Bi Women Face More Relationship Abuse. Let’s Talk About Why.

Did you know that tomorrow is bisexual visibility day? (Of course you didn’t. Now get your bifocals on.)

This year, I hope we can take the conversation a bit further than “bisexuals exist,” and discuss some overlooked health and violence risks that bisexuals experience. On that list is the glaring fact that bisexual women experience significantly higher rates* of rape, physical violence, and/or stalking by an intimate partner compared to both lesbians and heterosexual women (this violence is largely perpetrated by men).

*(This data is from CDC survey, and thus focuses on the US. I’d guess that the numbers are worse in places where the legal outlook for being openly queer and for reporting sexual/relationship abuse are bleaker.) 

So far, there’s not as much data on why. While we wait for (and encourage) researchers to dig deeper into this issue, I want to anecdotally highlight some relationship patterns that are part of this picture.

Below are some common ways in which bisexual identity is targeted or weaponized by abusive partners (including some behaviors used against bisexual people in general, and others coming specifically from heterosexual men dating bisexual women). While I can’t draw a one-to-one link between any of these behaviors and violence-related statistics, we can at least consider some of the real-life reasons behind the numbers.


Threatening to ‘out’ a partner:

  • “I’ll tell everyone you’re bi if you leave.”
  • If you don’t listen to me, I can tell your family.”

Being out as bisexual can be wonderful, but in some circumstances it can be can be dangerous, socially isolating, or just too much to handle emotionally. Therefore, threatening to out someone without consent can be a potent power move for abusive partners.

Identity policing/forcing a partner to stay closeted:

  • “You don’t need to go around sharing the details of your sex fantasies.”
  • “If you’re serious about this relationship, that shouldn’t even matter.”
  • “People will think this marriage is a joke if they hear you’re bisexual!”

In a healthy relationship, each partner should respect the other’s autonomy in defining and disclosing their sexual identity. Treating a bi partner’s sexuality as a dirty little secret can prevent them from fully accepting their sexual identity or finding a supportive queer community. It can also limit the closeness of their relationships with friends or family, as they are unable to share their full range of feelings and experiences.

Leveraging internalized and cultural biphobia to manipulate bi partners into staying:

  • “If you leave, everyone’s gonna think it’s because you cheated.”
  • “If you leave, everyone’s gonna know you were gay[/straight] all along.”
  • “Of course you want out. I knew someone like you couldn’t commit to one person.”
  • “Every bi girl I’ve been with has left me to date dudes. Guess you’re no different.”
  • “You’re lucky I was so accepting of the bi thing. Other people out there won’t want that baggage.”

These statements hit hard for bisexuals who already fear being seen as cheaters, liars, incapable of commitment, or less-desirable romantic partners. This fear of fulfilling stereotypes can motivate some to remain in an unhealthy or unhappy relationships.

Treating bisexual identity as universal sexual consent:

  • “She’ll fuck anything that moves–of course she’s down.”
  • “You said you liked girls–so make out with that friend of yours for me now.”

Of course no one, regardless of gender or orientation, should assume sexual consent without asking. However the combination of bisexual stereotypes (“bi women are sluts”) and misogynistic victim blaming (“sluts are asking for it”), means that bi women are more likely to be forced or coerced into sexual situations by men who view them as universally sexually available. This can also include the expectation for bi women to “perform” their same-sex attraction under any circumstances, as desired by a male partners.


So what can you take away from this?

  • If you’re a bi person or dating one: Pay attention to these red flags! Have you heard or said anything similar in your relationship? While one comment does not equal abuse, it is important notice any patterns of policing or shaming bi identity. When biphobia is normalized, it can be hard to recognize that full acceptance and respect of bisexuality can be your relationship standard.
  • If you’re involved in LGBTQ activism or community organizing: don’t ignore or exclude bi women in relationships with men! Doing so overlooks a large portion of queerphobic abuse and violence that occurs within those relationships.
  • If you’re involved in anti-sexual violence movements: this is your issue too! Among other points of intersectionality, the #metoo movement would benefit from discussion of how sexual orientation impacts risk for sexual harassment, abuse, and assault (for instance, Harvey Weinstein’s abuses involved trying to coerce openly bi women into threesomes).
  • If you’re involved in medical, psychological, or public health research: bisexual people are a distinct population worth studying! Research that focuses on the lives and well-being of bisexuals (beyond just questioning or verifying our bisexuality) is just catching on, and these stats are only the beginning of the picture. While anecdotal scenarios can help us understand where the troubling stats are coming from, further research could identify more specific risk and preventative factors for relationship violence among bi women. 
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*Just For Attention*

