Since 1999, people have been observing Celebrate Bisexuality Day, also known as Bisexual Visibility Day.

This year, many members of the bisexual community have set aside the week between 21 – 27 September as Bisexual Visibility Week. The purpose of Bisexual Visibility Week is to draw attention to the concerns of the bisexual community.

The mainstream gay rights movement, while relatively successful, has focussed mainly on cisgender, white, gay men. Trans people, people of colour, asexual and multisexual people have been excluded in many spaces.

So, while many people are beginning to challenge homophobia, less people notice and understand biphobia and bisexuality.

Often, bisexuality is thought not to be a 'real' sexual orientation. People who come out as bisexual are often categorised as heterosexual or homosexual.

This comes from monosexism, which centres on the belief that people can only truly be attracted to one gender.

What is bisexuality?

People assume that bisexuality means you’re attracted to both women and men. This is because 'bi-' means 'two', so they assume that it means 'attracted to both genders'.

Although most bisexual people are attracted to women and men, this definition is not 100% correct.

Bisexuality was best defined by Robyn Ochs, who said, "Bisexuals are people who acknowledge in themselves the potential to be attracted – romantically and/or sexually – to people of more than one sex and/or gender, not necessarily at the same time, not necessarily in the same way, and not necessarily to the same degree."

Bisexual means attracted to more than one gender, not attracted to two genders. The distinction is important to make because people can identify outside of the gender binary.

This is to say that they might not identify as either a woman or a man. We can be attracted to non-binary people too!

Bisexual also doesn’t mean that you are attracted to all genders equally – bisexual people might feel more attracted to one gender than to others.

'Bisexual' is a broad term. People who fall under the bisexual umbrella might have more specific identity labels, such as fluid, multisexual, non-monosexual, pansexual, polysexual, pomosexual, and omnisexual. People might use both ‘bisexual’ and a more specific label, or just one of the two.

For example, I identify broadly as ‘queer’ or ‘bisexual’, and more specifically as pansexual.

Myths about Bisexuality

There are plenty of myths about bisexuality that both heterosexual and homosexual people perpetuate. Most of these centre on the idea that bisexuality isn’t a real sexuality. For this reason, many people think that bisexual people are just confused or greedy.

I’ve often been told that bisexual people just need to ‘make up their mind’ (we have made up our minds. We’re bisexual!) or that we should ‘just choose one gender’ (we can’t choose! That’s why we say bisexual!)

Biphobia – that is, antagonism towards bisexual people – affects people differently based on their gender. Bisexual women are often sexualised. Usually, when I come out to a straight man, he’ll immediately make some remark about a threesome.

My sexuality doesn’t exist to appease the heterosexual male gaze. Bisexual men, on the other hand, are often erased completely. People often think that bisexual men are actually gay men who are too afraid to 'come out'.

How monosexism affects bisexual people

Being told that your sexuality is made up, invalid or illegitimate is extremely hurtful.  

Bisexual people, more than heterosexual or homosexual people, are statistically more likely to live in poverty, more likely to suffer from suicidality, more likely to experience sexual violence, less represented in the media, and more likely to be bullied online, and more likely to have mental and physical health issues.

We’re less likely to be accepted by our friends and family when we come out.

Monosexism means that many bisexual people are erased in the gay rights movement. I use the term 'gay rights movement' because it focuses on gay people while excluding trans, multisexual or asexual people.

Consider the rhetoric of the movement: often the entire LGBTIQA community is conflated with homosexuality, even though homosexual people only make up a small proportion of the community.

Same-gender marriage is often called 'gay marriage', despite the fact that some of us who might want to marry someone of the same gender aren’t actually gay.

This translates into some serious issues for the bisexual community. As this post points out,  " In years 2008 and 2009, out of over 200 million dollars given by US foundations to LGBT organisations, not a single dollar went towards bisexual-specific organizations or projects."

Additionally, most STI and HIV prevention programmes that are aimed at the LGBTIQA community ignore the needs of people who have sex with more than one gender.

Bisexuality is often misunderstood, erased and misrepresented. Bisexual Visibility Week promises to provide some much-needed representation to those of us who are often ignored by both heterosexual and homosexual communities.

You can contribute to Bisexual Visibility Week by participating in the social media campaign and offline events.

Women24 on Twitter and like us on Facebook.