According to Twitter, today is #BiVisibilityDay. Not the catchiest of hashtags, and I have to admit that as a member of the bi community, I was totally unaware of it. Which is ironic: Bi Visibility Day is itself a bit invisible.
Honestly, I thought twice about posting on the hashtag. I’ve talked publicly about being bisexual in the past (anyone who follows me on Twitter knows I’m pretty open) and it’s brought me no end of vexing bullshit. But – partly because we now have comments turned off on Gadgette – I’m trying again.
This is the kind of comment I’m talking about. It was left on an article I wrote about advertising (totally unrelated to my sexuality):
By the way Brockwell – I’ve got two words for you. Damaged goods. You think any man is going to go near you now with your daddy issues? Your “bisexuality” and sharing details of your personal life on twitter marked you out as a fucking wacko, but this shit is the icing on the cake.
You are damaged goods and people can smell it for a mile away. Good luck trawling dating websites looking for a man – you’re going to need all the luck you can get, even in that cesspool of your fellow rejects.
Those quotation marks around “bisexuality.” The fact that even after he acknowledges my sexuality, he twice refers to “a man” as who I’d be looking for. Again, this was an article about advertising, it had absolutely nothing to do with my lovelife – but if you mention that you’re bi on Twitter, people save up this kind of vitriol for the next time they disagree with you about something.
This is a particularly nasty example, but I actually think it’s the well-meaning though completely incorrect comments that wear on you the most. I’ve got a mental ‘bisexual bingo’ scorecard in my head, and a square gets crossed off every single time I mention my sexuality. Squares like:
– “Don’t women just say that because men like it?” (THANKS KATY PERRY)
– “So you’re like… half gay, and half straight?” (I am not a Venn diagram, try again)
– “Yeah but have you actually dated women, though?” (Yes. Obviously.)
– “But could you actually see yourself spending your life with a woman?” (YES. OBVIOUSLY.)
– “That’s a bit greedy” (What? Do you think I date them all at the same time…?)
– “I’ve never seen you with a woman.”
That last one is a killer. There’s this sad preconception that liking both men and women means you should date in a strict 50/50 ratio and if you lean towards either side, you’re actually straight/gay (delete as appropriate).
I’d like to call bullshit on this once and for all.
Say you like tea and coffee. Do you drink exactly equal amounts of them? Do you say “Oh I had tea yesterday, I’d better have coffee today”? Or do you choose based on the options in front of you, or your mood that day, or just because you’re having a coffee phase right now?
Guess what? Some people like tea and coffee equally. Some people have a preference, but still like both. Do you start telling them “Oh you don’t really like coffee then, you’re just saying that to impress hipsters”? Of course not, because you’re a rational human being who understands that people can like two things at once. Except when it comes to bisexuality, when your brain apparently switches off and you start spouting the lexical equivalent of drool.
This, I think, is one of the reasons bisexual people are ‘invisible’. Yes, there are the obvious problems of the VERY few bi characters in TV and film being portrayed in an embarrassing and unrealistic way (I’m still angry about the woman in Dodgeball who kisses a woman, then a man, and says “I’M BISEXUAL!”). And there are the people staying quiet for fear of abuse or rejection.
And then there are the people like me.
People who don’t correct you when you say “You’ll find Mr. Right.”
People who have stopped talking about their sexuality unless it’s absolutely necessary because of the ignorance they encounter (I once kissed my girlfriend in G.A.Y. in Soho, on Pride weekend. A man came up to tell me I’m “not really into girls” because “I don’t look like a lesbian”).
Or people who date more on one side than the other.
Personally, I date more men than women. I feel guilty about this regularly, purely because of ignorant comments like “I’ve never seen you with a woman” (subtext: therefore you’re lying to sound more interesting). And in my case, it’s not because I like women less.
It’s because dating women is a ball ache.
I’ve never had anything shouted at me when I’m walking around holding hands with a man. I’ve never had to worry about telling less progressive relatives that I have a boyfriend. I’ve never had people ask intimate questions about how me and my male partner have sex. I’ve never had people ask if they can watch.
I’ve never had a colleague actually complain to management because I mentioned a date with a man (yes, this really happened. I was hauled into the office and told in no uncertain terms not to mention dating women around the office again. If I was the person then that I am now, I’d have taken them to court).
I have had all of these problems and more with dating women.
Essentially, there are two reactions you get when you tell people you date women: “Ooh” and “Eww.” Both are horrible. Given that, why would I even try?
And you really do have to try. In London, about 3% of people identify as gay or bisexual. 3 in every 100. When you consider that those people also have to be around the right age, single, attractive to you, attracted to you, and have to actually meet you somehow in a city of 8 million, the numbers become vanishingly small. If you’re a woman who wants to meet men, the world’s your oyster. But women who want to meet women have to put a lot more work in: apps, websites, gay clubs. And I have tried, in the past. The last straw was testing a dating app for work earlier this year and being confronted with this signup screen:
— Holly Brockwell (@holly) July 10, 2015
It’s not even the first time. I was once told an app “couldn’t handle bisexuality” because of the way its backend database was set up, and that I’d have to sign up once as gay and again as straight. And this:
Met a guy who's building a dating app. I said "Is it LGBT-friendly?" and he said "Yep." "So you can be bisexual, yeah?" "Oh, um, not sure"
— Holly Brockwell (@holly) June 28, 2015
The sad fact is, dating the opposite sex is a whole lot easier – even now – than your own. So if you have the option, it’s easy to just go “nope” and take the easy way out. Yes, I miss women. Yes, I feel guilty every time I describe myself as bisexual, knowing I’m neglecting a big side of my sexuality for the sake of simplicity. But ultimately, as a woman who gets more than enough trolling as it is (hi, I’m a feminist who runs a tech site for women and doesn’t want kids, have at me), it’s the best option for me right now.
So, from someone who usually keeps hers hidden, here’s wishing you a happy #BiVisibilityDay. Please don’t make me regret it.
Main image: iStock/PeskyMonkey