Bisexual Erasure; a comedy in 3 acts

William Shakespeare, playwright, known deviant.

I know what you’re thinking. Bisexuals have problems? Surly you jest. The biggest problem bisexuals have to deal with is deciding the gender ratio of tonight’s three-way. But go with me on this. There’s more to the story. Last week I attended a family function where I was essentially the odd man out. In a room full of heterosexual Republicans I was the only left-leaning queer. When I was talking to them about my partner (a male and also bisexual) I was interrupted by two relatives insisting that we were not bisexual, we were gay. Experiencing a mix of shock by their lewdness (all of which I won’t recount) and being pissed at their assertion that somehow they knew more about my sexuality than I did. I thought we were passed this…shows how much I knew.

It turns out there are a great many things bisexuals have to deal with. It can be a down right battle sometimes and more often than not its fought from both ends. Bisexuals catch heat from both sides of the Kinsey scale, like a keystone just trying to hold itself in place. This article is a little more weighted on the male side since it happens to be my gender and though I have many bisexual women in my life, our experiences are not the same (damn male privilege!). What are these problems you might ask?, well first of all:

#1 We’re Invisible

And I don’t mean in the kick ass Sue Storm way. When it comes to awareness there are those who discriminate against bisexuals and down right deny their existence. The people who disbelieve in their existence are the most confusing. In conversation they can seem rational or even cool until they drop that little gem which leaves me reeling as though I just found out I was talking to a flat-earther for the past hour and a half. Bi-skepticism is not restricted to trailer parks in the deep south. I’ve hung out with some very smart, cool, ‘with-it’ people, and have still managed to be surprised by an incredibly ignorant statement about my orientation. I remember being a kid in the early 90s when Friends was at the height of its popularity. My family used to record that noise because our house was super hard core all about the tame adventures of 20 somethings in New York City…for some unknown reason. There was one episode in particular where Phoebe was bounced from her side gig singing at the New York Public Library’s kids section because their parents were complaining about how their kids shouldn’t be hearing songs about harsh truths like how grandma is gonna die some day or how bacon is actually made out of Babe. After the woman whose standards include a song about a stinky cat and little Tommy Tarzan swinging on a nose hair is fired by Chris Isaac (a cameo which deserves an article of its own, but I digress), not for some wicked gaming which would have made that episode way more awesome than it had any right to be, she sings a show to the children who have abandoned fled the library where she sang to hear her sing in the coffee shop. The song which ensued goes; “sometimes men love women, sometimes men love men, and then there are bisexuals who some just say are kidding themselves.”

It has been a trend for years to try and ignore, marginalize, or disprove bisexuality. People hip to the jargon know this phenomena as “bisexual erasure” and there are multiple videos on YouTube as well as articles on the internet which outline the basic tenants of this practice. Through dismissive comments, biased science, and general fuckery the populous in general comes to regard bisexuals as self-deluded liars. I remember being on a smoking patio at a gay bar in San Francisco with a friend I hadn’t seen in a few years. We were drinking and laughing and talking. Our conversation had turned at one point to bisexuality when a very drunk older gay man interrupted us to tell me what straight people from my conservative hometown have reiterated for years, that I was mistaken. The 90s won’t sleep on its laurels with Friends, take one time indy Darling Kevin Smith.

In Smith’s Chasing Amy a self-identifying lesbian Alyssa falls inexplicably in love with pre-heart throb status Ben Affleck and begins a relationship with him. Though it might just be the 90s confusion at work once again, she goes from screaming in the street “I’m fucking gay!” to lying in bed with him talking about how she “closed the door on men.” The Kevin Smith, and the 90s in general, were obviously not comfortable with the concept of open attraction to more than one gender. Despite the fact that Alyssa has displayed obvious attraction to both men and women, the word ‘bisexual’ does not appear in the script even once. Seriously, read it. Not once does the word bisexual come up in a movie about being in a relationship with a bisexual woman. Eventually Batfleck looses his shit, not because she has been or is still attracted to women but because she has *gasp* had relationships with other men before. It is not her “homosexual” past which offends him, but her “heterosexual” exploits which earn her the cold shoulder from the 44th highest grossing superhero thus far. Alyssa goes through the movie equal parts offended and embarrassed by her past, but almost oblivious to why any of it matters. This is quite relatable to the bi community because we don’t like other peoples’ definitions and criteria. A lot of bisexuals (myself included) feel stifled by definitions, which certainly doesn’t make presenting a unified identity of ‘bisexual’ any easier. It can be restrictive as the definition of bisexuality is ‘attraction to both genders’ which, of course, leaves out the possibility of dating within the gender queer crowd (which most of us are down with).

“Oh come on dude!” You’re saying to yourself, “you can identify as bisexual on Myspace (is this still a thing?) and Facebook!” you seem to say “How does that qualify as invisible?” Well friend, have you heard of the 2005 study done by Northwestern University which claimed to have disproved the existence of bisexuality among males ?

The study claimed that despite proclaiming themselves as bisexual the men in the study were obviously gay because what the hell do you know about your own sexual preferences? It took me (and many a lot of others) time to come out because of the stigma created by that study and culture in general. In certain company to tell the truth about yourself is, in essence, to be labeled a liar. I felt like I wasn’t there. It created the feeling that I wasn’t there. I wasn’t seen by many of the people I met in my daily outings or a huge chunk of the scientific community which is useful for Harry Potter, Sue Storm and sometimes Frodo but when you’re trying to get your mack on or just express yourself to the ones you love, these assumptions becomes way too heavy a burden.

