Sexuality and romanticism have always, historically, been quite fluid. In the West, it was largely the influence of Christianity that saw a crackdown on same gender relationships (which we then exported to many other corners of the world through imperialism). Now, we’re supposed to be in relatively liberal times, and yet while same gender sexual and romantic behaviour are common, still many people are reluctant to identify specifically as bi.
Part of this problem is undoubtedly the media. Bi people are almost never mentioned, and if we are then we’re often presented as amoral caricatures. It’s easy to see why that would put people off identifying as bi. Schools too don’t normalise what it means to be bi. Sex education lessons are so woeful they can risk pathologising certain identities, if they even get talked about at all. The result of bi identities being outside of what is perceived as commonplace/everyday means that ‘bi’ becomes a loaded label. It comes with endless stereotypes, stigma and, for some, shame. It can even feel like a toxic political label given how society has tried (and failed) to brand the identity. People who aren’t bi who try to make bi seem political aren’t doing it to associate the community with progress or activism, but to paint us as a community of division and anger. It’s an attempt to co-opt who we are. Being bi is political in a world that doesn’t want bi people, but the narrative around that is often determined by biphobes who seek to make our identities seem toxic.
“Schools too don’t normalise what it means to be bi”
There is a clear need to make bi identities feel tangible, and as though anyone at all use the term bi if they feel it matches with their identity – it’s about so much more than the stereotypes. This also means making other labels feel accessible too such as pan. By raising awareness of all identities then we create a society where people can feel able to consider all different labels and what works for them. Some people complain we have too many labels but the truth is, we’ve barely even scratched the surface linguistically in being able to define our sexualities and romantic orientations.
We also have to ask if we ourselves are doing enough. Is the bi community too white? Should we be doing more to outreach to other communities? Are we working hard enough to be accessible for disabled people? Are our concerns reflective of what the wider community is facing, or do we risk being elitist and shutting people out?
It’s worrying to read statistics which show that bi people are less likely to be out. Being out can determine so much, from whether we get even slightly reflective healthcare to the impact on self-esteem and loneliness. There are a lot of reasons why people don’t identify as bi which is why we must push for better representation, but that too includes having introspective conversations about how we really can make the community welcoming for all bi people.