Commentary

Finding the Identifier: Bisexual Awareness

I recall one sleepover in eighth grade with two of my closest female friends. We sat in our pajamas, giggling as quietly as we could. As the conversation topic shifted from school to boys and teenage romance in general, one of my friends suddenly uttered four words that would forever change my understanding of my identity:
“Can you two kiss?”
An innocent question, especially for a young adolescent curious about the nature of love, who was tentatively dipping her toes into the vast, deep ocean that is human sexuality. In that moment, every clock in the world seemed to have been smashed by an unseen force, and my eyes darted away nervously to avoid a thought slowing forming in my head, one that I was not yet ready to understand. I was saved by my friends’ pealing laughter; they, unlike myself, had not taken the question to heart.
“Maybe next time,” my other friend joked back, and with that, the conversation turned to more pressing matters, like what movie to watch and whether or not to hunt for a tub of ice cream downstairs. I smiled and carried on, doing my best to ignore the relief, and in some sense disappointment, spreading within me.

At the time, my school did not have the educational resources to explain what I had felt that night, and the combination of hesitation and homework prevented me from trying to figure it out on my own. We did have one club, though it lacked student participation and enthusiasm: the Gay Straight Alliance, or GSA.

I had no place in this club, because, as I was beginning to realize, I was neither gay nor straight. Yet, in some ways, I was both. I tried to push myself to one side of the spectrum or the other. Maybe I was gay and only liked boys out of societal pressure. Or maybe I was straight and just “going through a phase,” as I’d heard some say.

For two years, I passed myself off as straight. I could like boys, date boys and still partake in conversations with my straight, female friends. No one would need to know, and I could live my life as a “normal” girl. My other half would still be there, but nobody would see her.
But she is tired of being invisible.

Bisexual invisibility, otherwise known as bisexual erasure, is a social phenomenon of ignoring or denying the existence of bisexuality, and, by extension, the discrimination that bisexual people often face. Frequently taken less seriously than those who identify as gay or lesbian, bisexuals find themselves tagged as experimental or confused, promiscuous or predatory.

Bisexual individuals also tend to be marginalized by gay and straight people alike, alienated in the dating world and abused in many relationships. Even those who accept and support homosexuality may view bisexuality as unnatural, or as the temporary passage between homosexuality and heterosexuality. Bisexual people are often victims of targeted violence, including hate crimes and correctional rape.

I cannot emphasize enough how fortunate I feel to be in a community in which conversations regarding gender, sexuality and sexual orientation occur regularly, both inside and outside of the classroom, where GSA stands for Gender and Sexuality Alliance rather than Gay Straight Alliance and where both faculty and students are comfortable being open about their sexuality.

I feel encouraged by “BOSS Magazine,” the recently established feminist and intersectionality publication on campus, and I know that although some may scoff at and mock the effort, initiatives such as this one will move the community in the right direction.

Last week, September 20 to 26, was Bisexuality Awareness Week. While the week passed without much recognition, I do hope that in the future the school will take advantage of the opportunity to promote bisexual awareness in a world where bisexuality is often forgotten in the gap between gay and straight.

Whether through forums or panels or keynote speeches, students need to understand that bisexuality is an undeniable component of human sexuality. I’m stepping forward today and shedding my invisibility cloak. Being bisexual is a part of my identity that I cannot erase. I don’t want to hide anymore.

Oct 1, 2015