|Image courtesy of Observe The Banana. Some rights reserved,|
When someone thinks of representation in media throughout the years, they might consider what an amazing year 2014 was for representation of women and LGBT people in television and other forms of media. A great example of this is the recent hit television show of Netflix, Orange is the New Black. The show, which includes strong women, transgender inmates, and many lesbian characters, was based off of the experience of Piper Kerman in a low security prison. In real life Piper Kermen openly identifies as bisexual, yet the show’s main character Piper Chapman, is never called bisexual. In fact the word bisexual is only said once in its entire 26 episode history. When shows like this constantly perpetuate the idea that bisexuality does not exist, it raises intolerance towards bisexuals from both the straight and the gay communities. According to a 2013 PEW Research study, this has caused a negative shift in the lives of many bisexuals. Only 22% of bisexuals say that their orientation is a positive part of their life, compared to the 46% of gay men who say that their orientation is a positive part in their life.
A lot of the people in the LGBT community also question the actuality of bisexuality and even ignore the bi population. In the New York LGBT pride parade there were three grand marshals, none of which was bisexual. In addition to this, during bisexuality celebration week, the LGBT task force (then named Gay and Lesbian Task Force) published a paper titled, “Bye Bye Bi, Hello Queer,”(Cruz).The paper belittled people who identify as bisexual for being transphobic and queerphobic. This completely erased pansexuality and other such identities that fall underneath the bisexual umbrella. These actions from within the queer community keeps the bisexual population from being able to reach out to others even in the LGBT Community. According to the same 2013 survey, only 28% of bisexual people are out to someone in their life. This is a small percentage in comparison to the amount of gay men and lesbian women that are out to important people in their lives. Seventy-seven percent of gay men are out to others and seventy-one percent of lesbians are out.
Many argue; however, that bisexuality is not a legitimate orientation because of the lack of culture and community that surrounds the bi community. In response to the article published by the New York Times, Mark Stern published a rebuttal that questioned if bisexuality was a reality if there was no “bi-culture”(Stern). I have found this to be quite false. The American Institute of Bisexuality is a large part of who is fighting for our community and culture to be seen. The problem with how our culture is being perceived is that we are just trying to be perceived at all. According to the San Francisco Human Rights Commission, the bisexual community is the “invisible majority,”(Lewis). While many may fail to see the culture and community around bisexuality, I would argue that our community exists, we are just too busy fighting to be heard at all to bother trying to make it flamboyant and extreme. Multiple celebrities who are outspoken bisexual activists and expand our community into the light include Anna Paquin, Carrie Brownstein, and David Bowie. No matter how many seem to help the cause, though, there are still those that can not see our culture and accept the legitimacy of bisexuality as an orientation and identity, including Mike Huckabee, who perpetuates the idea that anyone who identifies as bisexual is untrustworthy, and Brendon Urie, who insists that his bisexuality was simply experimentation, even though he “finds [himself] attracted to dudes all the time.”
Although there has been amazing work done by the AIB and the countless bisexual activists around the world, there is still a large amount of bisexual erasure that is done. This erasure is harmful to many and can cause a lot of damage. These damages, in some cases, are irreversible and can affect a person for their entire life or even end it.
Conclusion, Updated March, 4 2015
The process of writing this blog has been rigorous and stressful, but also very thoughtful and meaningful to me. I went into this experience already having a very clear opinion on where I stood on the topic, and researching it only furthered my opinion on the topic. I was very pleasantly surprised by the thorough discussion that was sparked through this article and the comments that I received. I think that throughout the time I researched this topic it began gaining more headway in the media, but there is still a long way to go. I was glad I got to talk to so many different people about the topic and gained many new viewpoints on it. There were also many new sources that I was linked to or found on my own in responding to the comments. One amazing leap forward for the bi population was the election of the first openly bisexual governor in Oregon state. A development like this is so important to the community and I am so glad that I was able to spark a conversation about it while this event occurred.This article helped me open up and learn even more about the bi community. It has helped make me so much more grateful for the allies that are in my life and the community I am a part of. I do not think I will ever look at the LGBT world the same. It also makes me so grateful that a conversation such as the one conducted in the comments section can take place even on social media. I am glad I had to chance to write this article and hear from everyone who gave me feedback.