#BiWeek | Breaking Down BisexualityBy Shane Stahl • September 18, 2020 • 11:02 am
Every year, we as a community come together to celebrate September 16-23 as Bisexual Awareness Week. Unfortunately, the bisexual community is often overlooked or unfairly stigmatized in terms of the effects of discrimination on LGBTQ people writ large.
In fact, bisexual people make up the largest chunk of the LGBTQ community, with 52% of all LGBTQ people identifying as bisexual. And in total, 8% of the American population identifies as bisexual.
Bisexual people are our friends, family, neighbors and coworkers. It’s important to recognize their experiences as part of the larger LGBTQ community, and those specific to being bisexual. The best way to continue fighting to protect all LGBTQ people from discrimination is to understand just how discrimination affects different segments of the population. Here, we’ve gathered some facts, figures, and firsthand accounts of what it means to be bisexual in America.
What is bisexuality?
Robyn Ochs, a bisexual educator and activist who has collected hundreds of stories of bisexual people, defines bisexuality as “The potential for attraction to people of more than one gender, not necessarily at the same time, not necessarily in the same way, and not necessarily to the same degree.”
It’s a common interpretation that the prefix “bi” means two of something, but bisexuality goes beyond simply being attracted to cisgender men and women—those assigned as male or female at birth who identify as that gender. Bisexuality encompasses attraction to cisgender, transgender, nonbinary, and genderfluid individuals; bisexual people themselves may also identify as pansexual or fluid, and/or transgender or nonbinary.
The definitions of bisexuality and pansexuality are also often conflated. One way to distinguish these two identities is as follows: Bisexual people are attracted to multiple genders and gender identities, while pansexual people are attracted to all genders and gender identities. The key difference— “multiple” does not mean “all.” Find more information and context here.
Aren’t bisexual people just gay, lesbian, or straight people who haven’t “made up their mind” yet?
This is probably the most common stigma associated with bisexual people—that they’re “confused” or just “denying the inevitable.” This leads to a problem known as bi erasure, where the existence or legitimacy of bisexual identity is constantly called into question. For example, referring to two men as a gay couple denies the possibility that one or both of the men might be bisexual. Thoughts and actions like this reduce the visibility of the bisexual community and can have a direct, negative impact on resources and support they might need. Bisexuals are a valuable part of the LGBTQ community—many are leaders, advocates and thought partners who have worked to protect all LGBTQ people from discrimination, and their identities should be validated.
There’s no way bisexual people experience as much discrimination as other queer people, right?
Any kind of discrimination against any LGBTQ person is wrong. Perhaps surprisingly to some people, bisexuals face this discrimination at higher rates than many of their non-bisexual peers. Economically, bisexuals (48%) are more likely to make under $30,000 per year than their lesbian (39%) and gay (30%) peers. In light of the current pandemic, these numbers are even more disturbing. LGBTQ people have been 30% more likely than the general population to lose their job; among bisexual people, that number more than doubles to 80%.
Bisexual people also face a harder time seeking and receiving medical care, and therefore are more prone to long-term health problems. Compared to their LGQ peers, bisexuals are more likely to smoke, to be obese, to drink excessively, and to be diagnosed with mood or anxiety disorders; additionally, they experience higher levels of domestic violence and sexual assault.
Who are some notable people from the past and present who identify as bisexual?
Bisexual people have existed throughout history, from generals and politicians to actors and writers, and encompass all races, ages, ethnicities, gender identities, and more.
Examples of prominent bisexual people include:
- Alice Walker (Pulitzer Prize-winning author/poet, The Color Purple)
- Freddie Mercury (lead singer, Queen)
- Kyrsten Sinema (first openly bisexual U.S. Senator; represents Arizona)
- Orlando Jordan (WWE/IMPACT wrestler)
- Sara Ramirez (actor, Grey’s Anatomy)
- Raúl Esparza (actor/musician, Law & Order: SVU)
Where can I read the stories of bisexual people?
At our Faces of Freedom site, you can search our collection of nearly 1,000 stories of LGBTQ people and their allies to read about the experiences of bisexual Americans. These include bisexual people like faith leader Rev. Marie Alford-Harkey of Connecticut or Gregory Ward of Arizona, who experienced on-the-job discrimination because of his bisexual identity. Their stories and so many others add even more proof to the case that we need a federal nondiscrimination bill like the Equality Act to become law and protect all LGBTQ Americans from discrimination in all areas of everyday life.
How can I help? How can I get involved?
Share these graphics to your social media accounts to help raise awareness about Bisexual Awareness Week and Celebrate Bisexuality Day.
Most importantly, sign our pledge calling for a comprehensive federal nondiscrimination bill to be passed into law, then share with friends and colleagues.