Bisexual: A Sometimes Elusive Identity
© Illustration by INJECTION - Alicia Lupieri
Keeping in touch with our gayness, regardless of who we’re with.
A simple Google search reveals what most of us already knew – as a bisexual person, I have a level of privilege compared to other members of the LGBTQ+ community. Despite being open about my bisexuality – though not always active in it – for ten years, until now, I had managed to avoid learning virtually anything about bisexual historic figures. Of course, being part of a marginalised group doesn’t mean we have an obligation to understand its history, but my ignorance is likely an indication that my sexuality hasn’t impacted my life in the way it does for many gay and lesbian people.
Billie Holiday, Malcolm X, Marlene Dietrich, John Lennon, Nina Simone.
Perhaps being bisexual made it easier to hide in a straight world, though, for those active in their sexuality, the risks of being caught were exactly the same. Maybe our dissatisfaction and suffering were lesser, surely they must have been. Either way, I’m not scared to admit to my own privilege.
So, my knowledge of bisexuals gone by is pitiful, yet I’m fascinated by contemporary bisexual celebrities like Gen Z Bi+ Queen Arlo Parks. Twenty-year-old Arlo Parks, from Hammersmith, seems to represent a newer, more confident version of bisexuality. One that has progressed miles beyond the accusations of “greed” that took so many of us years to shake off. Anaïs Marinho, more commonly known by her stage name, Arlo Parks, is butch and sings about her love affairs with other women. She’s proud of her gayness, despite not being fully gay.
It feels like more and more people are beginning to speak openly about the fact that they’re bisexual. And it’s important that they do – a study by Stonewall in 2020 revealed bisexuals to be the least likely individuals in the LGBTQ+ community to be out in education, work, within faith communities, families and friendship groups. The same study revealed that bi-phobia and bi-erasure negatively impact the health and wellbeing of bisexual people.
Even amongst those of us that are open and learning to love being bisexual, discontent can be a very real issue. When in same-sex relationships, we’re assumed to be fully gay. In straight relationships, it’s hard not to feel completely stripped of any queer identity. Having a fluid experience of sexuality and gender can be fun – many bisexual women admit to dressing more femme or butch depending on who they’re trying to impress – but when bisexuality arguably doesn’t have its own strong identity and signifiers, it’s no wonder we feel a little lost in it sometimes.
For some Bi+ people, threesomes and open relationships help them stay connected to their sexual identities. On the long road to accepting my own bisexuality, I’ve discovered a few other options, which, for me, have been life-changing. The first is being part of a community of other LGBTQ+ people. Having other Bi+ friends is particularly important – people to discuss your experiences with who can help you feel seen. The second is dating other bisexual people. This, for some of us, can be a gamechanger when it comes to “straight” relationships. What would we even call a “straight” relationship between two bisexual people? “Queer hetero”? I’m proposing it as a term. And finally, remember that bisexuality is a valid part of the LGBTQ+ community and one that is celebrated around the world on the 23rd of September every year. Engage with Bi Visibility Day and Pride. You’re not alone – we see you.