It’s incredible the strides we’ve made and how much the world has changed since the inception of Celebrate Bisexuality Day in 1999; 20 years on, we have national bisexual+ organizations and out bi and pan politicians; Kat Sandoval wearing butch bisexual suits on TV; Tessa Thompson and Janelle Monáe doing literally everything that they do; and a new generation of youth who are ready to save the world from climate change and have no interest in maintaining the status quo of the past around sexuality or gender. What kind of world are they ushering us into! We can’t wait to find out. Here’s some of your local bi+ Autostraddle writers and pals weighing in on what we hope to see in a bisexual future. Where do you see us headed? Let us know in the comments!
I would love bisexuality in the future to not be viewed as a behavior, but as an identity. So many of the dumb myths about bisexuality come with a hypersexual focus on sexual behavior, both assumptions of what kinds of behaviors bisexuals partake in and what bisexuals should or should not do in terms of sexual partners. I choose the identity of bisexual for a lot of reasons, both personal and political, but not really aligned at all with my sexual history (or future). What a concept!
I would want bisexuals in the future to have a sense of a bisexual past, bisexual history, bisexual culture, to feel a part of something just for them. I think about our history a lot, that fact that bi stigma has prevented us from reaching back and finding our own. Bisexual figures in history will get their place alongside gay and lesbian figures in the future. (FWIW, so will trans historical figures.) It’s exciting that there are so many out famous bisexuals now. There will be more to hold onto for future bisexuals than currently and, like others have said, that sense of representation means something tangible in terms of health outcomes and bisexual joy.
I just want more and more bisexual joy!
So, I’ll start with the pop culture conversation…partly because it’s my beat here at Autostraddle but also because I truly believe in pop culture’s ability to initiate shifts in how we see each other and ourselves.
While we’ve seen an increase in the number of bisexual+ characters on television over the years, the numbers still fall short of being reflective of the our community. Studies estimate that bi+ people are about 50% of the LGBT community, on television we represent just 27% of LGBT characters. I’d love to see more representation of bisexual people across the board and shows like Grey’s Anatomy, Station 19 and Good Trouble show that bi+ representation doesn’t have to come at the expense of gay or lesbian or trans representation. There can be and should be room for us all to see ourselves.
There’s a lot of attention paid to television shows that employ harmful tropes about bisexual people — and rightfully so — but one thing that’s becoming increasingly frustrating to me: characters who are, ostensibly, bisexual but who never actually say the word. For everything that was groundbreaking about Orange is the New Black, it took until its 89th episode for the show’s lead character, who had essentially been bisexual from the very first episode, to actually be called bisexual. Shows that do that are contributing to bi-erasure and biphobia and, of course, audiences are internalizing that message.
In the real world, that erasure has some consequences; it suggests that there’s something wrong with identifying as bisexual and contributes to a sense of alienation, especially among young queer people. We’re seeing that manifest in stark mental health disparities: according to an analysis from the Trevor Project, bisexual youth are more likely to feel sad or hopeless and consider suicide than their gay/lesbian and heterosexual peers…and, not surprisingly, those issues persist in adulthood. In the future, LGBT organizations have to do a better job at providing trans-inclusive programming targetted at bi+ communities that address mental health. On the political front, I think universal health care coverage, with mental health parity, is essential if we want to bisexual people to thrive.
I dream of a bisexual future where all people are safe to explore feelings of attraction, care, friendship, and love without fear of discrimination, violence, or stigma. I want a bisexual future that celebrates and uplifts trans people of all genders, as bisexual activists and community leaders have done for decades. I long for an inclusive bi+ future where everyone, no matter who they love or what label resonates most, feels welcome under our expansive umbrella. I need a bisexual future that honors our ancestors and demands better for those who follow us.
Sometimes I joke that I assume everyone is bisexual until proven otherwise. I don’t mean it in a reductive way, but rather as my small resistance to a cultural reality where heterosexuality is considered the default setting. I hope our bisexual future is one where we let people define themselves with joy and never fear.
