The number of individuals who identify as being on the LGBT spectrum is higher now than ever before. A 2016 Gallup poll showed that over ten million Americans identify as LGBT, about 1.75 million more than in 2012. Other recent studies indicate that somewhere between two and five percent of Americans identify as bisexual. Despite representing approximately two percent of the American population, there are still entirely too many myths and legends surrounding bisexuality.
While I haven’t been out to the world long, I have been out to those close to me for a number of years. From so-called “friends” asking me truly ignorant and borderline insulting questions to others presuming my sexuality means I’m “easy”, I’ve had to field a lot of stupid comments. These are just seven of the many, many things bisexual individuals are tired of hearing.
1) Are You Sure You’re Really Bisexual/Have You Even Dated A Girl/When’s The Last Time You Slept With One?
“Are you sure…” is a pretty bad way to start off any question, unless you’re double checking it’s okay to take the last slice of bacon. When it comes to sexuality, however, this question could also be phrased as “I know you said you’re bisexual, but for whatever reason I don’t really believe you”. A question like this puts a person in the very bizarre position of defending their sexuality to someone who is clearly looking for some sort of tangible proof. Apparently, the phrase “I am bisexual” isn’t enough, and needs to be backed up with a thesis or other form of documented evidence, preferably with footnotes.
It’s an irksome question to face, especially for those who have been in the closet for a while and may not have a wide breadth of sexual experience. This type of thinking quickly leads to bi-erasure in society. The thing is, bisexuality isn’t a skill or a special license– it’ s not something you need to actively practice or you lose it.
Even more frustrating is the fact that your heterosexual friends have likely never had to answer this question. I mean, can you imagine? “Jeez, Bob, it’s been a while since you and Nancy broke up – are you sure you’re not gay now?”
2) What Turned You Bi/When Did You Decide To Be Bi?
My biggest regret in life isn’t missing that Metric show 10 years ago like I tell everyone; it’s not responding to this question by asking “what made you turn hetero? Was it that horrible dude you knew in high school? I only ask because you’re the second hetero I know who has history with a really mean guy.”
I’ll say this very clearly: sexuality isn’t a choice. One doesn’t “turn” bisexual or straight anymore than they turn short. People realize they are bisexual or queer, but realizing and turning are two different things. For example, you may realize you’ll never be able to reach the top shelf at work on your own, but you don’t turn 5’ 2” because of a bad experience with a cabinet.
One problem with this question is its hidden implication: if a bad experience can “turn you Lesbian”, then in theory, a positive one can “turn you” straight. This hidden implication also leads me to the biggest problem with this question – the presumption that heterosexuality is the norm. While this mistaken belief is probably innocently held by the people who’ve asked me this question, it can lead to some very dangerous places. If heterosexuality is normal, anything different is by definition not normal. This can pave the way for erasure of marriage equality, and the legalization of discrimination. In extreme cases, it can lead to the abuse and mistreatment of LGBTQ youth.
If you find yourself tempted to defend this type of question, be sure to preface it with your “turning straight” story.
3) You Just Haven’t Met The Right Man/Woman
This one builds off of the mistaken belief that a person can choose their sexuality, opting to be gay or straight on a whim. It also heavily plays into the “bisexuality is just a phase” myth that is unbelievably annoying. A common variation on this horrible sentiment is “I bet I could change your mind”, usually said with an awkward wink (awkward for the recipient, that is).
The harm in a phrase like this is that it robs bisexual individuals of their own agency. It’s incredibly dismissive, to the point of being insulting. The worst part is that the speaker usually means this phrase to be some sort of odd comfort, as though being bisexual were the same as being sick, and you just hadn’t found the right treatment.
It’s annoying, insulting, and everywhere. My favouirte response to a phrase like this comes courtesy of a friend of mine, who always says, regardless of the gender of the speaker, “well honey, neither have you” before confidently walking off.
4) So You Were Straight Before But You’re Gay Now?
It is true that bisexual individuals in relationships with partners who identify as the opposite sex do have the privilege of “passing” as straight, but this does not mean their sexuality changed. The only thing that’s different is their partner. This question is annoying for so many reasons it’s hard to actually list them all. Personally, this question annoys me because it assumes that I don’t know my own sexuality at all. The speaker clearly has two distinct sexualities in mind, without the possibility of overlap. It immediately puts the bisexual person in a defensive position. It’s hard to have a conversation about sexuality when you first have to prove that your own sexuality is valid.
5) You Just Can’t Make A Decision/Are Greedy
The allegation that bisexual individuals are greedy is common and annoying; greed has nothing to do with sexuality. I mean, I know bisexual people who have no problem remaining in long term relationships but who definitely cannot be trusted with the last slice of pizza. By the same stroke of the pen, however, I know straight folk who are completely incapable of making a decision and subsequently sticking with it. It’s personality; not sexuality.
Bisexuals are not by definition any more promiscuous than the rest of the population. When pressed, most people will admit that they believe this to be true because bisexual individuals have more options when it comes to sexual partners. Keep in mind, though, that varied taste doesn’t necessarily indicate a person is greedy. For example, someone who loves a wide variety of craft beer isn’t necessarily looking to get drunk on a nightly basis with anyone who happens to be around.
6) So You’re Totally Into Threesomes, Right?
Sure, some bisexual individuals are. Others aren’t. Sexuality doesn’t always impact the specific types of sex acts people are interested in. I mean, I’m sure you don’t ask every straight person if they’re only into missionary sex, right? And honestly, if this is how you’re going to bring up the idea of threesomes please, you’re probably not getting one.
Of course none of this means you can’t ask honest, legitimate questions. The key is to be respectful. Try to do some research on your own first, before asking your bisexual friend to educate you for free. Listen to what they have to say, without judgment or skepticism. Remember, these aren’t your lived experiences; trust those of others.