Bias: On Stereotypes and Prejudice Regarding Sex and Being Bi
By Ivy Turinsky
It’s late. We’re on a rooftop, and everyone’s tipsy, talking, laughing. I’m perched on a ledge with a group of friends, watching cats in the street below, when my straight friend leans over. “You know,” she says, “My boyfriend is ok with me getting with you; since you’re a girl it won’t count.” There’s a Lot to unpack in that statement. I decline. A few weeks later I’m comparing stories with another one of my bi friends and we realize we’ve both been told by that friend multiple times that her and her boyfriend are attracted to us because we’re bi and are down to hookup. Emphasis on the assumptive tone. Our friend doesn’t mean anything nefarious by it we’re sure, but underlining her comments is the rampant assumption that just because we’re bi we’ll want a threesome, that just because we’re bi we’re down to get with anyone at a moment’s notice.
This assumption isn’t contained to one tipsy straight friend on a rooftop, or to the girls that match on Tinder and then can’t be bothered to send anything more than a series of unicorn emojis. It comes equally from the LGBT+ community as much as the straights. From stereotypes that bi people “just haven’t made up their mind yet,”, “are using identifying as bi as a transition sexuality,” or are being transphobic, the bias is everywhere.
When I come out to my straight best friend, age sixteen, she half-jokes, “Ok just don’t get a crush on me!” A few winters later, I text a guy I’ve been flirting with that I’m bi. “That’s hot,” he replies, “Would you be down to get with me and my ex?” A crush comments how he wouldn’t want to date a bi girl again because his last girlfriend was bi and “all she wanted was threesomes”. My friends in the lunch line joke about a guy in our class who just came out as bi, “But he’s clearly actually gay.” What I’m gleaning from these comments is that my sexuality is predatory, a commodity, incapable of monogamy, a passing fancy.
The fact is, yeah, there are bi people that cheat. There are bi people that are greedy in their personal or business affairs. There are bi people that enjoy threesomes, or hookups, or kinky sex. There are bi people that are confused about a lot of things (who doesn’t find existing confusing?!). But they aren’t this way because they’re bi, they’re this way because they’re people. People who are more than just their sexuality, and who vary in how they express themselves and interact with the world.
Various studies have shown that bisexual people comprise a slight majority in LGBT+ demographics, yet the fact of the matter is that so few people feel comfortable be- ing out and bi that we’ve been called “an invisible majority” by the San Francisco Human Rights Commission. There’s this idea that because we might end up in a different-gendered relationship we can “pass” as straight, and that because of this our sexuality is false or a choice. We’re “just saying we’re bi for attention” if we’re in a “straight relationship,” and we “were lying when we said we were bi” or we “just hadn’t realized we were gay yet” when we’re in a queer one.
The friend from the rooftop expresses shock months later when I explain that my feelings towards girls and nonbinary people are the same in terms of attraction as both of ours are towards guys. What she’d been envisioning I’m unsure. In an article for the New York Times (“The Scientific Quest to Prove Bisexuality Exists,” Denizet-Lewis), Earnie Gardner states that he “really wish[es] everyone could experience how extraordinary it is to be able to fall in love with people regardless of their gender.” And that’s just it, really. We’re not trying to trick you or lie to you by being bi. We’re not attention-seeking, transitioning, or in need of convincing. We’re not going to cheat on you because we’re bi, or run off with someone of a different gender. And, on this at least, we’re definitely not confused.