Sexuality is complicated. In our binary gender system, we think about it in terms of extremes: gay or straight. You are sexually attracted to either a man or a woman, not both. But as our knowledge of gender expands beyond our understanding of sex, the lines between these extremes get smaller.
Under the traditional “LGBT community” banner, lesbians, gays, bisexuals and transgendered individuals are included. However, this inclusion arguably ends once it is taken off the page. According to a study that was presented on Nov. 5 at the American Public Health Association’s 141st Annual Meeting & Exposition in Boston, 15 percent of people do not believe that bisexuality is a valid orientation. Their study also found that some of this prejudice came from lesbians and gays in the LGBT community.
Being gay isn’t a choice, and neither is being bisexual. Take it from the girl whose first crush was a girl, but who is also happily involved with a boyfriend as of now. Personally, I prefer to stray away from the term bisexual because it further connotes the idea that there are two – bi – genders to choose to love, when in reality, gender is not that static or simple. But regardless of my personal politics, the fact remains that part of our population doesn’t believe in the validity of another person’s love.
The national discourse on marginal sexualities is partly to blame. With the current focus on legalizing gay marriage, anyone who does not promote the normative family structure or the idea of eternal, marital love falls by the wayside in an attempt to fit the LGBT lifestyle into preexisting heterosexual contexts. This includes couples in open relationships, trans individuals, gender queers and, as this study shows, bisexuals. By excluding so many people from the conversation, our view and understanding of the community remains narrow and stagnant.
But we also have the way we talk about bisexuality to blame. Within the study, people used the words “confused” and “experimental” to describe bisexuals, which are both terms that diminish the sincerity of their relationships. But it is not about confusion or experimentation as much as it is my ability to love someone without needing the context of gender.
Katy Perry’s infamous song “I Kissed a Girl” points to yet another larger problem with the public acceptance of bisexuality: It is more about experimental fun than love, furthering the public’s inability to take multi-gendered attraction seriously. Aditionally, the mainstream porn culture cheapens this encounter, using two otherwise heterosexual girls to appeal to the male gaze rather than to further progress for unconventional sexualities. It is also because of crappy pop songs and crappy porn that expressing bisexual tendencies in males is judged even more harshly.
This is not to condemn your casual make-out with your friend. I am not the LGBT police, and I have no more right to define your sexuality than you do mine. However, with a number as high as 15 percent of the population simply disregarding and not believing in someone else’s sexuality, we have to ask where this questioning is coming from.
There is not an easy way to approach sexuality. It exists on a continuum, not a single point on a line. It is fluid, and my sexuality today will most likely be different than it was a week ago. We need to remain open to this fluidity, not only within our personal lives, but in the lives of others as well. So to that 15 percent of the population, I say: Bisexuality does exist. And people who identify as bisexual don’t need your validation to love however and whomever they choose.
This is the opinion of Chelsea Chenelle, a junior art history major from San Diego, Calif. Tweet comments to @LoyolanOpinion, or email firstname.lastname@example.org