Myths and Misconceptions about Bisexuality (or, “What not to say to your bisexual acquaintances”): Part 2
This is the second part of two; the first half was posted yesterday.
5. “You’re just doing it/saying that for attention.”
This is something of a sub-myth to 2 and 3, but it gets its own spot because it is rampant (applied to women; I’ve never heard it applied to men, but please comment if you have, as I am curious) and extremely offensive. Everything said in 2-3 applies, but there’s the added bonus of straight-up biphobia to go along with it.
This myth is one of the reasons I sometimes still cringe at admitting I’m bi in queer spaces, because it contributes strongly to the stigma centered on the idea that a bisexual partner will leave or cheat on you for a different-gendered partner (or worse, was just screwing around to begin with). This stigma will come up again in reference to later myths because it’s particularly relevant to the queer community, and because it has multiple misconceptions that feed it – but let me just say this now: A bisexual partner might well leave you for someone of a different gender (or the same one!), just as a homosexual partner might leave you for someone of the same gender. You’re getting dumped and it sucks either way, but it wasn’t somehow inevitable in the first case because your partner was bi.
What is practically inevitable, however, is that when this myth is brought up or the statement taken offense to, someone will point out that some women flirt and/or make out with other women, usually in bars, to attract or otherwise gratify men – as if it justifies automatic dismissal of all women who claim to be bi. It doesn’t. Some people do all manner of disingenuous, manipulative, and/or otherwise shitty things in order to get what they want, and of course no one is entitled to someone else’s time, physical space, or interest. A certain degree of trust is necessary to establish in any kind of relationship, whether it’s for a night, a year, or forever, and your potential partner of any gender and orientation is going to have to earn it – but just as you probably wouldn’t say this to someone you just met who states that she is a lesbian, don’t say it to someone who identifies as bi.
6. “So can you even be in a monogamous relationship? Don’t you need to have male and female partners concurrently?”
It doesn’t work that way. Some of us are polyamorous and some of us are monogamous, but neither has anything to do with our bisexuality.
One assumption involved here is pretty obviously ridiculous, if you take it out and look at it: the assumption that one must have partners that represent the full spectrum of one’s attraction in order to be satisfied. If you’re attracted to brunettes, blondes, and redheads, will you be forever unsatisfied if you pick just one person to marry? I hope not. Let’s split hairs (pun so totally intended) a bit further here – you could just as easily say you’re attracted to both platinum blondes and sunny blondes, and poof! New categories!
There’s a more insidious assumption tied to that one, though – that gender is a fundamentally unique quality when determining attraction (i.e., it gets its own category, unlike my silly hair color example above). Maybe it is, to many people, but it certainly doesn’t have to be. The term pansexuality implies a de-emphasized, though not necessarily insignificant role for gender with regard to determining attraction, and that lack of emphasis is sometimes reported by those who identify as bisexual.
This myth is another strong contributor to the idea that bisexuals will leave or cheat on their same-sex partners because they would rather have a different-sex partner.
7. “Bisexuals are promiscuous.”
This is conceptually very similar to number 6, but I place it in its own category because it very directly feeds the biphobic stereotype that bisexuals spread STDs. And if you’re scoffing right now because that stereotype is tired and stupid, here’s how pervasive it is: I recently filled out a health questionnaire at my (secular, public) university’s clinic, and on a list of “STD risk factors,” there was a checkbox for “had sexual intercourse with a bisexual.” I shit you not. Amusingly, there was not a checkbox for “I am bisexual,” but it did ask about sexual orientation on an earlier part of the questionnaire.
Just like everyone else, bisexuals can be anything from promiscuous to completely celibate, and just like everyone else, bisexuals can have STDs, or not. Let’s please just all practice safe sex and not be jerks, mmkay?
(Aaaand here’s another crappy contributor to the assumption that bisexuals will cheat because they’re bi, this time from both ends of the Kinsey spectrum! #6 also shows up with mixed-sex potential couples, but more rarely.)
8. “You can choose to only engage in mixed-sex relationships, so why don’t you?”
There’s less ‘myth’ to this one and more just annoying assumptions. There are a lot of answers to the question from a lot of different people, ranging from “because lightning struck and I hallucinated a choir of angels singing when I met my same-sex partner” to “because I am not equally attracted to all genders” to “fuck you – you can ‘choose’ to take the path of least resistance and stay in the closet, so why don’t you?”
There can be some choice involved that can still lead to a fulfilling life – as Greta Christina wrote a while back, you can sometimes load the dice, as it were, in favor of one gender or another. But the other parts of your life can just as easily load the dice for you – for instance, I’ve been a gamer since I was a kid, and I assure you, that greatly influenced the gender composition of my dating pool. (Nowadays, much less so. But in high school and early undergrad? Oh yeah.) But what if I’d grown up in a liberal area instead of in South Carolina? What if I’d coincidentally ended up having a good queer friend who pulled me into their wider circle of friends? Yeah, sure – as an adult, I can choose to march in the Pride parade or not; I can choose to go to Magic: The Gathering pre-release tournaments or not…
… or lightning could strike in a very mixed (though still mostly straight) crowd of people, and I could hallucinate a choir of angels (actually, it was more like electronica, and I wasn’t hallucinating), and have it not matter one bit how my lucky d10 was weighted.
A few rambling thoughts in conclusion:
People of all sexual orientations come in all shapes, sizes, and levels of trustworthy. You’d think it would be easier for those of us in some sort of minority to grok that, but when all’s said and done, we’re still human, and there’s still that tendency to stereotype.
Out bisexuals have a somewhat, though not completely different set of difficulties associated with our sexuality than gays and lesbians, centered around all the baggage that follows that fence-sitting metaphor I brought up at the beginning of Part 1. I really think that this baggage is very closely-linked to the concept of the gender binary – if gender is widely treated as a continuum, sexuality almost has to be. So let’s get on that, yeah? More seriously, that’s one of many points of connection across queer sub-categories, and it’s more than worth it to remember that paradigm shifts focused on one flavor of queer can affect and greatly improve the lives of others. Sometimes it may seem like the only thing some of us queer groups have in common is being considered sexually and/or gender-deviant by mainstream society, but any changes in thinking that stretch the boundaries of people’s experience and understanding ultimately works for all of us… and I think that’s pretty cool.
If you have anything you’d like to add to this list or experiences to share, please do so in the comments!