Erasure in LGBTQ2S+ culture is a harsh reality that bisexual people can often experience. While the acronym is handy to refer to the non-heterosexual community, it can also imply a universal queer narrative.
This is one of the reasons behind Bisexual Visibility Day, which is celebrated on Sept. 23 every year, since 1999. It is a day to highlight bisexual people’s voices, celebrate their identity and share their unique experiences. Visibility provides a platform for minority groups to live as their authentic selves without the fear of being judged. Being visible can foster a great sense of affirmation for their identity.
Studies show that although bisexuals account for the largest portion of the LGB population, bisexual individuals are the least likely to be “out”.
Because of straight-passing privilege, which is the idea that a bisexual person can pass as heterosexual by being in a heterosexual romantic relationship, bisexual people can be treated as not being gay enough for the queer community. They may also be perceived to be “not straight enough” by heterosexuals if they are attracted to anyone of the same sex.
It is truly a double-edged sword, as people can feel forced them to choose either the “gay part” or the “straight part” of themselves. This toxicity shows that it is a failure to ignore that bisexuality is not a fifty-fifty split of gay and straight.
In addition to negative stereotyping, stigma and discrimination against bisexual people, they can also face silencing when opening up about their sexuality. This is part of a pervasive problem, known as bisexual erasure, in which the existence and legitimacy of bisexuality is questioned or denied outright by individuals or the community.
The lack of visibility can lead an individual into believing that their bisexual identity is invalid, which is known as internalized biphobia. When people doubt the validity of their identity, they can become fearful of themselves, resulting in severe health disparities. For example, according to the Bisexual Resource Center bisexuals experience higher rates of anxiety, depression and mood disorders in comparison to heterosexuals, gays and lesbians.
Visibility is important because it reassures people that they’re seen, that they’re valid, and that there’s a community out there for them among LGBTQ2S+ people and straight allies. To be confident with one’s sense of self can boost positive feelings of self-worth.
When we create a safe space for people to flourish in their sexual identity, it initiates a ripple effect where more individuals within the bi+ community become more comfortable with who they are. Bisexual erasure has the opposite effect of making people want to camouflage, in fear of being criticized.
Queer experiences are far from being identical to one other and Bisexual Visibility Day recognizes the uniqueness of bisexual experiences, including many amazing things, but also the areas that need to be improved.
If you are an ally, don’t let your support stop after Sept. 23. Never stop uplifting the voices of your bisexual peers, and provide them with the support system that they need as they navigate their sexual identity.
If you are bisexual, out or not, this is a reminder that your sexual identity is valid and that this is just a sliver of who you really are. You are a multifaceted human being with hopes, dreams and desires, and your worth goes beyond this small part of your identity.
In other words, don’t let labels hold you back from becoming the person you want to be.
Graphic: Anh Phan | Design Editoractivism bisexuality genders