For the longest time, Leigh Dispo believed that names have power. Putting a name to the attraction she has for both boys and girls would trigger an avalanche of shame and guilt that she was not equipped to deal with. It was a “form of sadness that dragged on and on” until she had the courage to look her true self in the eye. At 14 years old, she finally found a name for it: she is bisexual, and she would no longer be afraid.
Defined by the Bisexual Resource Center as “an umbrella term for people who recognize and honor their potential for sexual and emotional attraction to more than one gender”, bisexuality has had a long past fraught with misconceptions and invalidation. It was found improbable by both homosexuals and heterosexuals alike—and promptly relegated to the fringes of history. It took on many meanings—myth, phase, cowardice—but never the right one. It wasn’t until the 90s when bisexuality even began to be seen as a bonafide component of the LGBTQ+ community—decades after its counterparts. The LaSallian delves into the lives of bisexual people who still face that familiar battle in and out of the confines of the LGBTQ+ community.
The b word
Ever since Leigh started thinking that she might like girls as well, she approached it as a part of her that she needed to suppress. Once, a girl she was spending a lot of time with asked her out on a date. For a moment, she was helplessly drawn to the idea of them dating. But then she thought of the two of them out in public—she was absolutely terrified. To this day, Leigh still regrets declining the date invite. Now, 19 years old and in college, Leigh has come a long way from the girl that was afraid. Coming to terms with her sexuality wasn’t easy; but it was pivotal when she found kindred spirits in the LGBTQ+ community who helped her redefine what it means to love. Leigh now stands strong—steadfast in her liberation and the home she made out of herself.
For Anne* (I, AB-ISE), it began with a girl she couldn’t get out of her head. She would catch herself inexplicably staring at a certain classmate in school, even looking her pictures up online. Anne was panicking; she had always liked boys, why was she feeling this way for a girl? “When I found out about bisexuality and how there was a possibility that I might fall into that category, I was confused at the dynamics because how can you like [both] a man and a woman at the same time? Wouldn’t it feel like you’re cheating?” she narrates.
(Not) the best of both worlds
Gathering her courage to come out as bisexual to her close friends, Anne was met with judgment and skepticism. Even talking with friends who identify as lesbians provided no solace as she discovered that they are wary of bisexuals because they believe bisexuals may go back to liking men. And Anne isn’t alone in her sentiment. Pau*, a member of the Benilde HIVE from De La Salle-College of Saint Benilde (DLS-CSB), remembers all too well how her grandmother dismissed her sister’s bisexuality as a phase, “She ended the conversation by saying that [my sister] will eventually choose between ‘gay’ or ‘straight’.” Such is the finality tacked on to the concept of bisexuality: in the end, you always have to pick. Often chalked up to the capriciousness of youth, it is seen as something flimsy and mutable. Erasure of the bisexual identity is littered across daily conversations, unwarranted jokes, and even in supposed safe spaces.
Coming to terms with her sexuality meant that Anne had to challenge her own idea of bisexuality. Unlearning the entrenched beliefs and unburdening herself of shame took time, it brought the realization that there are no rules to follow in being a bisexual. Even if Anne ends up with a man, or is more attracted to girls, it doesn’t invalidate her sexuality. Adhering to lines that seek to limit her is no way to live; and she intends to live life on her own terms.
Steps to somewhere
As Anne’s experience proved, there is a danger where myths about bisexuality start to create internalized shame, hindering bisexuals from accepting their own identity. Kate* (I, AB-ISA), for example, has a lot of bisexual friends but is personally not comfortable with dating a bisexual because of their “bigger scope of options”.
However, in recent years there have been more positive responses towards bisexuals. Selle* (I, AB-ISJ) and Neil Matthew Lua (I, BS-CS) both agree that dating a bisexual did not matter to them and that it had nothing to do with faithfulness. Ther* (I, AB-ISJ), a bisexual, also mentions her boyfriend’s support regarding her sexuality.
University LGBTQ+ organizations such as the aforementioned Benilde HIVE from DLS-CSB rally for the fair treatment of bisexuals in society through their platforms. Pau says that one of their projects is to facilitate Sexuality, Orientation, Gender Identity & Expression (SOGIE) events to help their members stand up against discriminatory movements like bi-erasure. It’s a small step toward inclusivity, but it is something that can make a huge difference in someone else’s journey toward self-discovery.
Turning the tide
While films that tackle gay themes have steadily gained traction in local and international industries, bisexual characters largely remain in the dark. Even in pop culture, bisexuality is often downplayed—with famous figures like Angelina Jolie and William Shakespeare’s preference for both men and women often overlooked or forgotten. However, this is not to say that the bisexual community has no allies. In the past few years, television has provided us memorable and well-loved bisexual characters like Detective Rosa Diaz from Brooklyn Nine-Nine, Magnus Bane from Shadowhunters, and Clarke Griffin from The 100—characters who have substance and brevity, who are more than just their sexuality.
With more and more figures being put in the spotlight, gender is slowly being understood more as a spectrum rather than as a set of norms you shape yourself into. This whole new meaning can widen the collective understanding of bisexuality. Maybe soon, society as a whole would have a better understanding of the many different identities that exist under the rainbow flag.
*Names with asterisks are (*)pseudonyms.