Good Bi Love: The Media Has Made Bisexuality Scandalous, Now Let’s Fix It

1/29/2018

iphoto/Uberimages

When I don’t have a topic to write about, I like to search Google News using the word, “bisexual.” Needless to say, the number of hits pales in comparison to when I search, “gay.”

But I’ve noticed there are roughly three categories that all bi content falls under: HIV, scandals, or bi identity pieces.

Let’s break down each category here.

HIV

While the gay community loves to leave out bi men, often only using the word “gay” in their article titles, as opposed to gay and bi or simply gay/bi, it is rare to find an article about HIV without bi in the title. Every single time articles read “gay and bisexual men.” Out of all the things to include us in — to associated us with — it’s a little frustrating that it seems as if only studies or stories about HIV warrant putting bis in the title.

Scandals

Bisexuality often comes up in some form of a scandal, more often than not with one person cheating on another person. Or there’s some form of speculation that someone famous may indeed be bi. Or I’ll see a clickbait-y type post, like “Which past US presidents were actually bisexual?” Now an in-depth article that discusses the secret extra-marital male affairs of past presidents sounds very cool. Something I would click and love to learn more about. But the tone of the articles are seldom that. They’re more dramatic, duplicitous, and well, scandalous. The goal isn’t to educate, but rather, to shock you.

Bisexual Identity Pieces

The vast majority of pieces that pop are some variation of, “10 Things To Never Say To Bisexuals.” These pieces are undoubtedly important, as God knows I still am asked at least one of those questions nearly every time I come out as bi. (The biggest one I still get from other LGT liberals is, “but which one do you like more?”) However, I would argue that these pieces just scratch the surface of bi identity. They don’t go in-depth. This is partly because most readers, especially monosexual readers, are not yet ready to go in-depth. They need the 101 crash course. One thing that bothers me, however, are that these pieces are geared towards straight and gay folks. There seems to be very little content about bis for bis. That’s part of the reason I’m so indebted to bisexual.org for this column. Bi.org allows me to write complex, deeper, bi identity pieces for bisexuals, that go well beyond the surface.

So why do I bring all this up?

I believe the media is in large part responsible for making bisexuality scandalous, and I would like to see them undo their work. There are inherent dangers clear in making sexual identity scandalous. People believe negative stereotypes about us, like all bis are cheaters, which in turn affects our mental and physical health. Bi people have higher rates of depression and anxiety than any other sexual orientations. We also have high amount of drug use within the bi community, which puts us at a higher risk for acquiring cancers and other illnesses associated with drug and alcohol use.

Bi women experience sexual violence at a higher rate, with approximately 75% of bi women in the United States reporting that they’ve experienced sexual violence, compared to 46% of lesbian women, and 43% of heterosexual women. When I previously interviewed Dr. Nicole Johnson, of The Department of Education and Human Services at Lehigh University, on her research looking at why bi+ women experience sexual violence, she told Bi.org it has do with media representation. Specifically, the lack thereof.

She said, “Increased diverse representation of bisexual women in the media and in the greater community would go a long way toward decreasing sexual violence and negative consequences.”

Lastly, given the high number of bi people in the United States, along with the growing number of bi+ millennials who don’t exclusively identify as gay or straight, I think it’s necessary for the media to have pieces not simply about bi individuals, but specifically for us. That means  that some pieces are going to be 300-level course pieces about bi identity, instead of the usual 101 crash course. That’s okay. In fact, that’s better than okay! It’s needed. Everyone will learn, regardless of sexual orientation.

As society moves into acknowledging and embracing various sexual orientations, it’s time we had pieces that reflect the diverse needs of bi+ individuals. I’m calling on you, the media, to do just that instead of constantly making bisexuality a scandal.

Zachary Zane
Zachary Zane a Brooklyn-based freelance writer, speaker, YouTuber, and activist whose work focuses on (bi)sexuality, gender, identity politics, relationships, and culture. He's a contributing editor at The Advocate Magazine, a columnist at Bi.org, and currently writes for The Washington Post, Cosmopolitan, Out Magazine, and PRIDE.