‘Discrimination From Both Sides’: Why We Need More Bisexual Visibility


Bisexual pride flag

Bisexual Visibility Day was celebrated over the weekend, and an advocate from Victoria has encouraged Queensland bisexuals to set up a dedicated group to raise visibility.

On September 23 every year since 1999, Bi Visibility Day has celebrated the B in LGBTIQ, fight bi erasure and encourage the broader community to recognise and celebrate bisexuality.

James Dominguez, the vice-president of the Victoria-based group Bisexual Alliance, said awareness is needed because bi people are plagued by stigma and negative stereotypes.

“Bisexuals and pansexuals, regardless of the name they use to identify, are a very big slab of the population,” Dominguez told radio station 4ZZZ host Eliot Rifkin.

“Several different studies have shown that of the entire LGBTIQ community bisexuals and pansexuals make up well over half.

“In Australia, that’s at least 5% of the entire population. That’s at least 1 million Australians, a substantial number, but at the same time, there’s so little representation.”

Dominguez said it was a myth that bisexuality was “50/50, right in the middle of the spectrum.”

“The reality is, it’s very variable. If you find that you do have romantic or sexual feelings toward people of different genders, they might not be of the same intensity, or the same types of feelings,” he said.

“Even your average heterosexual, who’s never been attracted to anyone of the same gender, would be hard pressed to answer, ‘What is it that makes you attracted to that person and not that person?’ It’s the same for bisexuals.

“It can change over time. People’s situations change and their emotional needs change. They just know what they want, not necessarily why.”

Biphobia

Dominguez said the discrimination and social rejection faced by bisexuals came from “both sides,” the straight community and the gay community. As a result, they faced poorer mental health outcomes.

“There are people who realise they’re bisexual, they find it in themselves and say, ‘This is me.’ They go out and look for a community, only to face biphobia and rejection from the community they find,” he said.

“We put a group together to walk in Melbourne’s pride march. As we walked, people were shouting at us to ‘Get off the fence,’ and ‘Make up your minds.’ They were saying ‘There’s no such thing as a bisexual.'”

He said bisexual people were still plagued by negative stereotypes and assumptions from both the straight and gay people.

“There are assumptions… that bisexuals are incapable of being monogamous or they’re incapable of not cheating on their partners,” he said.

“In the gay community, bisexuals are accused of ‘not coming fully’, they’re told they ‘haven’t made up their minds’. I’ve known I’m bisexual for 20 years. If it was a phase, it would have ended by now.”

Dominguez said singers Janelle Monae, Kesha, Green Day frontman Billy Joe Armstrong and actor Alan Cumming were among the celebrities who had helped raise awareness by sharing their experiences as bisexuals.

Bi visibility was such a challenge, Dominguez said, because a lot of the time “it’s simply easier for bisexuals to not correct people.”

“It’s easier to walk down the street, holding your opposite-sex partner’s hand and people will say ‘There is a heterosexual, walking down the street,'” he said.

“You can walk down the street holding the hand of a person of a visibly similar sex to yourself, and people will say ‘There is a gay person, or a lesbian.’

“It’s very hard to look bisexual. The reason we need Bi Visibility Day is it’s just so hard to be visible. Unless you’re wearing a t-shirt declaring it, it’s hard to signal to people any other way.”

No group in Queensland

Dominguez said the Bisexual Alliance was one of two bisexual advocacy groups based in Victoria, but he knew of no similar group in Queensland.

“We set ourselves us as a peak body, for advocacy and representation, so if bisexuality ever came up in the news, local media would have somebody to talk to,” he said.

He encouraged bisexuals in Queensland to form a local group, and said his group could lend their support. Get in touch via the Bisexual Alliance’s website here.

To listen to the full interview, visit the 4ZZZ website here.

(Photo by Peter Salanki/Flickr)