Bi Country Tis of Thee: Basically Everyone in America is Bisexual
Last year, researchers found that straight people don't really exist, so it should come as no surprise that in early 2016 the Center for Disease Control released data showing that an increasing number of people in the United States identify as bisexual. The study was performed between 2011 and 2013 and represents 9,175 adults between 18 and 44 years of age. 5.5 percent of the women and 2 percent of the men in the study stated that they are bisexual. As CNN reported, those numbers rose from the CDC's last study, where 3.9 percent of women and 1.2 percent of men identified as bi.
From greedy, STI infested double-dippers to sexually confused closet cases, stereotypes around bisexuality are rampant and could affect the way that people publicly or personally identify. Chloe is in her early forties. She's known she was bisexual ever since age 17, but a myriad of social stigmas affected her development. In her teens, Chloe identified as gay; she was attracted to men and just beginning to transition from male to female. But her home environment wasn't supportive. "I had to have girlfriends to make my father happy," Chloe told Broadly.
Despite the fact Chloe believed her sexual orientation began and ended with men, she dated women. "[One of my girlfriends] wanted to fuck me even when she knew I was gay," Chloe explained. So they had sex, which never would have happened had Chloe's father not pressured her to act like a heterosexual man. Despite this, the experience wasn't traumatizing for Chloe—in fact, it expanded her sexual identity. "I realized I didn't dislike it," Chloe recalled.
My trans girlfriends told me that I became a woman to like men.
The disapproval wasn't just coming from her home. Chloe's social circle of gay male friends discouraged her, too. "I experienced social expectations from my gay friends not to like pussy," Chloe said, explaining that it felt like no matter what she did or how she identified, she couldn't please everyone. The conflicting expectations from her parents and the gay community were overwhelming, but it didn't stop there. Chloe realized she was bisexual at the same time she was starting her transition to female. With the help of some transgender girls she met, she began taking hormones and living socially as a woman. Yet, while those young trans women helped Chloe to accept her gender, they oddly reinforced conservative ideas about sexuality. "My trans girlfriends told me that I became a woman to like men," she explained. Consequently, Chloe denied being bi for many years.
Tania Israel is a professor at the University of California, Santa Barbara. She is an expert of bisexuality issues and was an invited representative at the Bisexuality Community Policy Briefing at the White House in October, 2015. "The greatest challenges to forming a positive bisexual identity are invisibility and stigma related to bisexuality," she wrote in an email to Broadly. "Bisexual people experience discrimination in both heterosexual and lesbian/gay communities, which makes it difficult for bisexual people to feel comfortable openly identifying as bisexual." Israel's insight into the socialization of bisexual people reflects the experiences of multiple bi women that I spoke with.
For a girl in her early twenties named Santos, the lack of stigmatization that she encountered as a teenager made it easy for her to feel comfortable publicly embracing her identity as a bisexual woman. Thanks to the support of her accepting family, Santos never lived in hiding. "For a long time bisexuality had a hard time in the ring," Santos said, adding that homo- and heterosexual people have long stereotyped the bi community. There are three primary cliches about bisexuality, she explained. "One: a stepping block to just being gay but just testing out the waters; two: a confused person indecisive about what they want; three: a greedy person who is promiscuous and a carrier for STD's."
Everybody has experienced same and opposite sex attraction in some form or another in life.
"Bisexuality tends to be the most stigmatized of sexual orientations," Israel said. "Negative attitudes toward bisexuals encompass negativity people feel toward any non-heterosexual people, as well as specific negative feelings toward bisexuals due to misperceptions of bisexuality as an unstable sexual orientation and of bisexuals as untrustworthy." According to Israel, this stigma is common even in 2015. However, increased visibility is helping bisexual people affirm their sexuality. That makes sense, especially in when looking at the data about bisexual identification recently put out by the CDC.
"I don't think anybody is truly straight," Santos said. "Everybody has experienced same and opposite sex attraction in some form or another in life."
"As far back as the 1940's, Kinsey found that 46 percent of men had been aroused by or engaged in sexual activities with both men and women," Israel said. "Statistics vary widely based on the method of data collection and sample, but what we see consistently is that there are many more people with attractions to more than one gender than who identify as bisexual, so bisexuality is certainly more common than most people are aware. Also, it is clear that there are more bisexual people than lesbian and gay people combined."
Santos said, "Times are changing. The younger folks are having a sex and gender revolution so they can be much more accepting than the old guard of gay people." Heterosexuals are starting to open up, too, she believes. Santos said that, though straight people often identify difference in people and categorize them with the enigmatic label other, even the most "normal" among us are beginning to shift our views. "Their individual level of acceptance is on a case-by-case basis," Santos said.
There's a lot at stake in the bisexual revolution. Israel explained that there are material consequences for the oppression of sexual diversity. "Stigma and invisibility contribute to poor health outcomes for bisexuals," she noted. A report by the Human Rights Commission on the impacts of invisibility on the bisexual community explains that bisexual people report "greater health disparities than the general population," including mental health. "Changing societal attitudes, increasing bi-visibility, and generating social support for bisexual people will help to assure that they can live full and healthy lives," Israel added, "a goal I hope we can all agree is a valuable one."