Pushed around into different identities of the spectrum, erased from it entirely, and even fetishized at worst—being bisexual comes with many unique experiences from different angles. The recent Bisexual Awareness Week reminds us to recognize bisexuality as much as we see each ray of the LGBTQIA+ identities.
Every Sept. 23, bisexuality day culminates the Bisexual Awareness Week, which starts on Sept. 16. The bisexual community and the battles of different issues unique to the bisexual experience are given emphasis during this time. In a series of interviews with The Benildean, bisexual individuals share their thoughts on both old and new problems and what they believe needs to be done to move forward.
Issues right off the bat
Well-known throughout the LGBTQIA+ community, bi-erasure is the ignorant assumption against and sometimes blatant disregard for bisexuality that can be seen anywhere, in any given situation. When faced with heterosexual peers who aren’t knowledgable on Sexual Orientation, Gender Identity and Expression, and Sexual Characteristics (SOGIESC), it’s not uncommon to hear bi-erasure issues when in a different sex relationship.
To ID 119 Multimedia Arts student Nichelle Yvana Menardo, “[Straight people] tend to see me as a straight person just because my partner is a guy.” While according to University of the Philippines Diliman Communications Research student Antonette Macey Alvarez, people usually misunderstand that, “Bisexual people are just undecided people who haven’t gotten in a relationship with the opposite gender.”
Interestingly enough, some people from the LGBTQIA+ community can also be quite ignorant about bisexuality. Danielle Christie Gorre, a Pharmacy graduate from Central Escolar University, shares the unreasonable standard quoting “not gay enough.” While in a previous “straight-passing relationship,” Gorre has been told, "I'm not as oppressed as others or that I have it easier,” which invalidates the struggles bisexual people have as they can be oppressed.
Similarly, a 2022 graduate from Ateneo de Manila University’s Communication and Theater Arts program nicknamed “Jo” brings the idea of nuance in his experience in opposite-sex bisexual relationships. He points out comments made by a loud minority of queer people requoting, “Oh don’t worry, you’ll be gay one way or another,” when talking about bisexuals, fueling further invalidation from their own community.
Down in the deep end
In some cases, things can go beyond common assumptions, going into issues more serious and taboo.
When asked about different topics, including the fetishization of bisexual people, Menardo explains how “people view bi men as ‘weak’ or ‘soft’ while bi women are ‘hot’ or ‘sexy’ because ‘we go both ways,’” and it irritates her for a good reason. “It also makes us feel less of ourselves as if we exist to make ignorant people feel good about themselves,” she added.
A research assistant at the University of the Philippines, nicknamed “Gela,” shared her insights on the fetishization of bisexual people, specifically on media portrayal. “We don’t really gain anything from it, and it doesn’t help that many types of media promote these kinds of plots.” Stereotypical portrayals of bisexuals hinder audiences from genuinely understanding their struggles and how they differ in orientation. Gela added, "This issue, I think, is one of the biggest problems that bring misconceptions about bisexuality.”
A marketing specialist, nicknamed “Gail,” who also happens to be Jo’s partner, goes into the topic of cisgender straight men having specific fetishes for bisexual women. “For some toxic straight men, girls who like girls in general, they think that with the right [guy], they can turn them straight.”
Spectrum within a spectrum
While the meaning of the term itself has changed, before only including those in the male and female gender binary, the term “bisexual” can now be used to describe someone who experiences emotional, romantic, and/or sexual attractions to, or engages in romantic or sexual relationships with more than one sex or gender. To Jo, “There’s a lot more nuance, there’s a lot more ‘variance’ [of bisexual people’s attraction] nga as to what people would expect.”
While, for freelance creative “Kanding,” they wish people simply accept bisexuality as a whole. They advise people regarding bisexuality, “Don't question it. Don't insist on your own definition of bisexuality on us.” Bisexuality differs depending on romantic or sexual interests and experiences. Other people should not place their definition of bisexuality on bisexuals, as their experiences vary and are personal.
While bisexuality and pansexuality might get interchanged at times, as Gail shares how she could identify as a pansexual if she wanted to, “[bisexuality] is what I’ve gotten used to, it’s what I take pride in. [...] I never really knew how to properly approach [the difference between pansexuality and bisexuality], but I grew up with the term bisexuality so it’s what I use.”
Lights up ahead
“I think there has to be a massive attitude change. While the government can help, it’s mostly on the people, right?” Jo prefaced. “So, how can the government help the people allow themselves into that paradigm shift in order to be more inclusive to the LGBTQIA+ community? [Through] sex education, gender-inclusive policies, and just plain acknowledgment of the community’s existence.”
Only a few places around the National Capital Region, and even fewer in the entire country, have policies that reaffirm and aim to help aid the growing acceptance of LGBTQIA+ Filipinos. As someone who lived in Marikina, Menardo feels lucky that her city has an Anti-Discrimination ordinance that provides equal rights for the queer community. “The government should start at schools by letting the public and private schools accept their LGBTQIA+ students.”
Issues of bi-erasure and fetishization are mere challenges in the community whose open-mindedness lets them see the world from a different queer perspective.
Celebrate Bisexual Awareness Week and directly support these bisexual-centered organizations, businesses, and creators:
Fateweaver - Owned by Gail and her partner Jo, they create custom-made and pre-made design dice sets for tabletop roleplaying games.
Kanding - Variety streamer on Twitch and content creator who plays solo tabletop roleplaying games and has podcasts on Filipino film discussions.
Side B - Educational organization that advocates bi-visibility and employment equality.
Let’s bring all types of queer people into the fight for equality. No matter the gender of their partner nor their personal definition of their bisexuality, Bisexuality Awareness Week is a celebration of identity, validity, and inclusivity.