The results of the study were later retracted by Northwestern but there was a period of time where even though I was in the club I wasn’t really in the club (biceptioned!). With all of this bull about whether or not we exist it makes sense that in fiction…

#2 We’re the Bad Guys Most of the Time

As you may remember, if you watched the Friends clip above that creepy ass kid who shoots an altogether inappropriate look at Chandler, bisexuals don’t come off as the safest people. The bisexual is one of the biggest stock villains. If you’re a movie watcher (and I’m going to assume you are) you are aware of how many of the greatest villains happen to be bisexual. Bisexuals in movies are more evil than Xenomorphes and the British combined.

IF IT’S A BRITISH BISEXUAL YOU KNOW YOU’RE IN DEEP SHIT

The vicious bisexual has been taking out their revenge on the non-sexually fluid since the Victorian era when The Picture of Dorian Gray came out (sorry for mentioning that book in Intro to English you only read the Spark Notes for). The eponymous Dorian swaggers into London high society, sold his soul for eternal youth and beauty, talked his rachet actress girlfriend into committing suicide, lead on and murdered his artist friend, convinced his ex-boyfriend to help dispose of the body (who shortly after kills himself), and has done so much more horror in the name of hedonism than anyone else except possibly Caligula. They made a movie in 2009 staring Prince Caspian as Dorian, it was only okay. You might also be familiar with Catherine Tramell, the thriller novelist and opposite of underwear model from Basic Instinct who spends the entire movie essentially worshiping death– especially in relation to the people she shtoops. Then there’s Silva, a.k.a. blonde Javier Bardem from Skyfall, who makes no secret about the fact that he wants to bone James Bond just before killing his girlfriend whom Bond has also boned taking the eskimo brothers definition to terrifying new places.

“I DON’T KNOW IF IT’S YOU STRAPPED TO THAT CHAIR OR TALKING ABOUT MURDERING JUDI DENCH BUT MAYBE WE SHOULD KISS TO BREAK THE TENSION.”

Things have been getting somewhat better. Season 4 of Game of Thrones recently introduced Oberyn Martell and his poly life partner Ellaria Sand, arguably the most bad-ass bisexuals in fiction. But he is still excessively violent. He’s so obsessed with revenge that the only thing which draws him away from what was becoming the most awesome bi orgy in episode 1 of season 4 was some poor soul who had the misfortune of singing “the Rains of Castaimeire” in earshot.

Why do this, you might ask? I think it’s based in a lack of understanding. Like denying their existence or making them sexy sociopaths, we earmark groups to stay away from and be skeptical of. Gay and lesbian communities come together in greater numbers with more defined goals and as a result they have been cast in film and television since the 80s as the almost magical gay best friend. A lot of that has to do with a super visible, open, organized, and mostly unified, and understood community. Bisexuals are the villains because we don’t have that. We have a hard time convincing people A) we exist, B) no seriously, we exist and C) we can be trusted. We seem to share that one thing in common with the villains over the heroes, we are marginalized and seek to be understood. Outside of movie villains, other media (a.k.a. “real life”) people are used to looking at Angelina Jolie, David Bowie, Lady Gaga, and Freddie Mercury. Aside from the aforementioned villains it seems hard, neigh-impossible, to see them as a best friends. They’re more like a spectacles. Don’t get me wrong, I’m into being associated with bad-asses, and I tend to prefer villainous characters in general, but I feel like it does a disservice to those who meet bisexuals. I’m neither super hot, super dangerous, nor super smart. I’m an out of shape, sarcastic, dick who dresses like a boy Alex Mack and only has limited swagger. I can more easily identify with Peter Parker (sans Spider-Man costume) than Oberyn Martell. And that’s why…

#3 Statistics Insist Life is Tougher For Bisexuals

Life is a numbers game, my accountant once told me. And by my accountant I mean my surly best friend who came to my house to help me do my taxes online once. As much as I’d like to be riding my own pony to the mall where I buy the entire food court a round at Orange Julius (is that still a thing?), I certainly don’t make enough money to be a force to be reckoned with. I barely make enough money to live. My Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram feeds are constantly bombarded with pictures of my friends (both gay and straight) taking impromptu vacations, going camping, going to concerts, going to foreign countries, or just having fancy ass dinners. I get invited to these on occasion and sometimes I go if it’s affordable, but usually I’m either trying to get more hours from my retail job so I might afford them or failing to get those hours declining the invitations to sit at home, make ramen, and watch Jurassic Park on VHS (yes I still have a VHS player). Not all of us keep our sexual orientation secret, and whether it is that honesty which screws us or the constant barrage of skepticism or hostility which makes us less likely to be assertive, we tend to not do so well professionally. I shot myself in the foot early on by majoring in literature instead of counterfeiting or internet science, but I also ran into an old super-Christian boss of mine coming out of a doctors office after having been tested with my then boyfriend. My boss, The man who I was not exactly on the best of terms with, knew about my very brief engagement to a woman only a year before. Not long afterward my hours at work were cut and a week later I was called into his office to answer for a problem I didn’t create. At that meeting he brought up his lack of trust in me, and two days later I left that job.

Making ends meet can be a struggle statistically confirming once and for all that the B in LGBTQ actually stands for broke. In 2013 the Williams Institute amended a previous study wherein they revealed that the most impoverished subset of the LGBTQ population with bi-women ranking 3.5% higher than bi-men (because once again, male privilege is a thing).

Knowing that it makes more sense that bi-folks are, on the whole, a bit more stressed. According to the Brown University Health Education website bisexuals are more likely to have substance abuse problems and higher rates of depression, stress, and anxiety. Equality is the consummation all good people seek. Perhaps you know something you didn’t before. Perhaps you don’t agree. Either way bisexuals and bisexuality are more complicated than the misconceptions surrounding them. We exist, we’re not sex gods, and we don’t not all of us have evil plans based on world domination. Well. Most of us don’t.

Writer, critic, podcaster, poet, editor, and leisurely connoisseur of the bizarre.

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