Rachel Kincaid, Managing Editor
The “x is bi culture” meme is increasingly common, and while it’s a joke format I really love seeing! I love that bi youth are growing up into a world where they’ll get to participate in and be part of defining a bi community and culture that’s all its own, something alive and changing and freestanding. As I was growing and developing as a bi person, everything I understood about bisexuality (and by extension, myself) was reactive, a point of comparison to gay or straight people. I learned that we were diet versions of gay people; more confusing, less trustworthy versions of straight people. I think that even in the 15 or so years since I was a youth, that’s already started to change; there are active conversations around specifically queer and bi identity and experience, and children who got to skip much of the confusing, self-loathing interim time of trying to figure out what they “really are.” Those kids will have a whole set of terminology and jokes and characters in media and celebrities and information about their own selves that I couldn’t have imagined, and I’m so elated about that. I’m excited for a future where bi people have a shared culture and conversation that goes beyond mythbusting or fighting stigma, and that stands on its own sense of self and history and resists comparisons to other groups, or an idea of being “in between,” and one that actively seeks out points of solidarity and overlap with trans communities and other marginalized people. We have such a rich history and strong present, and I’m excited for the broad-ranging, ever-shifting bi community to build its future.
Abeni Jones, Contributor
I envision a future where the bisexual vs. pansexual debate is OVER! I want bisexuality to either include non-binary and otherwise trans people, or not. To be honest, I would be fine if there WAS a clear distinction – like, what it seems everyone on Reddit believes: “bisexuals are into cis men and cis women ONLY, pansexuals don’t discriminate by gender/genitalia,” or whatever. I don’t really care how it all shakes out, but it would be great to know off top who’s trans-exclusionary and who isn’t. Then I could know who to avoid if I ever date again!
Casey Stepaniuk, Contributor
In some ways I think the bisexual / pansexual / queer future I imagine when I think about this question is already happening for some youth and the world they’re living in. There are so many of them coming out so much earlier than I did, and embracing a wide variety of non-monosexual identities. It’s like they know that there is such a beautiful rainbow of options before them and they don’t have to squeeze themselves into a gay or lesbian identity if that’s not what fits best for them. It took me so long to figure that out! I hope in the future that every person coming out at any age feels free to adopt and try out whatever identity or label that fits best for them, and to change their mind if they want to. I want the freedom and queer belonging I’ve seen in some young bi+ people to be had by everyone.
Another thing that is great about today that feels like the future I would have wanted are the many amazing examples of bisexual representation in TV and books. I would have killed for this variety 15 or 20 years ago. I mean, I have over 400 books on my bisexual shelf on Goodreads! And we have real-life bi peope like Stephanie Beatrix playing bisexual characters on TV. What a blessing! For the future I would love to see bi+ media representation get more diverse and centre more people of color, people with diverse abilities, nonbinary people, trans people and — odd as it might seem to say — more men.
On a personal note, I am at the beginning of some big adulting type things like getting a mortgage and planning to have kids with my cis male partner. What I really want for my own future is to avoid disappearing into bisexual invisibility / supposed heterosexual normalcy. I think this means bisexual community. So stay tuned for the bisexual mom/parent group I may be starting in my small west coast city? In the meantime I have the amazing bi+ community at Autostraddle, which I am so, so grateful for.
Mara Wilson, Noted Bisexual
First, and most importantly, I wish it could be universally agreed that bisexual does not imply a binary. It does not have to mean “both men and women” (others’ words, not mine); it can, and should, and in my opinion, does mean “both my gender, and other genders.” A binary interpretation can deter people from using it, and I actually struggled with it myself when I first came out. But it’s still the term I feel feels the best for me, someone attracted to both my gender and to other genders, be they transgender, cis, non-binary, any gender. “Pansexual” has never quite felt right for me, but of course, those who identify as such should use it. Bisexuality, as I envision it, should be seen as inclusive, and should absolutely not be transphobic.
I would also like to renew my call for boring bisexual characters in fiction! I want characters who post a lot of pictures of their cats and go to bed early when they have migraines. If we are going to be represented as “evil” or “confused,” there better at least be other characters on that show or in that book who are bisexual and good, or bisexual and boring. (Killing Eve does a good job with this, in my opinion.) We can of course, be evil and bisexual (see: Gaby Dunn), or confused and bisexual (see: me), but it’s not because we are bisexual.