Bisexual is not a word we hear very often. When we do hear the four syllable word muttered through the teeth, there is a negative connotation that floats out with it. It’s not a word that has gained the respect and admiration that the words “gay” and “lesbian” have. For those that freely speak the word surrounded by love and understanding, there is a bit of resentment latched on. Resentment for the G and L in LGBTQ who have seemingly forgotten about the remaining letters that make up our queer community. We don’t often think about bisexuals and transgender people in our discussion of equality overall, which should sadden us all.
What we do know about the bisexual community is that it exists, and that it’s complex.
The bisexual community is growing and it’s not stopping, one potential benefit of a larger civil rights struggle that has aimed to protect the right to marry and be covered by hate crimes legislation. Advocate reported in 2015 that 16 percent of American adults “say that they fall somewhere in between” being heterosexual and homosexual, and even 12 percent of those Americans who publicly identify as heterosexual “have had a sexual experience with someone of the same sex.” Young people are even farther apart from this data, with 31 percent of Americans under 30 saying they are not 100 percent heterosexual.
You may have read the statistical information in the last paragraph and thought, “Well, Joseph, hold on. You can have sexual relationships with people of multiple genders and still not be bisexual.” I agree, and that’s the sticky situation social commentators like myself and researchers find ourselves in. As sexuality becomes more fluid within our society, and as some choose to hold on to their identity while engaging in sexual and romantic relationships that might not traditionally match their sexuality, trying to separate people who may have sexual partners of different genders from people who identify as bisexual is difficult. I get it. However you choose to slice and interpret that data, bisexuality is not a fad like those jerks in school used to say.
Whether social conservatives like it or not, and whether we as community organizers plan a space for them at the table or not, the bisexual community is growing and becoming more and more a recognizable face in the American story.
Data shows us that while bisexual people tend to have different life experiences than gays, lesbians, and trans folks, they still face many of the same life prejudices and social penalties. For instance, Pew Research reported that 20 percent of bisexuals say their sexual identity is extremely or very important to their overall identity, and that “relatively few bisexuals report that they have experienced discrimination because of their sexual orientation.” Yet, Pew also reported bisexuals still affirm their sexuality and first come out at roughly the same age as gays and lesbians do — between 17 and 20.
If you’re not someone who enjoys statistics or overviews, read this next sentence and hopefully you’ll get the jist of this article. The bisexual community is growing and is continuing to make its own place under the queer banner.
“i am the line. on both sides there are songs in my name. -bi” -Nayyirah Waheed