The Silent B: how bisexuals can feel left out of LGBTQ awareness

Today marks the 18th annual Bi-Visibility Day

September 23rd 2016 marks the 18th annual Bi-Visibility Day, a single day to spotlight the people on the sexuality spectrum that most people fall on, according to science.

In the years since same-sex marriage had been legalised in Ireland, and the world looked upon our island as being one of the most progressive, accepting and open-minded of nations, it can sometimes be all too easy to overlook how stigmatized those who don't announce themselves as a binary-sexuality can feel.

Every June, when Dublin is gripped by the celebrations of LGBTQ Pride, the invisibility of bisexuality is all too pronounced. Float after float celebrating gay men and lesbian women, and in the middle of it all, one small group of folk with a Bi-Pride banner, a massive minority representing a silent majority.

You don't have to look very far on the internet to find evidence of bisexuals attempting to describe or defend bisexuality. The constant accusations of simply not having made your mind up yet, or of being selfish. The indiscriminate fear of having a bi partner of the opposite sex who will inevitably leave you for someone of the same sex - the whole "Bi Now, Gay Later" discrimination.

There's the unfair media representation of bisexuals (which you can read all about here), or the perverse celebration of celebrity females who come out as bisexual, while an  almost total lack of famous bisexual men betrays a worrying trend of still needing to be closeted, for fear of their masculinity being called into question.

Two years ago, I finally came out as bisexual to my close family and friends. Since then, I embarked on my first gay relationship, and during that time the same question kept coming up: "So you're fully gay now?"

And in the aftermath of the break-up, the opposite: "So you've gone off men now?"

There is a specific problem with people who disclose themselves as bisexual, in that if they end up with someone of the same sex, then they're seen as being gay along, or if they end up with someone of the opposite sex, then being bi was just a phase.

Being a part of a same-sex relationship as a bisexual requires careful wording (or even more careful avoidance), because there's no such thing as a "bisexual relationship", only a gay, lesbian or straight relationship.

It was something actress Anna Paquin handled with aplomb during her interview with Larry King (from the 11-minute mark below) when he asked "Are you a non-practising bisexual?", to which she attempts to explain she is currently in a monogamous relationship with her husband, to which he replies "So you were bisexual?"

Whatever the root of the issues with bisexuality, be it a lack of education, a total abundance of ignorance, an origin in fear of the unknown or unfamiliar, or whatever, the situation is still definitely improving.

From personal experience, there was an in-built fear that telling women I was bisexual would see them completely shut-down any potential interest in a relationship, for fear I would just one day run off and finally be happy as a gay man.

However, as ignorant as that can sometimes feel from the outside in, the same goes for the inside out. Are there women who could never see themselves dating a bisexual man? Absolutely. But does every woman feel that way? Absolutely not. Same goes with gay men and women and their opinion of bisexuals, who as a community can be just as segregated as a community as the general population they sometimes feel segregated from. Should every gay person automatically be open to a relationship with bisexuals just because they're gay? Absolutely not. 

Finding that level of comfort in others can only happen once you've found it within yourself, and Bi- Visibility Day goes a long way towards helping that cause. Just a quick look at the #BiVisibilityDay hashtag on Twitter will almost drown you in happy tweets and well wishes.

Coming out as bisexual is hard, because in some cases it can feel like you're being forced to come out over and over again. Just remember, you are far from alone out there.

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Gay SwitchBoard Ireland - (01) 872 1055

Aware.ie - (01) 661 7211

YourMentalHealth.ie - link to LGBT and Coming Out