I often quote the study completed by the Centers for Disease control in the early 90s whose conclusions included the line, “Americans would rather admit to being heroin addicts than being bisexual.” So I am hardly the first person to notice that bisexual visibility is fraught. As one friend said, “My orientation is bisexual, but my temperament is monogamous, then I fell in love with a man, and there’s just no natural moment to mention to your future in-laws, ‘oh, by the way, I’m bisexual.'” Later, when we were both members of the Seattle Lesbian & Gay Chorus, she said the chorus finally gave her a way bring it up with many people as she would try to sell tickets to the concerts. “No, you don’t have to be gay or lesbian to sing in the group, we’ve had a few straight members. But I’m not one of them.”
Most of the bi people I know (or I should say, most of the people I happen to know are bisexual) have wound up in long-term opposite-sex relationships. Just as a matter of statistics, there are more straight people, so the number of potential partners who happen to be opposite sex is much larger than the number who are same-sex. Some bi people, like my husband, end up in long-term relationships with same-sex partners. That same CDC study I mentioned earlier found that about one-third of people who self-identify as gay are actually bisexual, but keep quiet about it.
Because society—even folks who think of themselves as enlightened—assumes that people will settle down as part of a couple, when you do get into a long term relationship, colleagues and acquaintances assume they can infer your orientation. If you wind up with an opposite-sex partner and they are aware of any of your previous same-sex relationships, they assume it was an experimental phase. If you wind up with a same-sex partner and they are aware of any of your opposite-sex relationships, they assume you were in denial.
And gay people like me who actually did try to convince ourselves that maybe we weren’t really gay but actually bi don’t help your cause. Because there was a time when I described myself as bi, and because many gay people do that as part of their own coming out process, a lot of people assume that’s what everyone who describes themselves as bi is doing. For which I apologize.
I do know that the only way to decrease the stigma of being bisexual is to be out. Just as the only thing that has made people warm to the notion of gay and lesbian rights was for more and more of us to be out to our families, friends, neighbors, and colleagues, that’s what it’s going to take for bisexuals. Yes, it’s scary. But being open and honest is very liberating.
So, come out, come out, wherever you are!