The B Word
‘Bi-erasure’ is the reduction of bisexuality to merely a ‘phase’ or even denying its existence as a valid sexual orientation. It is an extremely harmful and increasingly prevalent ideology.
Orbital spoke to Josephine Chick, President of LGBT+ at Royal Holloway who defined Bi-erasure as “a behaviour that attempts to wipe out the experience of bisexual people for not fitting into the binaries of straight/gay”.
Now, a friendly reminder that there is nothing wrong with labelling yourself as bisexual, and then later realising that another sexual identity fits better! Sexuality is fluid and can change a little or completely as you grow as a person, much like any other aspect of a human’s identity. However, while for some people the time they identify as a bisexual may indeed be transitionary, that does not mean that bisexuality isn’t a real or valid sexual orientation.
Bi-erasure can have lasting mental repercussions, with Bisexuals often ranking among the highest rates of depression, self-harm and anxiety within the LGBTQA+ community. It is easy to see why when they face judgment or erasure at every turn.
Bisexuals are often called ‘greedy’, ‘not gay/straight enough’. The last time I checked, the definition of bisexuality didn’t involve a lack of belief on monogamy, and you certainly did not need to qualify for being straight or gay. ‘Gay, straight or lying’ is bi-phobic; reducing bisexuals to ‘confused’ or ‘liars’ is harmful. Bisexuals are one of the least represented sexualities in the media, barring asexual, On the off chance a bisexual is represented, the B word is never explicitly used and the character is eventually revealed to have been straight or gay ‘really’ all along.
Usually once a bisexual person starts a relationship, their partners gender is the determining factor on how others refer to their sexuality: a bi woman starting a relationship with another woman is immediately labelled a lesbian, not a bisexual. Likewise, if a bisexual woman were then later to get involved with a man she would become labelled as straight, her bisexuality once again erased, probably with a dismissive comment about her ‘bi/lesbian-phase’.
All in all, human sexuality is a complicated thing, which we are only just beginning to understand, and generally as a society, accept. Therefore, it is important to think about the effect dismissal can have on the lives of people around you. While people should not be defined by their sexuality, it is still a part of their identity which is being erased, and denied.
In order to speak of our society as ‘modern’, it should be imperative that we view all sexuality as a valid life choice. To denigrate and undermine any sexual choice is to misunderstand the transitory nature of sexuality and impede society-wide understanding of sexuality.
Natasha Phillips discusses the phenomenon of lying on your CV.