Advocating for the Bisexual Community: A Reading List

On September 21, Eliel Cruz tweeted, “If you’re an LGBT journalist and you don’t produce even one piece of content for #BiWeek you’re not an LGBT journalist.” Cruz’s words hit me in the chest. I am: a) a journalist who covers feminist & LGBTQ issues, and b) a journalist who interrogates her own orientation and gender identity regularly.

Bisexual Awareness Week (Sept. 21-28) and Bi Visibility Day (Sept. 23) provide solidarity and support for the bisexual community. I was embarrassed I didn’t know about these holidays until this year. Founded in 1999, Bi Week serves as a catalyst for discourse about biphobia and monosexism, bi erasure, mental and physical healthcare, public policy and more.

All week, I’ve watched my favorite websites and my Twitter feed fill with stories, advice and encouragement. Now, it’s my turn to contribute. I’ve collected some of my favorite pieces about bisexuality–personal essays, queer theory, history, and interviews.

1. “More People are Identifying as Bisexual–And That’s Great!” (Emily Zak, Bitch, September 2015)

Spoiler: This interview blew my mind. Bitch sits down with Shiri Eisner, the bisexual, genderqueer author of Bi: Notes for a Bisexual Revolution. Eisner isn’t satisfied with merely overcoming stereotypes–she wants more for her community.

2. “The White House Invited This 24-Year-Old To Come Talk About Bisexuality—Here’s Why.” (Kristina Marusic, MTV News, Sept. 2015) and “In Search of Bisexual Possibility Models.” (Camille Beredjick, Daily Dot, Sept. 2015)

Camille Beredjick (whose work I first encountered via this beautiful essay about queerness, relationships and disordered eating) maintains the blog GayWrites and works for the Gay Lesbian & Straight Education Network (GLSEN). As a proud bisexual and a representative for GLSEN, she attended a meeting at the White House this week to discuss the challenges facing the bisexual community, from immigration reform to education to healthcare.

At Daily Dot, Beredjick wrote about the importance of bisexual visibility. Although over half of the LGBTQ community in the United States identifies as bisexual, only 28%of bi adults are out to their family and/or close friends. There’s good reason for that–bisexual people face a bevy of stereotypes and are judged by the identity of their partners. This stigma takes its toll, mentally and physically. As Beredjick puts it:

There’s no rubric for bisexual adulthood. Who do you date? Do you get married? Are you a “bad bisexual” if you support lesbian- and gay-dominated organizations? Bisexual community leaders are barely mentioned in conversations about LGBT equality…Those of us who have made that leap know it’s possible, but if we don’t show kids that you can be a bi grown-up, who will?

3. “Coming Out of the Bisexual Closet.” (Louise Sloan, Salon, April 2014)

A different take on coming out: Louise Sloan writes a funny, touching essay about introducing her male-identified beau to her family. “Wouldn’t it be funny if, having spent 30 years identifying mostly as a lesbian, I ended up with the boy next door?” she writes. “But I realized that things had gotten to the point where, maybe, instead of protecting one side of myself at the expense of the other, I could start to be … me.”

4. “We’ve Always Been Here: Honoring Bisexual History, Imagining Bisexual Futures.” (Audrey White, Autostraddle, Sept. 2015)

At Autostraddle, Audrey White explores the key roles inhabited by bisexuals throughout the history of the LGBTQ movement and offers resources to learn more.

5. “My Bi Choice.” (Michelle Garcia, The Advocate, Sept. 2014)

“One of the most important things I’ve learned has been that visibility is an almighty tool.” When Michelle Garcia started working at The Advocate in her early 20s, she didn’t disclose her sexuality. After a colleague’s ignorant comment, she realized she wanted her work family to know her identity, to stand up for herself and to inspire future generations of bi, black women.

6. “Being ‘Feminine’ Can Be a Double-Edged Sword for Bisexual Men.” (Eliel Cruz, Slate, August 2015)

Eliel Cruz sports super-high heels and baseball caps–it depends on the day. But he and other bisexual men suffer for their femme appearances:“There are spaces for gay men, lesbian women, bisexual women, and trans women to express femininity. There are few, if any, arenas in which bisexual men, queer in our own right, have the space to express femininity without fear of our sexuality being nullified.”

7. “Why It’s Hard to Talk About My Bisexuality.” (Catie Disabato, BuzzFeed Books, August 2015)

“I already feel like I’m struggling to express the truth of my identity all the time, fighting to be understood, so a label I have to argue about feels right, like the form matching the content.” Each of the anecdotes Catie Disabato shares elicits a sharp pain in the chest. We witness her classmate tell her she’s going through a phase. We wince as her bewildered friend tells her she doesn’t “look gay.” Disabato rehashes these incidents with incisiveness, something beyond weariness or cynicism. “I now have the force of my convictions that only comes once that faith has been thoroughly interrogated.”

8. “Bisexualities and Binaries Revisited.” (Julia Serano, November 2012)

Does identifying as bisexual reinforce the gender binary? Julia Serano–bisexual, trans activist–says no, in this in-depth essay from her latest book, Excluded: Making Feminist and Queer Movements More Inclusive. Serano thinks “bisexual” is an apt umbrella term for people who, as she puts it, “do not limit their sexual experiences to members of a single sex.” Unfortunately, many, many people shy away from identifying as bisexual because of the word itself and/or its associated stigma. Here’s a rather lengthy excerpt I appreciated:

The prefix “bi” can mean “two,” but it can also mean “twice” (e.g., as in bimonthly). So while monosexual people limit their potential partners to members of only one sex, bisexual/BMNOPPQ folks challenge the hetero/homo binary by not limiting our attraction in this way, and are thereby open to roughly twice as many potential partners. My main point here is that the prefix “bi” has more than one meaning, and can have more than one referent. So claiming that people who use the term bisexual must be touting a rigid binary view of gender, or denying the existence of gender variant people, is as presumptuous as assuming that people who use the term “bicoastal” must be claiming that a continent can only ever have two coasts, or that they are somehow denying the existence of all interior, landlocked regions of that continent.

9. “30 Bisexual Women Discuss Their Long-Term Relationships With Men.” (Ashley C. Ford, BuzzFeed LGBT, July 2014)

I’ve read and reread this compilation of powerful stories from bi women who’ve dated and/or married men. I relate to many parts of these experiences, especially not feeling “queer enough” for the LGBTQ scene and second-guessing their sexuality. These women have had their identities policed and dismissed by their doctors, families and friends, and larger communities. There are also moments of hope. One woman, for instance, has an important discussion with her teenage son about identity; many relay the support their partners provide.