There's a lot of discrimination against Bisexuals within the LGBTI community. I have personally witnessed many of my friends that identify as gay or lesbian not wanting to date bisexuals, due to the myths surrounding their existence. They use excuses such as “I'm scared of getting HIV from bisexuals” and/or "bisexuals swing both ways because they don’t know what they want.” There are also derogatory labels floating about such as “Double adapter”, “Selfish”, “Confused”, “Dick-rider” (referring to female bisexuals) – to mention a few.
Where on the scale of human sexuality would you place yourself? I personally think that there are a great many bisexuals in the word – more than any other form of human sexuality. Let’s start by exploring the term...
What is Bisexuality?
Bisexuals are people who have the innate capacity to form enduring physical, romantic and/or emotional attractions to those of the same gender or to those of another gender. There may be an individual preference for one gender over others. Bisexuality is not synonymous with being polyamorous. Individual bisexual people may be celibate, monogamous or non-monogamous just as individual straight, lesbian or gay people can be.
Are bisexuals "fifty - fifty"?
Some may be attracted equally to both those of the same gender and those of another gender, but to a greater or lesser extent. The degree of attraction for one or the other can vary over time. Often it is the people and not their genders that are most important.
Aren't bisexuals really just gay or straight and pretending to be something they aren't?
For a very small percentage of people they may really be straight or gay and claim they are bisexual for any number of reasons. However, due to the pressure put on bisexuals to choose one or the other, many have tried identifying as gay, lesbian, or straight. Many have found that they still have strong feelings for people of male and female genders. This can be a confusing time as little information has been available on bisexuality or "coming out Bi". It can be a painful process to identify as bisexual because in the past there has been little support for people trying to assert a bisexual identity. This is changing slowly. Whether a person comes out as bisexual after previously identifying as straight, gay or lesbian, the bisexual community can offer a safe place to discuss their issues and fears. The bisexual community has for a long time offered this support to those that do go on to identify as gay men and lesbians.
How common is bisexuality?
It is probably more common than you realise. According to various surveys and studies, at least thirty percent of sexually active people admit to some form of bisexual behaviour. The older the person, the more likely they are to experience a same sex encounter and to admit to such behaviour. Societal attitudes inhibit many people from admitting behaviour which deviates from the heteronormative - this can lead to under-reporting of the number of bisexually active people in a society.
How come I don't see as many bisexuals as I see gays or lesbians?
Since there is not a stereotypical bisexual appearance, way of acting or type of clothing, bisexuals are usually assumed to be either heterosexual or homosexual. Bisexual men or women in a gay and lesbian march are assumed to be homosexual or straight supporters unless they are marching as a bisexual group with a banner. A bisexual man and woman in a relationship would appear to others as a straight couple and similarly two bisexual men together appear as a gay couple. Where there is prejudice against bisexuals, it is hard to challenge these assumptions. You can help by not presuming anyone’s sexual orientation or identity, and instead giving them the chance to define (or to not define) it themselves.
Aren't all bisexuals promiscuous or cheating on their partner?
These are common misconceptions. Bisexuals are no more or less promiscuous than any other group. Because most bisexual people have had to think deeply about their sexuality, they also may have had to seriously consider the sorts of relationships that work for them. Contrary to myth, a bisexual does not need to be involved with both a man and a woman, nor does attraction involve acting on every desire. Why should a bisexual's attraction to people be any different to those of straights or gays? Some act on them, some don't. Many bisexuals have long term monogamous relationships - others may have a greater number and range of partners. Some may cheat on or deceive their partner (as occurs in other groups), but many are faithful or honest to their partner. One thing that all the best relationships or arrangements have in common is a great commitment to honesty from the start.
Don't bisexuals spread HIV/AIDS?
Bisexual men are often scapegoated as the agents of transmission of HIV (the virus that causes AIDS) from the gay community to the heterosexual population. Lesbians are also concerned that bisexual women may pose a threat to their community because bisexual women have sex with men. However it is unsafe sexual behaviour, rather than sexual orientation, that puts people at risk of infection. Often bisexuals have more cause to think about their sexual practices than most other people. Nevertheless, bisexuals as well as straights, gays and lesbians must continue to educate themselves about safer sex practices. One guideline has become very clear: it does not matter whom you have sex with provided that you have safer sex.
How about discrimination? After all bisexuals can always pretend to be straight!
It can be just as painful for a bisexual person to hide their sexual identity as it is for any gay man or lesbian who is in the closet. "Out" bisexuals can experience similar types of discrimination as those faced by gay men and lesbians in the general community and at the same time face discrimination and prejudice directed from gay men and lesbians. Bisexual people may face whether out or not, violence and abuse in the same manner as gay men and lesbians. Legislative protection and increased education and understanding are what is needed. Bisexuals are an increasingly visible presence in a variety of political movements and organisations fighting for equal rights and opportunities and for better HIV education and support services. We all deserve respect regardless of our sexuality, gender, race, disability and so on.