Why does Bi Visibility Day Matter?

Why does Bi Visibility Day Matter?

By: Taylor B Mulholland
Published on:
  • Advocacy
  • LGBT+

I don’t remember when I first heard the term bisexual exactly, early teens maybe. While I could use labels such as pansexual or queer, bisexual was my first label that felt right and I’ve kept going back to it since. I came out at sixteen, fairly unscathed. However, if you identify as anything other than straight you’ll know the coming out process does not end there. For the rest of my life, I have to come out to new friends, work colleagues and possible romantic partners. It’s a never-ending cycle.

This is why events like Bi Visibility Month and Day (September 23rd) matter so much. This year marks the 25th year of Bi Visibility Day. Every year, it’s grown more and more. There are more than 250 events to mark the occasion this year. Jen Yockney MBE, who organises international listings on the event’s website, notes: ‘We are more talked about and more heard as bi people than ever before; yet also the challenges and particular needs of bisexuals have been thrown into sharper relief over that time…research increasingly shows bi people have greater mental and physical health challenges than gay or straight people. We’re more likely to experience domestic violence from our partners, too. And bi people have lower earnings than their straight and gay co-workers.’ 

Like most teenagers, I looked to television, movies and books to see myself. In terms of visibility, the LGBTQ+ community as a whole has always been good at finding any glimpse of queerness and taking it, jarring it up and holding it up for all the world to see; ‘Hey! Yeah you! Look at this glance these two characters gave each other! That is artisanal queer right here’. It’s ridiculous but when you’re grasping at crumbs, it’s what you have to do to feel seen.

Bisexuals are teased constantly by the media. You see a character go through their queer awakening, a friend, a classmate gives a vibe that feels different. The googly eyes start, if they’re a teenager they’ll probably have a scene where they google ‘am I gay’ (a classic of the genre) and then there’s the kiss, which gives them the ‘oh definitely not straight’ moment. After [insert your third act romance trope here] is resolved, the new couple makes their way into the world holding hands, sun shining, birds tweeting and a casual rainbow in the background. And then there’s the interrogation; every bisexual at home is holding their breath. 

‘So what’s your sexuality then? You gay now or what?’ 

Hearts thumping, cushions/pearls clutched.

‘I dunno, I’m not really ready to label myself yet.’

That noise that you hear is bisexuals the world over yelling expletives or rolling their eyes collectively. Now I fully respect someone’s choice to not label themselves. But what I object to is that every single character with bisexual potential feels this way. It’s sometimes defined by writers or producers outside of the show or movie but that is too little too late. We need characters who are bi and proud, who find comfort in that label and community like we are trying to do in real life.

Thankfully we are moving in the right direction for the next generation of young women and people of marginalised genders. The musical dramedy Crazy Ex Girlfriend had three bisexual characters, not to mention it gave us this bisexual anthem. Desiree Akhavan gave us the movie Appropriate Behavior and the TV show The Bisexual, both wonderful in depth representations. In comedies like Brooklyn 99 and Hacks, we see explicitly bisexual women. We see them come out several times, sometimes it’s a casual mention and sometimes it’s a sit-down dinner. In Becky Albertalli’s YA novel Imogen, Obviously we see an ally have their bisexual awakening and find their way into the queer community properly. In season two of Heartstopper, Nick states several times he’s bisexual, usually due to others presuming because of his relationship with someone of the same sex makes him gay. This a presumption that completely erases an entire community and yet another reason why bi visibility matters.

The bi+ community is growing all the time, France and Germany even had Bi Pride marches as part of Bi Visibility Day last year. There’s even a Bi Pride in the UK! Here in Scotland, there is the Scottish Bi+ Network which runs monthly meetings across the country and online. The Equality Network’s Roadmap to Bisexual Inclusion is a great resource for service providers – but I’d recommend reading it if you’re looking to understand the specific issues we face as a community. 

If you’re an ally there are tiny things you can do for your bi+ people in your life. Using gender-neutral language is useful for a number of reasons but specifically, it helps to indicate a space is safe for bisexual people to mention partners of any gender. Also, don’t make assumptions based on the gender of someone’s current partner, we haven’t picked a team, our bisexuality doesn’t just switch off! 

This year for my birthday, two friends in very different social circles gave me the same pin. A pile of books in the bisexual colours. One of these friends is part of the LGBT community and the other isn’t, and neither are bisexual. And that little bundle of pink, purple and blue made me extraordinarily happy. With this acknowledgement of my identity, I felt seen, and that’s what Bi Visibility Day is all about.

Taylor B. Mulholland writer from the Scottish Borders., smiling at the camera.

Taylor B. Mulholland

Taylor is a writer from the Scottish Borders. In 2020, she was longlisted for the Penguin WriteNow programme for underrepresented writers. Her work has been published in HypeQ, Included, Tangled Web and Dread Central. She is currently working on her debut novel.

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