Bisexual erasure occurs when there is a lack of acknowledgement, usually by the media, of bisexuals. It can be difficult to find bisexual representation when media insists that a character who has had relationships with people of both genders was actually just gay or straight and experimenting. While there is nothing wrong with being either of the aforementioned, there is a problem when culture refuses to acknowledge an entire group of people.
Bisexuality is defined as being romantically and/or sexually attracted to both men and women. Although this seems simple in theory, many people struggle to understand the concept. There is a lot of confusion about the idea of bisexuality because of how culture is so centered on binaries that the idea of being open to both choices is apparently unfathomable. Although we have had exploration of gay and lesbian characters in media, there is hardly any, if at all, bisexual representation.
A big part of the reason bisexuality is not acknowledged as a sexual orientation is because it is often portrayed in media as “just a phase.” Bisexuals in a relationship are asked if they are now straight or gay because they are with someone. Celebrities in the past who have identified as bisexual have then proceeded to announce later they were actually gay, which the media takes as evidence that bisexuality is really just a transitional stage to figure out what you’re interested in, or else just a way to ease people into the knowledge that you are gay; a milder way to come out, as it were. While there’s nothing wrong with experimenting, this sort of “bi now, gay/straight later” portrayal in the media only furthers the idea that bisexuality is just a phase or a transitional state rather than its own identity.
When Kristen Stewart was seen with her new girlfriend, there was a whirlwind of headlines asking if Kristen was now a lesbian, even though she had dated men in the past. Okmagazine reads, “There’s been rumors for years that Kristen Stewart is a lesbian, despite having dated her Twilight co-star Robert Pattinson for four years.” Although it’s very possible that Kristen could be a lesbian, it seems absurd that the very definition of bisexuality is described but not considered a possibility. There was no mention of bisexuality, even though it could be the most logical explanation.
Another way media refuses to acknowledge bisexuality is the way they equate it with indecision, which often leads to a culture that asks bisexuals things like, “But how can you really know” or, in the case of women, “Have you just not found the right guy yet?” There is an implication that bisexuals are just waiting to be “fixed” upon meeting the correct person for them, or that their attraction to both genders leads to promiscuity. Although media has created an expectation for drunk students in college to experiment, people are ultimately expected to “just pick already.” Bisexuals are often told to “just choose one” or that they’re “greedy” for being attracted to both genders, as if the possibility of attraction implies a monopoly on the dating pool.
Straight people are not the only ones who have been presented an incorrect view of bisexuality by the media. What hurts the most, bisexuals say, is being rejected or forgotten by the rest of the LGBTQA community. While many bisexuals have said they are used to this sort of reaction from straight people, it’s another thing entirely to feel distanced from what is meant to be “their” people. Despite having a letter in the acronym, bisexuals sometimes feel distanced from the rest of the community because coming out as bisexual is viewed as a way to ease people into the announcement of being gay, or that bisexuals have an easier time fitting into society because there is a “straight” aspect to liking people of both genders when in fact there it is a perfectly valid sexual orientation to have.
People have compared bisexuality to the color purple; although there is red and blue, no one refers to it as red-blue or blue-red. Although there are several different shades of purple, some more red or blue than others, it’s still purple. At the end of the day, purple is its own color. And so too is bisexuality.