Unfortunately, bi-erasure is a thing. Bi-erasure awareness-erasure is also a thing, apparently. Now, what exactly does bi-erasure mean though? In essence, it means that bisexuals are often denied their sexual as well as romantic identity for various, rather opaque reasons.
Some myths about bisexuals include that they are greedy, they just can’t “pick a side”, they’re only experimenting or that they do not even exist in the first place. Plus these myths appear to be perpetuated by countless people, regardless of their sexuality.
But where does this bi-phobia come from?
Those of you who frequent tumblr or other internet spaces with a high SJW (social justice warrior) density will know that “problematic” is the word used to describe counterproductive, phobic or ignorant acts and thoughts nowadays.
When it comes to bi-erasure, the stereotypical straight drunk girls at the club usually turn out to be the #1 problematic scapegoat. Heterosexual women who share suggestive kisses or engage in similar interactions in order to excite or even impress a nearby male are what many non-bisexuals often think bisexuals to be. However, being bi-curious is not the same as solidly identifying as bisexual and this is what really grinds the B in LGBTQ+’s gears.
Another problematic culprit for bi-erasure is the lack of diversity in pop culture. Just like most members of the LGBTQ+ community, bisexuals are highly underrepresented in movies, books or on television. Often a character will show apparent signs of bisexuality, only to be labelled gay or lesbian in order to simplify the background story for the audience.
Even self-proclaimed allies of the LGBTQ+ community can be problematic. Phrases like “Everyone is bisexual!” or “Anyone is capable of loving everyone – love is love!” obviously mean well and come from a wonderful, supportive place, however, generalizing is exactly what perpetuates the notion that there is no diversity of sexuality at all. Most gay, straight or lesbian individuals will be happy to argue that they are pretty certain of their sexual and romantic preferences and that these are in fact very real.
Where is bi-erasure most common?
Bi-erasure can be observed anywhere and everywhere – on TV, in books, on the big screen. Sadly, most of all it happens in real life. Once a (bisexual) woman is in a relationship with another woman, she is automatically labelled a lesbian. However, should that same woman fall in love with a man, she is 100% straight again – according to society, that is.
The same goes for men. Two dating males are immediately categorized as gay, while at least one of them could just as well be bisexual. If a bisexual man enters a relationship with a woman however, he will straight away – pardon the pun – be perceived as heterosexual.
Extremely passionate bi-activists even go so far as to argue that calling a relationship between a bisexual man and a heterosexual woman – or vice versa- a “heterosexual relationship” is problematic as well. The main thought behind this notion is the following: A heterosexual relationship is believed to solely exist between two heterosexual individuals of the opposite sex. Therefore, a bisexual and a heterosexual would not qualify as a heterosexual relationship anymore. Here, different terminology is used: “going stealth”. Going stealth is casually used to refer to anyone who is living a lifestyle which –purposely or non-purposely- hides part of their identity. For example, a bisexual woman who is exclusively dating a male and not making her bisexuality publicly known would be going stealth. In another context, a trans-woman who prefers not to mention her past before transitioning would also be going stealth – and it is her every right to do so.
But back to bi-erasure.
In his incredibly inspiring TED Talk “Bi the way, we exist”, Viet Vu talks about bi-erasure and his own personal story. Vu discusses how he has been coping with prejudice and the common misconceptions about bisexuals. For Vu, the motto seems to be: Bi-erasure? More like Bye, Erasure!
Watch his empowering and educational talk right here, right now: