The Oxford English dictionary definition of a myth is 'a widely held but false belief or idea... explaining a social or natural phenomenon...' In preparation for Bi-visibility Day on 23 September, the following are five of the most pervasive myths about the Bi community, along with myth-busting facts.
1. Myth: 'Bisexuality is a "gateway" to coming out as a lesbian (L) or a gay man (G)'
Busted: This is the most prolific bi-myth, particularly amongst the LG community. Its popularity is in part due to people of the LG community publicly identifying as Bi in their own coming out journey. This leads to the assumption that all bi people will eventually identify as L or G. However, for many people bisexuality is not a transient state or a cover for being L or G, but a sexual orientation in its own right.
2. Myth: 'Bisexuals are not discriminated against as much as the LG community'
Busted: Bisexuals often experience discrimination from both the heterosexual and homosexual communities. This is often in the form of bi-erasure, where bisexuality is discounted as a sexual orientation due in part to myth 1.
3. Myth: 'To be bisexual you must like women and men equally'
Busted: Bisexuality is a spectrum. Some bisexual people have a strong gender preference, whilst others are more fluid with their preference. The gender preference of some bisexual people may extend to partners who are gender fluid or gender binary. Many bi people actually identify as 'pansexual'. Pansexuality means that a person is attracted to someone irrespective of their gender identity. The common thread is that a bi or pansexual person is attracted to people of more than one gender.
4. Myth: 'Bisexuals are transphobic'
Busted: The definition of bisexuality has traditionally been attraction to binary genders, 'men' and 'women'. This has led to the perception that bi people discriminate against the trans community and gender fluid people. In fact, bi individuals can be transphobic – just as the LG community can be, as well as straight people, and sadly there are still too many instances of transphobia in society. However, being bi does not make someone any more likely to be transphobic. As mentioned in myth 3, many bi people identify as pansexual, which is attraction irrespective of gender. Many trans people are themselves bi or pansexual, or are in relationships with bi or pansexual people. In addition, many bi groups, such as The Bisexual Index, now define bisexuality as 'attraction to more than one gender'.
5. Myth: 'To be bisexual you must have dated men and women'
Busted: The majority of heterosexual and homosexual people know themselves to be such before their first relationship. Similarly, bi people are often able to identify their sexual orientation before having a relationship with a person of a specific gender or gender identity. When a bi person is in a relationship with a person of a specific gender, this does not necessarily decrease their attraction to those of other genders.
Whilst it is important to bust bi-myths, it is also important for Bi people to be made comfortable being open about their sexual orientation with friends, family and colleagues. Half of Bi men and a third of bi women are not out in the workplace, compared to just seven percent of gay men and four percent of lesbians. In celebration of Bi-visibility Day, we should reflect on how we can ensure that all sexual orientations and gender identities are treated with equal respect and consideration.
Netanya Clixby is co-founder and co-chair of the London Bisexual Network. She is an associate at Latham & Watkins and on the Law Society's LGBT+ Lawyers Division Committee.