So one of the reasons I’ve been really quiet on here in the last few months is that I’ve been being a dating columnist for SheWired, a queer women’s website based in LA. A lot of it was pretty interesting stuff despite the clickbaity format, and I liked the job. We eventually fell out over gender-neutral pronouns (I liked them, the site didn’t) and then this article for Bi Visibility Day. They were generally very nice to me despite the ideological differences, so no vigilantism please, but here is the article that proved the final straw.
10 things bi girls wish lesbians knew about
In honour of bi visibility week, here are some things this bi girl really wishes lesbians knew about being bi and attracted to women. You could probably condense it into ‘We exist! We’re not making up our attraction to you! Please be nice to us!’, but that’s not nearly enough detail…
- Bi invisibility sucks
It’s not that much fun having to justify, explain or belie your sexuality even in queer spaces. No, I didn’t ‘used to be gay’, or straight, I’m bi. If my partner’s a woman, I’m still bi. (Or #stillbi, as the net would have it). If I’m dating a dude, I’m still bi. And yet in both cases I have to fight to get my sexuality recognised and validated, facing similar struggles for recognition and acceptance that the queer community as a whole has faced for decades. Correcting people’s assumptions – first that you’re either gay or straight, and then that you don’t fulfil their negative stereotypes of bisexuals – is emotionally draining and pretty stressful, and the underlying erasure and identity struggles can take a serious toll on bi people’s mental health (see point 10).
- We don’t need a boyfriend and a girlfriend
Being bi doesn’t mean we need one member of every gender we find attractive to be satisfied (although if you’re poly and everyone is consenting, go right ahead!) It just means that we’re attracted to members of our gender and other genders – that’s women, men and often non-binary folk too. Lots of us feel like we just fall for *people*, regardless of their gender. If we’re monogamous with you, then we’re not going to run off after somebody else just because they’re a different gender. If we’re monogamous and in love, we are monogamous and in love, and our bisexuality has fuck all to do with it. Speaking of which…
- No, we won’t leave you ‘for a man’.
We may at some stage leave you if the relationship isn’t working, but no, we are really not just with you until a dude comes along. Like, really really not. Numerically speaking, many more men are interested in dating women than women are interested in dating women, and given the frequent hostility of specifically lesbian communities to us it’s hardly surprising that our next partner after you might be a dude. This doesn’t in any way invalidate our real and genuine attraction to you. In my queer circles, a not-insubstantial proportion of bi girls in long-term relationships with women are with bi women. I wish I could pretend that wasn’t because you guys often treat us like dirt or invalidate our attraction to women, but I can’t. Also, it seems like there’s a whole mess of internalised misogyny around the assumption that bi girls would rather be with men or will leave lesbians for men. Yes, there are fewer cultural barriers toward bi girls’ relationships with men, but the lesbian community itself puts up some fairly hefty barriers towards bi girls’ relationships with women, and that just makes it worse for everyone. We’re here! We smell nice! We think you’re hot! Please believe us!
- We get shit from straight and gay communities
Seriously. Lots of lesbian-identified girls shame us, disrespect us, refuse to take us seriously or straight up reject our queer credentials. Straight people ignore, deny or mock our sexualities, or try and get us to fuck them while their boyfriends/girlfriends watch. Biphobia is rife even in queer spaces – writing for SheWired, I’ve been asked repeatedly to lie about the gender of my partners, use female pronouns even when discussing genderqueer people, and ignore my bi identity. In straight spaces, people assume that mentioning ex-girlfriends makes me a ‘freak’, a ‘slut’, or worthy of mockery. Everyone assumes my partner is male, and the number of times I’ve been asked ‘so you used to be a lesbian?’ isn’t even funny. There’s nowhere bi girls fit in except with other bi people or welcoming queer communities, which are amazing to find but if you can’t it’s pretty isolating. Even worse if you’re bi and trans. I have an amazing, accepting queer community that’s 100% down with trans identities and gender fluidity and bisexuality and all the rest of it, but lots of people aren’t that lucky, and this can have serious consequences. The permanent sense of rejection and being an outsider does not do great things for mental health and wellbeing.