Usually I couldn’t stand attention
At least not from the people who gave it
But something the way you were
Made me start to crave it

So I pulled up a stool for a friendly chat
Making small-talk to pass the time
Like what kind of faces do you like your face on
And do they look much like mine?

You declared innocence like the default was guilt
As if that could ease our tension
But I thought once I faced you up front and center
You might choose to pay back my attention

I said guess I’m not such an attention prude
When I’m wrapped around you like this
Course it’s all for show (though I’m starting to think
I might be a method actress)

What a funny kind of play where I wear
My own face as a mask to pretend
That it wasn’t quite me that was touched
And I could pull it off in the end

But I tuned out the tunes and the boys making noise
Tried not to grant them a mention
Tried to shut out the guy in the side of your eye
So I could keep all your attention

A Cynical Queer Killjoy’s Mixed Feelings on the Rainbow Machine

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It’s June, which means that cynical, nerdy, political queer killjoys are spending the month rolling their eyes at the shiny whitewashed respectability spectacle of corporate-sponsored pride celebrations. I would know—I’m one of them.

But sometimes I fall off my high horse and remember: I didn’t start out thinking like this. Not even close.

When I sigh at the rainbow-themed sneakers and laptop ads popping up around the city, unimpressed with corporations’ willingness to co-opt symbols of a successful liberation movement now that it has been deemed more profitable than not.

But I also remember living in a time and place when public support of LGBT rights was more of a business liability than a strategy, and think of how much tweenage angst I could have avoided had I seen rainbow-plastered shoe stores then.

Read the rest on HuffPost

True Hero: Jeff Doesn’t Have a Problem With People Being Gay or Whatever

As pride month parades and parties roll around, it is only fitting that we take time to focus on the true heroes working to make it possible to freely celebrate LGBTQ identities. Meet Jeff, the straight guy who doesn’t have a problem with people being gay or whatever.

A proud and vocal straight ally, Jeff is almost as eager to talk about his approach to allyship as he is to talk about the fact that he is straight. “I mean I’m not gay or anything,” he clarified, “but I don’t have an issue with letting other people be like that.” This bold statement came as a relief to the many individuals anxiously awaiting Jeff’s personal approval of their sexual orientation.

Jeff’s support for the LGBTQ community is not just pollitical, but personal as well. Jeff has a self-reported “lots of gay friends,” though the only one who could be referenced by name was Patrick From College. Speaking on Jeff’s memorable place in his educational journey, Patrick recalled, “Yeah, I remember him. We lived on the same floor sophomore year I think.”

Asked to speak about the personal impact of Jeff’s allyship, Patrick explained, “Having come from an environment people were openly hostile towards my existence, I guess it was nice to be around people like that who were pretty indifferent to it.”
“Yeah, that must be nice,” murmured Cara From Work, Patrick’s token trans friend.

Nearly unlimited in compassion, Jeff’s message of acceptance spreads to all except those who are making a big deal about it and shoving it in his face. “I mean you can be gay or whatever, but some people get all weird and make their whole personality about that,” Jeff explained before noting for the fifth time today that he is a heterosexual.

The community is lucky to have Jeff as role model to show what it means to be so open and proud of one’s sexuality. Nonetheless, as he is always willing to see beyond the labels and categories that divide us, Jeff doesn’t even let his heterosexuality stop him from making appearances at a local local lesbian bar.

For his modest-but-not-unnoticed efforts, Jeff can certainly expect to be a top ally award candidate with major advocacy organizations, as soon as his music career takes off.


