(Editor's note: This was originally published by SDGLN content partner GLAAD.)
Monday, Sept. 23 was Celebrate Bisexuality Day. This is a day of visibility for a part of the LGBT movement that too often remains invisible, or ends up facing gross and misleading stereotypes. At GLAAD, we want to dismantle stereotypes and promote visibility and understanding, so let's take on some of the most common stereotypes about bisexuality and bi people.
Myth: "Bisexuality is a phase before someone comes out as gay or lesbian."
Bisexuality is an orientation, just like straight or gay is an orientation, and that identity deserves to be respected. It means that someone can be attracted to, date, and form relationships with people of different genders. This orientation is not dependent on relationship status or experience, but on a deep-seated orientation that we all have and all feel. For the vast majority of people, it is not a phase, and anyone who identifies as bisexual deserves the same respect as everyone else.
Myth: "Bisexual people are promiscuous or greedy."
Bisexual people are not any more likely to engage in promiscuous behaviors than anyone else. Being bisexual has to do with who a person is attracted to, but has nothing to do with how that person dates or what kinds of relationships they prefer. Just like everyone else, bisexual people are attracted to particular qualities such as personality, common interests, physical characteristics and relationships are not a uniform experience across all people. What works for one couple may not work for another.
Myth: "You can only identify as bisexual if you've been in both opposite and same sex relationships."
Sexual orientation is not dependent on relationship experience, it exists within one's identity and sense of self. Many people know they are bisexual before they are ever in a relationship, just as many people know they are gay or straight at young ages. It is not necessary to have romantic experience with any gender before identifying as bisexual. Moreover, when a bisexual person gets married, their orientation does not change.
Myth: "To be bisexual you have to like men and women equally."
Attraction does not work the same across the wide spectrum of humanity. Some bisexual people are overwhelmingly attracted to men and occasionally attracted to women. Some bisexual people are overwhelmingly attracted to women and occasionally attracted to men. Some prefer to date gender non-conforming partners. The spectrum of bisexual people includes all kinds of individual preferences, as does the spectrum of lesbian and gay people. Some lesbians prefer to date more feminine women, some gay men are drawn to more muscled men. Attraction is an individual construct. The only thing that bisexual people have in common is that they are attracted to people of more than one gender.
Myth: "Bisexual girls only do it for attention. Bisexual men are actually gay and afraid to come out."
Bisexuality is a real orientation deserving of respect. It's not a stunt or a fear tactic. It doesn't win any special favors. Bisexuals struggle to be visible in both the straight and gay communities. The best thing that someone can do to be a bisexual ally is to listen without judgment and believe someone when they describe their bisexual feelings or experiences.
This sort of overwhelming generalization is completely irresponsible as it dismisses the individual experience and self-identity of real people. Attraction is a spectrum. For example, some bisexual women may be emotionally but not physically attracted to other women, some may be attracted to both women and men equally, some may experience more attraction to women and occasionally be attracted to man. Some men may occasionally have relationships with women but largely prefer men or vice versa.
To deny that a person's sexual orientation exists is to make that person invisible. Every person's identity is unique and that diversity brings a valuable voice to the LGBT movement and those voices are all worthy of respect.
Myth: "Bisexuality excludes transgender people or attraction to trans people."
Sexual orientation and gender identity are two different things. Transgender people may be bisexual, or not. Bisexual people may be attracted to transgender people, or not. It depends on what attributes someone is attracted to, which varies from person to person. The word "bisexual" very simply refers to individuals who are not attracted exclusively to members of the opposite sex and they are not attracted exclusively to members of the same sex.
It pretty much boils down to the fact that bisexual people are people too and worthy of respect. For too long, bisexual people have had to argue that bisexual orientation is a real thing. Replacing the word "bisexual" with "gay" or "lesbian" would be considered widely offensive – "being gay is just a phase," "lesbians just do it for attention" – so the same standards should be held about claims about bisexual people.
GLAAD supports Celebrate Bisexuality Day and encourages media and members of the community to be wary of stereotypes and remember that all identities are legitimate and should be respected.