With today being Bi Visibility Day, Klara Piechocki-Brown, Senior Digital Content Officer at Brunel University London, explains bisexuality and busts myths...
My first experience of biphobia was in the playground aged 9. Amy* and I really liked each other, which at that age meant that we liked to bring each other presents, torment each other and play-fight. I wanted her attention.
It was the 90s, the golden age of boy bands, and I told Amy that I thought Stephen Gately was cute. She pushed me over, hard, and told me I was stupid because he was gay. I realised that liking boys and girls might not be good.
I came out to my parents as bisexual at 14. They told they didn’t mind if I was gay, but I had to choose which I was. When I found the gay community I was told the same. Pick a side. Choose a team. I identified as a lesbian for many years, though I knew in the back of my mind I was still bisexual. Life was good until I unexpectedly developed feelings for a man and had to come out backwards as bisexual. Gay friends felt it was a betrayal and even straight friends were disappointed. It was such a mess that I decided that I’d never hide again.
But I missed belonging to the gay community that had been my home for years. I was no longer a known quantity, and the rejection I experienced was painful. I wasn’t queer enough for the gay community, but I wasn’t straight enough for the straight community. Women were worried that I’d leave them for a man, and straight men were often too interested.
Hide no more
Biphobia is as real as bisexuality, and is prevalent in both the straight and gay communities. It can be tempting, and sometimes necessary, for bisexual individuals to hide in either community, but that requires a squashing of ourselves into identities that simply don’t fit.
Bi Visibility Day, celebrated on 23 September every year, is important as it’s a day where we can remind the world that although you can’t see us, we’re real and we’re here. Today matters because no one should have to hide who they are to conform to a group. Bisexual people are often defined by the gender of their current partner, rendering them invisible unless they assert their identity.
There’s a lot of pressure from both the straight and gay communities to conform to one side or another, but there is nothing as painful as trying and failing to fit in.
I used to be a committee member and bisexual representative for a large Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Trans (LGBT) choir in Brighton, and a distressing amount of people came up to me to tell me in confidence that they were actually bisexual. Despite the sheer number of us, I was one of only two ‘out’ bisexuals.
Thankfully I don’t have to hide here at Brunel University London, which I’ve recently joined as a permanent member of staff.
I was initially attracted to Brunel because of their commitment to diversity and equality. Among my colleagues it’s clear that we’re all proud of our diverse staff and student body.
During my first weeks at Brunel I joined our LGBT+ Staff Network, where I quickly felt accepted. I attended London Pride this year and marched alongside both colleagues and students, many of whom are bisexual or pansexual. I felt intensely proud as I watched students of all identities – including gay, bisexual, pansexual, transgender and non-binary – marching with confidence together.
This week we’re flying the Bi Pride flag here at the entrance to our campus – a prominent message for the university and for our local community.
Statistically, many bisexual people end up with partners of the opposite gender. This is because the dating pool of straight versus gay people in most people’s day-to-day life is significantly larger. Just because this happens doesn’t mean that someone is any less bisexual. Bisexual people with an opposite-gender partner may also choose to present as straight to avoid homophobia and for their own safety. They’re still bisexual.
I use the label ‘bisexual’ because I have the capacity to be attracted to and fall in love with people of all genders, but others may prefer to use the more recently accepted labels ‘pansexual’, ‘polysexual’, ‘queer’ or ‘omnisexual’ – if they choose to use labels at all. ‘Bisexual’ used to be defined as ‘being attracted to both your own gender and the opposite gender,’ but was recently updated to mean ‘being attracted to both your own gender, as well as people of other genders’.
All variations of bisexuality, pansexuality, polysexuality, queerness and omnisexuality are valid. Just because someone has never dated someone of the same gender before doesn’t mean they’re any less bisexual. If you’re straight, but have never dated anyone of the same gender, how do you know you’re straight? Because you know in your heart, skin and bones. You just know.
Bisexual people can date, break up, marry, or choose to be celibate for religious or personal reasons, just like anyone else. They don’t disappear once they settle down with someone of one gender. Some bisexual people may be polyamorous, which means they feel capable of falling in love with more than one person at a time and may maintain multiple relationships, but straight and gay people can also be equally monogamous or polyamorous. Despite the myth that bisexual people are incapable of monogamy.
Lastly, I want to say to all the bisexual, pansexual, polysexual, queer and omnisexual people reading this – you are valid. You are queer enough and you are straight enough. If you’re not out, you’re still valid. If you’ve never told anyone, you’re still valid. If you’re polyamorous, you’re still valid. If you’ve never dated someone of the same gender, you’re still valid. If you’re celibate, you’re still valid.
The world has a tendency to put us in boxes, but no one can define you but you. Be as loud and proud as feels right for you today, because even if I can’t see you, I know you’re there.
*Name changed for privacy
For further information about Brunel’s LGBT+ Staff Network, contact Dr Mike Thomas.
Press Office, Media Relations
+44 (0)1895 266867 email@example.com