In February of 2015, a man by the name of Jim Obergefell appeared before the U.S. Supreme Court. His boyfriend John was bedridden, diagnosed with ALS, and wanted to marry Jim while he still had life within him. They got legally married in Maryland and later moved to Ohio, where John died. Upon his death, Ohio passed a law preventing his state of marriage to be declared on his death certificate because same-sex marriage was illegal in Ohio. After hearing Obergefell’s case, the Court ruled in a 5-4 decision on June 26, 2015, that same-sex marriage must be legally recognized in all fifty states.
It was a triumph for the LGBTQ community. After decades fighting legal battles trying to get governments across this nation to recognize their romantic unions, same-sex couples finally achieved equality on the issue of marriage. Throughout the news media, headlines and lower thirds read “Gay Marriage Legal in 50 States,” “After Decades-Long Fight, Gay Marriage Legal,” “Gay Marriage” this, “Gay Marriage” that. To be clear, the Court ruled that same-sex marriage is legally recognized across the nation, not just gay marriage.
And there is a difference. Gay marriage is a marital union between two people who identify as gay, while same-sex marriage is a marital union between two men or two women. It’s important to make this distinction because not all same-sex couples identify as gay, just as not all heterogamous couples are straight. Many are in fact bisexual, transgender, or identify as queer. To say that “gay marriage” became legal in this country a year and a half ago undermines and erases those couples from the picture. We must not forget that the LGBTQ community also includes the beautiful B, T, and Q members, too.
According to GLAAD (Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation), bisexuals, or people who are attracted to both genders, make up more than half of the LGBTQ population. Like other bisexuals, I am more likely to live in poverty than my gay and lesbian counterparts. In addition, GLAAD points out that we are less likely than gay men, lesbian women, and the LGBTQ community as a whole to come out to our friends and relatives. We receive less representation in TV shows and books than gay and lesbian characters, and the few characters we do have are often minor at best. GLAAD has also found that we are more likely to turn to drugs than both gay and straight counterparts. Perhaps worst of all, they also found that bisexual women face nearly twice as much sexual violence as straight women.
All this is unfortunately compounded by the fact that funding for bi-specific issues and programs are significantly lacking compared with funding for gay-, lesbian-, and transgender-specific funds, according to the LGBTQ Grant Making Report. The same report found that bi-specific funds received $0 in both 2009 and 2010. While they have made progress since then, they still receive by far the least amount of funding for LGBTQ issues.
A lot of this lack of awareness or ambivalence toward these issues stem from a toxic stigma that has plagued the bi community for decades.
We aren’t straight. Neither are we gay. We don’t really quite fit into either group. Many in the gay community honestly believe that we are gay and just haven’t embraced our true selves yet. Many in the straight community think that we’re really straight, but we’re just confused or didn’t have strong parents in our homes growing up. While it is more widely acceptable to be a bi female than a bi male, many straight males see bi women either as someone who would be down for a threesome (not all bi people want this, by the way) or as someone who is more likely to cheat in a relationship.
In short, when we aren’t mislabeled and misjudged by both the gay and the straight communities, we are either seen as toxic to relationships or merely viewed in terms of sexual gratification.
Bisexual people exist. We have existed forever, and we’re not going away any time soon. Chances are, you probably know someone who’s bi; maybe they’re just not ready to come out yet. Maybe they’re too afraid of being judged. Let me assure you that you have nothing to fear from us. We don’t bite. We’re not more likely to cheat on you. We’re not sluts. We just like both men and women. No, that doesn’t mean we’re automatically attracted to you. It just means that we think Ryan Gosling is just as much a reason to see La La Land as Emma Stone is. I can’t give it to you any more straight than that.