s she’s going to catch HIV. These people have never met me yet they feel it’s fine to cast doubt in my girlfriend’s mind. They’d be perfectly happy for my girlfriend to dump me because of my sexuality and what’s worse is they’d feel the world was back in balance. 

“With more people than ever falling under the bi umbrella I think its time for the UK to take this seriously: to make sure the resources are there for bisexual people, to make sure the support is there, to challenge stigma.”

*Some names were changed to protect the individual’s identity.