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Bisexuality, often shortened as bi, is a fluid identity that encompasses the sexual attraction between two genders and all genders, with or without preferences to gender. Bisexuality is often seen as an umbrella term because its attractions are also well known with labels like pansexuality, polysexuality, and omnisexuality, but all four of these labels are their own sexualities. Bisexuals can be attracted to two, three or more, multiple, or all genders, it's up to the person. However, because of this, bisexuality is often considered "too broad" or "too general", so many may prefer the aforementioned labels instead. Regardless of how one identifies, bisexuality is historically known to include more than two genders, despite its prefix. Many activists have been known to express inclusion beyond two genders in their attraction, most notably Lani Ka'ahumanu. They've also made it known that it is possible to be bisexual and experience attraction regardless of gender.

Any choice in labels is based on preference.

Flag[]

Revealed on December 5th 1998, the bisexual flag was designed by Michael Page to represent and validate bisexuals in the LGBT community and wider society. The flag depicts three colored horizontal stripes with the middle slightly narrower. The original flag was not three stripes however, but a gradient. Sadly, this was almost impossible to replicate at home due to the limits of technology and therefore became the three stripes more common today.

Page describes the meaning of the three colors as follows: "The pink color represents sexual attraction to the same sex, blue represents sexual attraction to the opposite sex, and the resultant overlap color purple represents sexual attraction across the gender spectrum." He also describes the flag's meaning in deeper terms, stating "The key to understanding the symbolism of the Bisexual pride flag is to know that the purple pixels of color blend unnoticeably into both the pink and blue, just as in the 'real world,' where bi people blend unnoticeably into both the gay/lesbian and straight communities."

Misconceptions[]

Like other LGBT identities, there are multiple misconceptions about bisexuality, including (but not limited to):

  • Bisexuality being conflated with promiscuity or polyamory
  • Bisexuality being called "half gay" and "half straight"
  • Bisexuals being seen as greedy, or not able to pick a side
  • Bisexuals being seen as unfaithful to their partner/s because of their sexuality
  • Bisexuals being seen as sexually confused or frustrated
  • Bisexuals being seen as transphobic
  • Bisexuals only being attracted to binary genders, or being exclusive of non-binary identities.
  • Bisexuals care about their partner's looks and gender, and don't date based on personality.
  • Bisexuals have preferences to gender and are not genderblind.

These misconceptions often lead to the practices of biphobia, where evidence of bisexuality is ignored, removed, falsified or reexplained within cultural, historical or media sources. In its most extreme form, bisexual erasure includes denying that bisexuality exists. Despite this, there is increasing inclusion and visibility of bisexuals, particularly in the LGBT community.

History[]

There is a lot of bisexual history that can be viewed in both ancient cultures and modern history. The modern definition of bisexuality first took form in the 19th century. The first usage of the word "bisexual", in the sense of being sexually attracted to both women and men, was by Charles Gilbert Chaddock in his translation of Krafft-Ebing's work Psychopathia Sexualis in 1892. Prior to Krafft-Ebing, "bisexual" was usually used to mean having both female and male parts as in hermaphroditic or monoicous plants, or to mean inclusive of both males and females as in the sense of mixed-sex education.

Beginning from the 1970s, bisexuality as a distinct sexuality gained visibility in Western literature, academia, and activism. Although there is a surge of research and activism in bisexuality, many scholars and activists state that bisexuals have often been marginalized in literature, films, and research works.

Major bisexual activists such as Lani Ka'ahumanu have expressed the difficulties in solidifying bisexuality and its attraction. In this excerpt from the 1987 Article "Are We Visible Yet?" Lani adds these two important tidbits:

"Bisexuals, both in and out of the closet have given time, energy and money, and have been putting our lives on the line for the basic right of sexual freedom of expression without regard for gender since the beginning of the gay rights movement."
"I am bisexual because I am drawn to particular people regardless of gender. It doesn’t make me wishy-washy, confused, untrustworthy, or more sexually liberated. It makes me a bisexual."

