Are you Guilty of Bi Erasure?
Bisexual erasure is the tendency to deny the existence or legitimacy of bisexuality and bisexual individuals. The most common forms of bi erasure include simply ignoring bisexual identity, and also believing that bisexuals are going through a phase and that they will eventually realize they are either homosexual or heterosexual. Extreme forms of bi erasure involve denial that bisexuality actually exists, removing or falsifying evidence of bisexuality from history, and ignoring bisexuals the news media (even from LGBT media).
Bi erasure is furthered by the misconception that sexuality is a binary with only homosexual and heterosexual orientations. For some folks, it is inconceivable that there are people out there attracted to both men and women (the idea that gender is a strict binary is perhaps a topic for a later article). Believing in the binary model validates the experiences and perceived legitimacy of many who identify strictly as either heterosexual or homosexual. Gay people can be just as guilty of bi erasure as straight people. Many bisexual people feel pressured and ignored by both the straight and gay communities.
In the 1940s and 1950s, Alfred Kinsey and other sex researchers interviewed thousands of men and women about their sexual attractions and practices. Out of their research came a tool known as the Kinsey Scale (also called the Heterosexual-Homosexual Rating Scale). Kinsey and his colleagues discovered that sexual orientation falls on a spectrum rather than a strict binary. This spectrum is often visualized as a bell curve. This curve can be skewed for a variety of reasons, such as social conditioning and peer pressure, which affect whether someone identifies as or acts on their bisexuality, homosexuality, or heterosexuality. Heterosexual people have the most support and affirmation from society. Those outside factors aside, most of the population falls into varying degrees of bisexuality regardless of whether they acknowledge or identify their bisexual attractions and regardless of whether they act on them. For many, sexuality is fluid and attractions can change at different points in one’s life. Bisexual people are not necessarily attracted to both sexes and genders equally either. They can fall at various points on the Kinsey scale and not necessarily at the exact center.
Some examples of bi erasure and misconceptions that support this erasure include:
- Believing that bisexuality is a phase and that the bisexual person will eventually choose to be gay or straight.
- Believing that bisexuals are simply straight folks experimenting with their sexuality.
- Believing that bisexuals are actually gay, but not ready to admit it.
- Omitting a person’s bisexuality from historical reports or media stories.
- Leaving bisexuals out of discussions on LGBT rights and not giving them a voice in LGBT organizations.
- Assuming that all same-sex couples are completely gay or that all other-sex couples are completely straight.
- Assuming someone’s sexual orientation as either gay or straight based on the gender of their partner.
- Believing that bisexual people are protected by passing privilege.
- Believing that bisexual people are indecisive or confused.
- Assuming that bisexual people aren’t affected by same-sex marriage debates.
- Assuming that all bisexuals are in polyamorous or open relationships, but also assuming that some bisexuals are not.
- If you are bisexual, calling yourself gay, straight, queer or some term other than bisexual because it’s less complicated than calling yourself bi.