Jayne B Shea

Bisexual, Polyam, and LGBT Friendly Apparel, Products, and Stories

bisexual erasure

Acceptance through Visibility: the Vital Importance of Identifying as Bisexual

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One of the most popular bisexual t-shirts I’ve seen (not one of mine) features the words “Nobody knows I’m bisexual.” The design, and its popularity, speak to a crucial issue for the bisexual community: lack of visibility. I’ve written about it before, and with Pride 2017 coming up I wanted to draw attention to it again. When people are able to identity as bisexual, both to themselves and to others, it has a significant impact on their own emotional health and on the community as a whole.

When we distance ourselves from our sexual identity, we’re hiding a valuable piece of ourselves and that takes a toll on us. In one of the most powerful TED talks I’ve seen, Ash Beckham likens it to holding a grenade. Self-erasure is a disease in the bi community, metaphorically, and I am 100% confident that it contributes to the real physical and mental health issues that are sadly so common to people of our sexuality. Add in the bisexual erasure we face from people of other sexualities, and the results are catastrophic. So what can you do to help fix this?

The first step is owning your own sexuality. Yes, bisexuality is “normal.” No, you don’t have to pick a side. No, it’s not just a phase. (Although for some people it might be, as sexuality can be fluid over time.) No, you don’t have to have had sexual experiences with any gender to know you’re bisexual! It helps to learn about bisexuality and do some self-exploration to determine how you identify. Are you bisexual/heteroromantic? Or biromantic/heterosexual? Or maybe biromantic/asexual? The more you know, the better communication you can have with your sexual and romantic partners. (Some of this will come over time as you have more sexual and romantic partners.) Overall, the more you understand accept your own identity, the more others can understand it and join you in celebrating it.

The next hurdle is being open about your bisexual identity with others. The tricky thing with bisexuality is that it can be easy for others to automatically, incorrectly identify you as gay or straight. I personally fight this by finding ways to reveal my identity. Sometimes I come straight out and tell people I’m bisexual (yes, sometimes it just comes up in conversation.) Other times I find ways to mention an ex and use female pronouns when talking about her. And of course I can always wear one of my shirts – they are always conversation starters and some are more subtle than others.

I choose my battles. I don’t reveal my identity to people who I know might have issues with it. Maybe someday I will, but not yet. But here’s the cool thing: when people figure out or find out that I’m bisexual, an amazing thing often happens. They reveal their own sexual identity to me, or share some experiences they have had. Straight people often ask the best questions about my bisexuality and polyamory and how my relationships work. When I learn that friends and acquaintances are bisexual, I always come out to them in return. It helps to know that you are not alone, and that you have a community to rely on for support.

Some people aren’t able to be out as bisexual, and that’s ok. Others don’t like the label bisexual. That’s fine too. What I’m asking is this: if you’re able, embrace your bisexual identity.

Don’t do it for LGTQA folks. Don’t do it for straight folks. Do it for the young bi kid who has never known a bisexual person. Do it to benefit the bisexual community as a whole. And most importantly, do it for yourself and embrace your bisexual identity.

The meta subtitle to this Keke Palmer article made me biFurious!

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Back in December, People published an article about Keke Palmer and her statements on her sexuality related to a recently released music video. When the article went out on social media, this was the meta subtitle:

"the Grease: Live star opens up about the bi-curious buzz surrounding her new music video"

eyeroll

First of all, I take issue with the automatic label "bi-curious." As in "Oh she's not bisexual, she's just bi-curious." This word, whether it's used by others to define someone, or by the person himself or herself, is dripping with bisexual erasure.

Then there's this:

"The video was to represent the young woman today – it's not the traditional woman anymore – and not the specifics of 'Am I gay? Am I straight? Am I bi?'" the actress-singer, 22, says in the new issue of PEOPLE. "I'm making the rules for myself, and I don't have to be stuck down to one label."

Her statement, like many others by the new crop of starlets refusing to define their sexual identities, made my proud bisexual self cringe. Of course I support her in however she wants to represent herself. I certainly don't want to label anyone who doesn't want to be labeled. But can we PLEASE have more bisexual role models defining and owning their identities?!? Pretty please with rainbow sprinkles?

Yes, I believe that sexuality is a spectrum and words like bisexual, lesbian and gay are often too rigid of a definition for many people, but how can we fight for rights for something that we refuse to name?


http://www.people.com/article/keke-palmer-sexuality-dont-label-bisexual-music-video

Lessons Learned in my Bisexual & Polyamorous Relationships

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  1. Overshare! Overcommunication is better than a breakup. (Lack of communication and internalized bisexual erasure caused the worst breakup of my life.)
  2. Say "I love you." Being afraid to be the first person to say it in your triad/group/relationship may mean that you say it too late or don't get to say it at all.
  3. Check your assumptions. If you find yourself internally defining how a person might be feeling or why they might be acting a certain way, ask them instead!
  4. Share your love! If at all possible, be out about your sexuality and your relationships with the people you love and who love you the most. (This video helped me a lot!) 
  5. If you're bisexual and/or polyamorous, be out and proud if you can so that we can raise awareness of ourselves as a community and fight harmful attitudes and stereotypes.
  6. Being bi/poly is still hard, not everyone is going to be out without consequences, but the more we fight the easier it will get

Internalized Bisexual Erasure

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Bisexual erasure becomes especially harmful when a bisexual person has internalized it. I'm going to get personal for a second and talk about the hardest breakup I've ever been through. After dating for several months, I was falling head over heels in love with a gorgeous young woman. Our male partner was as well. The three of us were great together! Then I went on a trip with my parents and started feeling all kinds of guilt that I wasn't fully out to them about my sexuality and polyamorous lifestyle. (More on my coming out experience later.) I was so happy with our girlfriend and sad that I couldn't share that happiness with my folks. Unfortunately, those feelings made me pull away from her a bit when I got home. I was also scared of being the first person in our triad to say "I love you" because I didn't want to scare her away.

Here comes the erasure part. We broke up. It was terrible. Then later we got to talking and it turned out she was in love too, but thought I was only committed to our relationship for my male partner's sake. Despite the fact that both she and I and the three of us had been having mind-blowing sex for six months, she thought I was just in it for him. This is bisexual erasure at its worst in a polyamorous relationship: the nagging idea that someone might be just a straight girl in it to please her man. This is something straight guys perpetuate every time they approach bisexual and lesbian women, hoping for a threesome. This is also perpetuated by anyone who tells a person "Oh hun, you're not bi, it's just a phase you're going through." (Yes, I personally heard this growing up from both queer and straight friends.) This is why I fight so hard for bisexual visibility and polyamory acceptance - so that we as a community can affect social change and erase these harmful internalized attitudes.