Good Bi Love: What Comes After Bi Visibility?

11/5/2018

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There’s a show coming out on Hulu called The Bisexual. My close friend, who’s a sex ed teacher, told me that one of the 9 year-old students at her school wears a shirt that says “pansexual and proud.” When I went into a comic book store last week, the owner, who wasn’t bi, did not know what bisexual lighting was, and showed me half a dozen graphic novels he’s read that do a great job using bisexual lightning.

I can’t emphasize how huge this is. Nearly a decade ago when I first started college, I thought I was bi, but when I googled bisexuality, nothing of relevance came up. If I remember correctly, only a few articles about gay/bi men and HIV appeared along with bi porn. That really was it.

We’ve made huge leaps in the past decade, and bi visibility is on the rise. I’m sure we will continue being visible, as we need to be, but there’s something that’s been nagging at me: What’s next? Visibility isn’t a panacea. No amount of visibility will change the attitudes and behaviors of people if they don’t care.

So how do we make that jump from people knowing that we exist, to actually caring about us? The issue, for the most part, isn’t that people don’t think we’re real, it’s that we have legitimate struggles, but are often put at the back of the LGBTQ bus.

As a community, we have high rates of depression, anxiety, physical ailments, suicide, and the list goes on and on. We need help from the larger LGTQ and straight communities to help, otherwise nothing will change.

I had a realization with the recent Kavanaugh Trial. I honestly believe that the vast majority of Americans believe the numerous women who spoke out against the judge publicly. I think they just don’t care, which to me, is far scarier. They are willing to overlook the horror stories these women shared about sexual assault and rape because they didn’t think it was a “big enough deal.”

I think that’s where the bi community is right now. People believe that we are real or that we struggle with loneliness because we’re often rejected by both gay and straight communities, but they just don’t consider it a “big enough deal.”

I don’t know how to solve this. I’m not sure if there is a single answer. Plenty of minds far greater than mine have attempted to tackle the question How do we get people in positions of power to care about marginalized communities? and have come up fruitless.

Still, I feel an obligation to at least attempt. And even though nothing I say will be a full remedy, at least it’s a start.

With that said, here are three ways that we can go beyond visibility to get people to care about the bi community.

1. Target who you think will be the most vocal of allies

Like many parents, my mom would fight someone to the death to protect me. She loves her bi son more than anything in the world. She’s outspoken about me, gives money to LGBTQ causes, and so on. I also have a number of friends, both gay and straight, who I know defend bisexuality even when I’m not present in the room. These are the people we want to have on our side. These are the people who actually have the capacity to make the largest impact. These are the people who will advocate for and with us. So talk to your family members and close friends who will fight for your rights, mental health, and safety.

2. Share your story

When we share our stories and the struggles we have gone through (and overcome), people become more sympathetic to our cause. Advertising experts say it takes 7 times of hearing something before people seriously consider buying the product or take some form of action. So, share your story and talk about your bisexuality. Hopefully six other people will do the same. Together, we can help changes people’s minds.

3. Make a fuss

The louder and more outspoken you are – no matter how “obnoxious” other people may think it is – keep talking to anyone and everyone who will listen. Tell people you’re bi. Tell people to vote. Tell people about the health disparities bi folks face. Keep sharing on social media. Keep doing everything you’re doing and don’t let others discourage you. As they say, the squeaky wheel gets the grease. So be the squeakiest wheel you can be!

Again, I know these suggestions won’t solve everything, but they are things we can do that go slightly beyond visibility. They’re what we can do to get people to give a damn.

As always, I’d appreciate if you emailed me with your thoughts and ideas, especially for how to get people to care about marginalized communities: [email protected].  

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.