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Bio: Delia Marissa Stanway is an English teacher with a wide interest in all issues concerning the LGBT+ community. She is concerned with issues of labelling, identity, stereotyping, femme visibility and the issue of biphobia within the LGBT+ community.
Title: Bisexuals: Equally Cursed and Blessed
When I meet people, I usually use the label lesbian or gay woman to describe my sexuality. If people question me further, I will usually tell them that I am about a 7/10 on the spectrum, 1 being straight and 10 being gay.
I do have the capacity, to varying degrees, to experience attraction to both sexes, so I am bisexual. Yet, I often label myself as lesbian. Why do I do this?
Lying between the numbers at either end of the scale is extremely common, but often people feel they have to label themselves as one or the other, or that to label themselves as bisexual means that their sexuality must lie neatly in the middle of the binary.
Sexuality is a spectrum and people are complicated. Labels do not allow for all the shades of sexuality along the spectrum. I'm not arguing against labels entirely as they can be useful, but we have to be aware that they are not one size fits all and people cannot be neatly labelled and categorized. People are people.
Unfortunately, bisexual people often receive stigma from both heterosexual and homosexual people. It is a sad state of affairs when people are undermined by others within the LGBT community because of their sexual identity. This community has undergone discrimination and hardship and we have had to fight for the rights we have today. Surely we should know better?
Too often labels are used against us in a negative way. People are often labeled as confused, promiscuous or attention seeking, rather than just recognizing and accepting that we just love whoever we happen to fall in love with, male or female. Bisexuality breaks boundaries and yet it feels like a constant battle against a society that is trying to reinstate them.
For bisexual men, the problem is even greater. Women are seen as more sexually fluid and it is seen as more acceptable for women to be more sexually fluid than men. Some men may accept that a girlfriend is bisexual and has been sexually active with women, but women tend to be less accepting of bisexual males who have been sexually active with men. This double standard needs to stop.
To many people we are invisible as bisexuals. People assume us to be straight or sometimes lesbian or gay. We are the invisible letter in the LGBT flag. People often see us as greedy or perverse, but far more often they don't see us at all and this does untold damage. This is reflected in recent studies that have found that bisexual people have a higher incidence of mental health issues than other members from the LGBT community. It's not surprising is it? Having your identity invalidated and eroded does damage to your relationship with yourself and your mental health, especially when it's from a community that you expect will support you.
Bisexuals are getting hit from both sides as they are being dealt twice the discrimination, twice the shame and twice the pain. Unfortunately this manifests itself in a variety of ways. While bisexual people typically experience the same discrimination as other lesbian and gay people when coming out to others, there is a notable lack of resources to support bisexual people. With the lack of understanding that is contributing to these issues, it can be literally deadly to individuals who are suffering with mental health problems as a result of the misunderstanding, discrimination and the lack of recognition for their identity that they experience on a daily basis.
In order to deal with this and make a positive change we need more education and more support. Figures from the Office of National Statistics show that more young people are experiencing sexuality in a way that is more fluid and less gender orientated and are labeling themselves as bisexual rather than gay or lesbian. Despite this, there are not nearly as many resources and support for bisexual people as there are for lesbian and gay people and this is something that needs to change if, as a country, we are going to claim to support our young people as they grow up.
Some lesbian women have a problem with bisexual women being in lesbian spaces as they feel that bisexual women have different experiences to them and, while this is understandable, it is an issue. We feel ousted by all and that there are no spaces for us. We are expected to fit into one or other category. We are given the message, loud and clear, that declaring to be both must mean we are a traitor to one of them. Yes we can love both men and women. We appreciate both of these genders for their differences and we may love men for very different reasons than we love women. We refuse to limit ourselves so please don't impose those limits onto us.
Bisexual visibility is important. What is long overdue is for society as a whole, both gay and straight, to say I see you, I accept you.
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