- We’re not all promiscuous
Some of us are, and fair play to them – I am down with anyone being promiscuous regardless of their sexuality as long as they’re consensual, emotionally responsible and sexually safe. But many, many bi girls are just as monogamous as the next person, where the next person is a swan or a vole who mates for life. We get slut shaming all the time, including from lesbians, and we really don’t deserve it. Bisexuality and promiscuity are ENTIRELY SEPARATE axes of being, and just because someone’s on one has no bearing on where they are on the other.
- We are marching right there beside you for rights and so on
Bi women have been there since Stonewall (and long before) lobbing for rights and recognition. Right now, we’re fighting the same fights you are – to resist discrimination, to be treated with respect, to not be objectified by the male gaze of popular culture, to have our relationships and partners recognised equally, to educate people about queer relationships, to resist pervasive religious and cultural queer-shaming, and to attain recognition, validation and acceptance in our cultural spaces. We are on the same side. It hurts and is profoundly alienating that so many monosexuals look down on us.
- We get the same shit you do
We get a lot of the shitty stuff that lesbians get. Our relationships and sex lives are relentlessly objectified and treated as a turn-on for straight men, and our sexuality is frequently assumed to be a ‘phase’ or an invalid life choice. We’re written off as freaks or weirdos or doing it for attention in a largely heteronormative world, with the added bonus that people of all genders try and convince us to fuck them and their partners on a regular basis.
- ‘Passing as straight’ sucks
So one of the things we bi girls get repeatedly hit with is that if we’re with a dude we’re ‘passing as straight’ and therefore have ‘straight privilege’. Unfortunately this is grade A bollocks. Firstly, ‘passing as straight’ when *you are not in fact straight* equals ‘having your sexual identity continually undermined, attacked, ignored and invalidated.’ Secondly, we don’t have straight privilege, because (once again!) we’re not straight. The whole concept of straight privilege is about having the world set up to suit your sexuality and sexual experiences, social expectations moulded for your sexuality, systems set up to validate you, etc etc etc. And that’s the very opposite of what happens to bi girls in ‘passing as straight’ relationships, where your identity is continually invalidated and you have to continually assert and justify your queerness (often to hostility from gay and straight communities, see above.) Representation of bisexuality in culture is minimal, frequently disrespectful and often heavily sexualised. As a bi person dating a bi person, not only are both your sexualities erased but a whole bunch of social expectations are projected onto you in ways that are particularly problematic
- We are much more vulnerable to violence and abuse
It’s depressing, but as this Advocate report points out, bi women are three times more likely to be raped than lesbians. We also have higher rates of sexual assault, domestic violence, and stalking compared to both straight and lesbian women. This isn’t all. Not only do we have much higher incidences of abuse and violence, but we have the least social support, the highest rates of depression and post-traumatic stress disorder after rape, and the most negative experiences when seeking help from formal support resources like rape crisis centres, therapists, police, and doctors. We face hostility even when reporting and seeking to recover from trauma. It’s even worse for trans bi women, bi women of colour, disabled bi women and any other group marginalised by other characteristics as well as bisexuality.
- We have higher incidences of depression and other mental health difficulties
As well as our higher rates of violence and abuse, bi women are also more likely to suffer from depression, anxiety, self-harm and suicide. According to the 2012 Bisexuality Report, bi women are 5.9 times more likely to have been suicidal than heterosexual people. Rates of mental health issues amongst bis were found to be significantly higher than amongst lesbians, gay men or straight people: 36% of bisexual conference attendees had either single or multiple mental or physical health impairments that interfered with their day-to-day life, while a quarter had a professional mental health diagnosis, including depression (16%), anxiety (8%) and self-harm (8%).
In case it’s not obvious, you can help with this. Be nice to us. Accept us. Stop cracking jokes about our sluttiness or acting like boy bits are somehow contagious (not least because some trans women are lesbian and that’s a really shitty thing to do to them). The hostility and erasure bi women face from queer communities as well as the het mainstream contributes to both our vulnerability to abuse and violence and our substantial chances of experiencing depression, anxiety and suicide ideation. So y’know, maybe a bit more acceptance of bi women could change the world for the better in a serious and meaningful way.
Nb. I would like to thank Maddie Lynn in particular for her help with this article, and also Jo, Jen, Sam, Andromeda, Catherine, Psyche, Catriona, Stacy, Shreena and Eve.