Bi-Erasure Should Be Combatted in Queer Spaces

by Anna Swanson.

In the heteronormative society we live in, the reality is that queer and LGBT+ folks have few spaces to call their own. Queer spaces are necessary facilitators of authentic gender and sexuality expression, meeting other queer or LGBT+ folks, and generally strengthening queer communities. For example, Flixx and The Max are two popular gay bars in Omaha. Recurring events such as Queer Nite and Revel parties also provide opportunities for queer folks to avoid the heteronormative bar scene.
Queer and LGBT+ spaces create a safe and supportive environment for people to talk about their experiences openly. Unfortunately, many of these existing spaces are virtually exclusive to gay and lesbian communities. There are few, if any, existing spaces beyond social media for bisexual and other non- monosexual individuals to connect.
Monosexuality refers to sexualities which are attracted to only one gender, including hetero- and homosexuality. Non-monosexuality is a deviation from the norm and makes some folks – straight and queer alike – uncomfortable. This exclusivity within existing spaces is a factor and manifestation of bi-erasure. The Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD) defines bi-erasure as “a pervasive problem in which the existence or legitimacy of bisexuality is questioned or denied outright.”
Bi-erasure can be expressed through microaggressions: everyday verbal and behavioral interactions that invalidate, isolate, and belittle marginalized groups. Some microaggressions imply that bisexual folks are “confused” or “will pick a side eventually”. Other comments express the assumption that all bisexuals have had romantic and/or sexual relationships with men, women, and/or folks of other genders. This implies that bisexual people who have only been with partners of one gender are not really bisexual. Many folks also assume that bisexuality is linked with promiscuity. These stereotypes of bisexual individuals are baseless and toxic.
The idolization of “pure” homosexuality is an example of the gatekeeping in LGBT+ culture. Gatekeeping calls for proof, in this case of one’s sexuality, before an individual is allowed to participate in the community. For example, some characters on The L-Word idolize women who are “gold-star” lesbians. The term “gold-star” refers to a homosexual individual who has never slept with a person of another gender. In gay or lesbian spaces, a bisexual person might feel rejected if they have previously been in heterosexual relationships. Rejection can lead to questioning of their own sexuality, an intrinsic drive to prove that their bisexuality is legitimate, or otherwise cause unnecessary pain to the individual.
There should be no pressure on individuals to prove the validity of their sexuality to anyone. Bi-erasure and biphobia are detrimental to the bisexual and queer communities at large. The toxic beliefs these issues perpetuate can be internalized, leading to lower rates of happiness and higher rates of depression, suicide attempts, and alcohol abuse as documented by the Bisexual Resource Center. Combating bi-erasure and other forms of gatekeeping should be a priority when considering the emotional and physical safety of all queer folks in queer spaces.

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