This article served as an important factor of bisexual history, and while it isn't the only article to do so, it's the most recognized and acknowledged in the community. Lani's work as an activist demonstrated that these kinds of attractions were not only possible, but it made her who she was and not a promiscuous, confused, misguided, or sexually wild individual. In this description of her sexuality, tied with many other articles, she simultaneously shuts down stereotypes that commonly plagued bisexuality and paved way to more people being able to express their bisexuality the same way.

Historical figures[]

Alexander the Great (356 BCE-323 BCE)[]

The Macedonian king and military leader, Alexander the Great, is often mentioned in discussions of bisexuality in history. He is known to have had intimate relationships with both men and women, including his close relationship with his companion Hephaestion.

Virginia Woolf (1882-1941)[]

The renowned British writer Virginia Woolf is believed to have had romantic and sexual relationships with both men and women. Her writings often explored themes of gender and sexuality, and she had significant relationships with Vita Sackville-West and Leonard Woolf.

Frida Kahlo (1907-1954)[]

The Mexican artist Frida Kahlo, known for her iconic self-portraits, expressed her bisexuality through her art and personal life. She had relationships with both men and women, including her marriage to fellow artist Diego Rivera and her affairs with various women.

Marlene Dietrich (1901-1992)[]

The German-American actress and singer Marlene Dietrich was known for her androgynous style and fluid sexuality. She had relationships with both men and women and was openly bisexual, challenging societal norms of her time.

Alan Turing (1912-1954)[]

The English mathematician, logician, and computer scientist Alan Turing, whose work played a significant role in the development of modern computing, is also recognized for his bisexuality. Turing was persecuted for his homosexuality under the then-existing laws in the UK and tragically died at a young age.

Social issues[]

Biphobia[]

Biphobia refers to the negative attitudes, stereotypes, and discrimination faced by bisexual individuals. Bisexuality is sometimes misunderstood or dismissed as a phase, confusion, or promiscuity. Bisexual individuals may face challenges in both heterosexual and LGBTQ+ communities, with their experiences and identities being invalidated or erased.

Erasure and invisibility[]

Bisexuality has historically been marginalized and overlooked, both within mainstream society and even within the LGBTQ+ community. Bisexual individuals may experience erasure or invisibility, as their sexual orientation is often overshadowed or misunderstood due to assumptions of heterosexuality or homosexuality based on their current or past relationships.

"Bi now, gay later" myth[]

This myth suggests that bisexuality is merely a transitional phase for individuals on their way to identifying as gay or lesbian. It stems from a misunderstanding of bisexuality as a temporary or indecisive state rather than a legitimate sexual orientation. This misconception disregards the validity and stability of bisexual identity.

Monosexism[]

Monosexism is a term used to describe the belief that individuals can only be attracted to one gender. It is closely linked to biphobia and reinforces the societal expectation that individuals should be exclusively attracted to either men or women. This can lead to bisexual individuals facing skepticism or dismissal of their bisexuality, as it challenges the notion of a binary understanding of sexual orientation.

Harmful stereotypes[]

Bisexual individuals may also face stereotypes that perpetuate harmful assumptions. For example, they may be viewed as sexually promiscuous, greedy, or incapable of monogamy. These stereotypes not only perpetuate biphobia but also oversimplify and misrepresent the diversity of bisexual experiences and relationships.

Etymology[]

The term "bisexual" was coined by the German-American neurologist and sexologist Magnus Hirschfeld in the late 19th century. Hirschfeld is known for his significant contributions to the field of human sexuality and LGBTQ+ rights activism. He used the term "bisexual" to describe individuals who were attracted to both males and females, recognizing that sexual orientation exists on a continuum rather than being limited to a strict binary of heterosexual or homosexual. The term "bisexual" has since become widely used and accepted to describe individuals who experience attraction to more than one gender.

Days of Recognition[]

The following days of the year officially recognize bisexual and biromantic people.

  • March: Bisexual Health Awareness Month.
  • September: Bisexual Awareness Month.
  • September 16th - September 22nd: Bisexual Awareness Week.
  • September 23rd: Bisexual Awareness and Pride Day.
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