Note: since the initial release of this article, Jeff has contacted the publication asking us to clarify that he is heterosexual.

 satire label

Bisexual Visibility Tips

Are you a chronically invisible bisexual struggling to have your sexuality acknowledged by mere mortals? In honor of Bisexual Visibility Day, here are some never-before-used bi visibility tips to try:

Disclaimer: these strategies have not been tested on humans, animals, plants, fungi, or unicorns, and I take no responsibility for any consequences

  • During any attendance call, stand up and shout “I’m queer and I’m here!”
  • Preface every statement you make with “In my bisexual opinion . . . “
  • As you lean in to kiss someone of the same gender boo, say “no homo.”
  • As you lean in to kiss someone of a different gender boo, say “no hetero.”
  • Generally interject “no hetero” into conversations at random intervals.
  • Stop the drive-through at McDonalds to critique the employees’ use of the phrase “choose a side.”
  • If you hear someone throwing around the phrase “That’s so gay,” call them out by saying “Actually, it might be so bisexual. Don’t assume.”
  • Talk to the guy on the corner with the “Gays are Destroying America” sign and ask that he also acknowledge the role of bisexuals in destroying America.
  • When someone tells you “good-bi” smile and say “I know I am.”

It’s entirely possible that after using these strategies, you’ll still be received with the same old “But you’re not like actually bi, right?” At this point, it might be time to give up and accept your invisibility. On the plus side, invisibility is a great addition to your LinkedIn “skills” section when applying to corporate spying jobs (I’m guessing that’s what “analyst” actually means, right?).

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Pro-tip for observers: bifocals are the only glasses with guaranteed bi visibility. Put them on and you’ll be seeing bisexuals everywhere.


Note: This is a joke, I think, but bi visibility isn’t, so I recommend checking out this for real information and suggestions on for fighting erasure.

 

Dancing in the Face of Violence

Some of my semi-coherent thoughts and feelings in of the recent shooting at Pulse. Love to the families of the victims, the LGBTQ and Latinx communities of Orlando, and anyone else who’s been having trouble making sense of world lately:

In an otherwise meh performance I saw on Saturday, there was one image that stuck with me all night: a cloud of smoke meant to resemble a bomb with people dancing tirelessly through it. The coexisting images of dancing and bombs, as if there were nothing contradictory about them, seemed as strangely affirming as it did absurd.

When I read the news on Sunday, the only thing that made sense to do was nothing. The next morning, the only other thing I could do was dance. It’s a pretty useless thing to be doing, but maybe that’s what made sense about it.

Some people have expressed shock that people could be shot in a place where they came to feel safe, have fun, and dance. But the truth is that queer clubs have always been sites of dancing in the face of danger. Maybe some of us are in a time, place, or social position that lets us forget it, but queer clubs around the world have grown up in the face of violence, whether from criminal attackers or law enforcement.

In this space, with this history, there’s no need to check the shooter’s race or religion or background to recognize a shooting as an act of terror—especially for queer people of color, it’s all too clear that targeted violence meant to invoke fear isn’t only something that comes from Muslims or brown people or immigrants.

And yet the very existence of clubs like Pulse—filled with dancing—is testament to everyone who has refused to let their body be paralyzed by that fear.

In the face of violence, dancing is a pretty useless thing to be doing. But maybe that’s kind of the point. Even when they’re after your life, you refuse to let them reduce your body and your movement to the bare functionalism of fight or flight.

Refusing to let them tell you what not to do with your body. Refusing to make it quieter and smaller as a plea for tolerance or safety. Asserting your will not just to survive, but to live. Demanding that your community be defined not just by oppression and death stories, but also by dancing and life stories.

Dancing through guns, through bombs, through tears, through fears. Keep dancing y’all.

 

The Early Days: Will You Be My Valentine?

Valentines Day 2001, at the Lego station in Ms. Cornelius’ Kindergarten class:

Me: Will you be my Valentine?

(Also on my list of “Valentines” that day: my mom, my neighbor, the class guinea pig.)

Hannah: No. If you’re a girl your Valentine has to be a boy and if you’re a boy it has to be a girl.

Me: Oh. Why?

Hannah: I don’t know, it’s just the rule. That’s what my dad told me.

Me: Oh. Okay.

(Mentally) That’s a weird and confusing rule. Who came up with this stuff? When do we get chocolate?

Coincidentally, I still have those three thoughts pretty frequently now.

good-bye-candy