The 23rd of September is International Bi Visibility Day, or to give it its official title, Celebrate Bisexuality Day. It’s not widely known, let alone celebrated, by the greater LGBTIQA+ community. But every year there are more events being organised by bisexual+ (bisexual, pansexual, polysexual, queer and multi-gender attracted) people around the world.
In Australia there are Pride marches in every state and territory, Pride AFL matches, the Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras Parade and more, but very limited acknowledgement of Bi Visibility Day.
Despite a general lack of public awareness, there are more and more events being organised by the bisexual+ community each year. This year, I’m organising a picnic in Melbourne with some fellow bi+ advocates to help celebrate.
Does anyone care?
I don’t watch The Bachelor but, much like the accelerating effects of climate change, it’s a man-made phenomenon that’s hard to avoid. GIF heavy recaps are scattered over my social media feeds, shiny and problematic as non-biodegradable glitter.
But when a contestant revealed she’d had relationships with women before, media outlets were quick to agree that “it’s 2018, who cares?” (link here)
Viewers and pundits alike were unhappy with the way the show had hyped the moment, building it up to something that was, apparently, not an issue in this day and age. They were also unhappy with the lengths Brooke took to distance herself from being a lesbian, or bisexual, focusing on how she prefers men because she wanted kids.
Some argued that it was bad representation for queer women, some were angry at the way the moment had been sensationalised, but for the most part everyone agreed that in 2018, nobody really cared about Brooke’s big Bi secret.
It was a textbook example of what it’s like to come out as a bisexual+ person, or at least, what it’s been like for me since I started to come out in 2006.
What’s so hard about being Bi+ anyway?
In August, Triple J announced results from their ‘What’s Up In Your World’ survey of 11,000 men and women between the ages of 18 and 29. They found that 15% of women who took part identified as bisexual and 3% as pansexual, compared to 2% identifying as lesbians or gay. For men, 5% identified as Bi, 5% as gay, and 2% as pansexual or other.
Shockingly, only 48% of bi women had come out, compared to 86% of lesbian and gay women. For Bi men it was even lower, with only 40% out, compared to 86% of gay men.
More recently, a survey by PwC Australia and Pride in Diversity called “Where are all the women?” found only 38% of bi women were out in the workplace, compared to 78% of gay and lesbian women.
If no one caring about bisexuality anymore means we’re accepted, what’s keeping so many of us in the closet?
“The opposite of love is not hate, it's indifference. The opposite of art is not ugliness, it's indifference. The opposite of faith is not heresy, it's indifference. And the opposite of life is not death, it's indifference.”― Elie Wiesel
It’s rare that I hear people speaking about bisexuality, or bisexual people in a positive way, if we’re talked about at all. Even bisexual+ people get caught up focusing on the negatives, myself included. As an advocate, I spend a lot of time defining and explaining the issues facing bisexual+ people to the rest of the LGBTIQA+ community.
I talk about the Australian research that shows bisexual+ people are more anxious, more depressed, more likely to be the victims of family violence and sexual assault. I talk about lateral violence between gay men and bi+ men, between lesbians and bi+ women, between non-binary bi+ people and the multitudes of single-gender attracted people who insist that bisexuality+ enforces the gender binary.
What I’ve discovered in these conversations is that, when it comes to bisexual+ people, people confuse acceptance with indifference.
Why haven't I heard of Bi+ Visibility Day before?
Even though it was established in 1999, I only found out about Bi Visibility Day last year. None of the people I spoke to at Joy FM had ever heard of it, and the station had never published anything about it, nor had any of the other LGBTI organisations I knew of.
While mainstream LGBTIQA+ services are starting to show more awareness about Bi Visibility Day, almost every event being organised September 23rd, from panels to picnics and pub crawls, has been organised by unfunded Bi+ organisations, volunteers and community groups in more than 25 countries around the world. (link)
There’s over a quarter of a million bisexual people in Melbourne alone. But how many of them of are out? How many of them are involved in community? How many of them feel their identity is accepted and celebrated by their communities, their families, their friends?
Last year, I stayed at home on September 23rd. This year, I’m organising a community picnic in Melbourne, officially presented by Melbourne Bisexual Network and Bisexual Alliance Victoria.
What’s wrong with Pride, IDAHOBIT, etc?
LGBTIQA+ celebrations aren’t always friendly for bisexual+ people.
At the 2015 Midsumma Pride March in Melbourne, marshals had to be called in to escort the bisexual group for the rest of the march after members of the crowd booed and shouted slurs and abuse.
Until 2000, the rules for joining Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras included a stipulation that made any applications who identified as "bisexual" had to provide additional reasons to justify their membership application before they could be accepted. (link)
Bi+ Visibility Day is a chance for us to be celebrated, to feel acknowledged and welcomed, and to be part of a community that affirms our experiences, understands our perspectives, and accepts our differences. It’s a chance to say the word bisexual and know our identity is understood without the need for lengthy explanations, defenses and justifications.
We want to be seen, for our lives and our loves to be visible and valued and respected. We have Bi+ Visibility Day to remind each other, and everyone else, that we exist, and that we aren’t alone.
We have a day because bisexual doesn’t mean half gay and half straight, it’s a whole identity that’s separate and valid and worth celebrating in its own right.
So what happens now?
If you have friends, family or significant others who are bisexual, then this is your chance to find out more about them. There are so many resources available online, as well as organisations that can point you in the right direction. Ask questions, and listen to the answers.
Don’t call us gay or straight. Don’t forget us when you’re talking about LGBTIQA+ issues, or assume that we only experience half of what a gay or lesbian person does. To keep moving towards a world that celebrates bisexual+ people every day, we need our communities to care a lot more about us.
Don’t assume what someone’s sexuality is just because you know the gender of their partner, or partners. That kind of thinking erases our existence, and puts a lot of pressure on bisexual+ people to come out over and over again, which can be exhausting, stressful and tedious. You can be in a room full of bisexual people and never know it.
If you have a partner/s who is bisexual+, celebrate that and don’t let people erase their sexuality.
And finally, find out what’s happening near you on Sunday the 23rd. I’ll be in the park, celebrating with my community and once you’ve met them, you’ll want to celebrate them too.
Written by Ruby Susan Mountford
Ruby Susan Mountford is a freelance writer, public speaker and radio host, based in Narrm (Melbourne). As well as producing and co-hosting Triple Bi-Pass on JoyFM, a weekly radio show and podcast, they are currently serving as President of the Melbourne Bisexual Network.
Check out some of our awesome Bisexual t-shirt ranges here.
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