Art Banner By Gil Escorial
Art Banner By Gil Escorial.

#BiVisibility: An uphill struggle for inclusion and recognition

“People think it’s fun to be bi 'cause [they think] you have so many options, but it’s actually heavier than you think when feelings come into play and decisions need to be made. It can be an emotional rollercoaster and it’s not as easy as it seems.” - ID121 Architecture student “Donovan”

By Maxine Cheung | Monday, 16 October 2023

Despite bisexuals making up over 50% of the LGBTQIA+ community, they still face various forms of discrimination from within the queer community and outside of it—considered “too gay” to be straight and “too straight-passing” to be queer. The recent Bisexual Visibility Month is an opportunity for us to recognize diverse bi identities and raise awareness on the various realities of bisexuality.


Every September, the world comes together to celebrate Bisexual Awareness Month to highlight positivity and acceptance for the invisible majority. Yet, each year, the bisexual community still grapples with the same issues of bisexual erasure, media stereotypes, internalized biphobia, and worst, fetishization.


“What am I?”

While the belief is that bisexuals have twice as much fun, the reality is they experience twice the amount of discrimination and face higher rates of internal stigma. Having been bombarded with invalidation and constant pressure from both the queer and straight community, it’s no surprise that most, if not all, bisexuals have questioned themselves, sometimes falling through the same patterns of objectification they were subjected to by others. 


In an interview with The Benildean, a University of the Philippines - Open University (UPOU) Multimedia Studies student who goes by the name Gaea shared her initial worries after realizing her queer identity in an all-girls school at a young age.


“Knowing that I liked girls at that time, I felt kind of uncomfortable about it so some [form of] internalized homophobia led me to convince my mom to allow me to go to a co-ed school.” She continued, “I wanted to go to one to see if liking girls was a one-off thing, but really it wasn’t.”


Moreover, the lack of proper representation leads a lot of people through the same uncertainties. 


For ID120 Multimedia Arts student Kian Monton, “Growing up, the idea of bisexuality wasn’t introduced to me, and I only knew of gays, lesbians, and straight people. There wasn’t a middle ground, so I was incredibly confused as to what I was.” 


Monton later mentioned the Netflix series “Heartstopper” and the local series “Gameboys” as media representations that helped him come to terms with himself. “I know these shows helped me feel a lot more valid with the way I thought and felt in the past. So I hope more shows like these are released, and give other bisexual people the same sense of relief and validation that I felt.”


Bisexuals are often made out to be invisible like they don’t belong, like they’re simply confused, or just haven’t figured it out yet, to the point where bisexuals themselves buy into the concept and go down the rabbit hole of self-doubt and identity crises. 


Double closets and double standards

At a time when gay rights have made stunning strides, and gays and lesbians have become far more willing to come out, the vast majority of bisexuals remain closeted. Many choose not to come out to avoid the misconceptions surrounding bisexuals–that they’re indecisive or incapable of monogamy–stereotypes that exist within the queer and heterosexual communities alike.


While dealing with misconceptions and stereotypes, Monton shared his frustrations on the topic, “Most of the time when people hear that someone’s bisexual they just automatically assume that they’re a closeted gay that’s trying to slowly ease themselves into coming out as gay. While some people might do that, it’s not what being bisexual is all about.” 


“I also want people to know that there are levels to bisexuality as well. It’s not just a complete 50/50 in preference. Bisexual people can have preferences too. And just because a bi person prefers a certain sex, doesn’t mean that they’re ‘more gay’ or ‘more straight,’” he continued.


Likewise, Gaea shared her experience of being invalidated by someone from her own community, “I have had a fellow bisexual tell me I wasn’t bi because, at the time, I was crushing on a guy [...] At the end of the day, I do feel romantic attraction to multiple genders and that’s all being bi really is though–attraction to more than one gender.”


Society continues to force bisexual individuals into a specific category of gay or straight, refusing to accept their true nature as bisexuals. 


For Monton, “I feel like people in the Philippines are more accepting of bisexual people compared to the others but still, there’s some expectation that it’s just a phase and that they’ll end up dating and marrying the opposite sex. It’s a very weird, somewhat fake, sort of acceptance. They accept you, but wholeheartedly hope you don’t date the same sex.”


Moreover, outside the queer community, bisexuals are thought to be confused, opportunistic, and unable to make commitments while inside the gay community, bisexual people are often seen as more privileged than gays and lesbians, because of their ability to evade discrimination by entering into straight relationships. 


With an optimistic outlook, an ID121 Architecture student who goes by the name of Donovan commented, “Just because you’re bi doesn’t mean you need to look femme or butch or be a certain way, sometimes you’re just a normal-looking, normal-behaving person. The assumption should be you’re just a guy or girl.”


“Bi” the way

For both Donovan and Monton, Benilde has been a very inclusive environment for them to express themselves individually. Donovan mentioned how he was able to meet so many more people from the queer community, “This is the first place where I actually became friends with two transexual people on opposite ends of the spectrum. It’s eye-opening, to be honest.” 


While Monton discussed the various events catered for LGBTQIA+ awareness, “Benilde has been doing great, especially with events like Art Ammo and some seminars here and there tackling this topic.” On the other hand, “I did notice that a majority of it is spent talking about the gays and the trans, and very briefly the lesbians, queers, and bisexuals. But that doesn’t mean I don’t feel perceived. However, a little bit more representation would do wonders.”


On the topic of bisexuals in the Philippines, Monton and Gaea share the same sentiments—the most straightforward way to improve the quality of life and overall acceptance of their community is through passing the SOGIE Bill. 


“There’s so much that the SOGIE Bill could change for the lives of all LGBTQIA+ people. So much more representation, acceptance, and overall understanding of our people… The SOGIE Bill’s passing would be an immense help in lessening these cases of discrimination around the country.”


For those questioning, hiding, or in self-doubt, Donovan advised, “Surround yourself with people who you think are going to support you or go on a journey with you and help you find your way. Don’t be scared to try things out.” 


From Gaea, “No matter how you identify, know that just being you is enough. Labels can help others understand you but don’t box yourself into that, identity is something that always changes after all. You’ll find your people, those who’ll accept you wholeheartedly. I promise.”


“The words of people can hurt, but not being able to live the way you want to or figuring out how you want to live your life can only hurt you even more in the long run. It’s okay to be scared. But let the courage inside you win over that fear and live your life to the fullest, as who you really are.” 


Monton concluded, “I hope you guys know that your feelings of confusion and self-doubt are all valid.”


Let’s call all people, regardless of gender, sexuality, or identity, to advocate for equality and raise awareness of the unique issues faced by the bisexual community. Bisexual Awareness Month is a time to elevate queer voices and recognize the unheard needs of the community. Let’s all continue to celebrate identity, validity, and inclusivity, not only annually during Bisexual Awareness Month but all throughout the year.