Bi+ Visibility Day, also sometimes referred to as ‘Celebrate Bisexuality Day’, is recognised internationally on 23 September. This year marks its 20th anniversary.
This article uses the term ‘bi+’. ‘Bi+’ can be used as an umbrella term to describe people who experience multigender sexual and/or romantic attraction (such as bisexual, pansexual, biromantic, panromantic, polysexual, etc).
This article also includes a discussion of biphobia, erasure, coming out, and mental health.
Before moving to Sydney, I wasn’t really out.
I frequently positioned myself as an “excellent LGBTQIA+ ally” and on the occasions where someone asked if I was a lesbian, I fervently denied it. Of course, there is absolutely nothing wrong with being a lesbian, I just knew it didn’t accurately describe me.
It wasn’t that I didn’t know about being bi+. Believe me, I knew (even if I didn’t have that exact language to describe myself). It’s just that I had never been in a space that actually affirmed bi+ identities before. I heard bi+ stereotypes and “jokes” frequently. You know the ones. The tired tropes about phases, being confused, and not being able to choose. Today, I am also able to realise that I was carrying a whole lot of internalised biphobia with me too.
All of these things made me terrified to come out.
I now understand that this isn’t a unique experience. Research indicates that bi+ people are less likely to be out than people who are gay or lesbian. This literature also suggests that not being out, biphobia, invisibility, and erasure are all associated with poorer mental health outcomes.
So, when I came to Sydney for exchange during my undergraduate degree, I thought it might be the perfect opportunity to finally be completely authentic and I wanted to start with going to a bi+ community event. I was convinced that because Sydney was a much larger city than my hometown, I’d be able to find something no problem.
Let me tell you, I looked all over the place and couldn’t find what I had hoped for. I didn’t want a hookup group. I didn’t want a single gender group (for lots of complicated reasons I won’t discuss here). I didn’t want a group that claimed to be LGBTQIA+ but was really just the L and the G. I wanted a space where I could get to know other bi+ people, where I could hear other people’s stories and, hopefully, start to feel a little less alone. Ultimately, I convinced myself I was being too picky and when my exchange ended, I went home having been unsuccessful at finding the bi+ community that I wanted.
As it turned out, life would bring me to Sydney a second time and on Bi+ Visibility Day last year, I launched the Sydney Bi+ Network (SBN) on Facebook. There’s a lot that happened in between my return home, coming back to Sydney, and the launch of SBN, but those are stories for another day.
Instead, the key message here is that the bi+ community does actually exist. It’s something that seems so simple, yet took me a long time to realise and find. We are a vibrant, diverse, tenacious bunch. We aren’t “half queer”. We are a whole, incredible identity and we are in all corners of the world.
Why did it take me so long to find community? When bi+ people, their contributions, challenges, and strengths are erased we are told we aren’t allowed to take up space. When straight people and people from within the LGBTQIA+ community doubt our very existence, fetishise us, or tell us we aren’t queer enough...well...it’s exhausting. We need people to have a genuine desire to understand our experiences and to listen to us.
Through connecting with my community, I have made lifelong friendships. I am able to understand concepts such as “pride” in a much richer, deeper way than ever before. So to the magnificent bi+ community, I want to say three things to you.
- You are valid. To the bi+ folks who haven’t come out: you matter. To the bi+ folks who will never come out: you matter. To the bi+ folks who have come out but don’t talk about sexual/romantic orientation: you matter. To the bi+ folks who are out and are obnoxious about it (ahem, like me): you matter. Hopefully you can understand where I am going with this. Every single one of you are valuable humans who bring so much to this world.
- Thank you for sticking it out. I know how massively difficult life can be. We are erased by straight people, we are erased by other queer folks. It can be exhausting to simply exist. I know that this is exacerbated if you are a First Nations person, a person of colour, living with a disability, a refugee or asylum seeker, are trans or gender diverse.
- No matter where you are, your journey is magnificent and I’m so proud of you for being you.
For a list of Bi+ Visibility Day events happening around the world, visit this website: http://www.bivisibilityday.com/year2019/
Written by Amber Loomis (they/them). Amber is a bi+ activist with a passion for advocacy and community building. They are the founder and president of the Sydney Bi+ Network.
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