In high school, I knew only one girl who openly identified as bisexual. She moved to my town halfway during freshman year, and we quickly became friends. I admired a lot about her, from her stylish side bangs to her “fuck the haters” attitude. I remember she told me that she liked both girls and boys one afternoon when we were sitting outside on my deck, probably drinking Arizona iced tea and eating pop tarts.
She said it matter-of-factly, like it was no big deal, and I thought she was literally the coolest person I’d ever met. She was the first person I’d ever known who seemed to truly not care about what people thought of her, someone who was so confident in her own skin.
When she told me about her sexuality, I remember feeling a tiny little sensation of “me too,” as though we were about to bond over a favorite band or TV show. I wanted to say those two words out loud — but I didn’t.
Perhaps somewhere deep down, I wondered if I just wanted to say “me too,” in order to be closer with my new friend. Like, maybe it wasn’t genuine, and I was jumping on a bandwagon of a trend set by the new girl in town with the cool hair.
Years later, in college, I remember sitting in the common area of my freshman year dorm with a few other girls. We had just come back from the dining hall and were planning what to do later that night when a group of upperclassmen walked in.
They were mid-conversation, and as they walked up the stairs, I heard one sentence: “Bi girls are so fake. Like, make up your mind already.”
To be clear, the girl who said this was openly gay. Not only that, but she was widely loved on our small campus for being a talented artist. Among the underclassmen, she had become somewhat of a celebrity. We looked up to her for so many reasons. She was confident, outgoing, funny, and brave.
For all intents and purposes, she was a representative of the LGBTQ+ community at the time – at least the community in our school. And there she was, casually – and loudly – saying to her friends that bi girls were basically not real.
And there, right there, is the crux of the matter.
That’s why I couldn’t say “me too” to my classmate so many years ago, why so many girls stay quiet on their feelings.
It’s all of the assumptions and stereotypes and quips that have been engrained in our minds over time:
Bi girls are so fake.
Make up your mind.
You’re doing it for attention.
Because it’s trendy.
So, you’d be down for a threesome then, right?
Wait, you’re dating a guy so you’re not *really* bi, right?
Or, hold up, are you straight now?
It’s almost unbelievable that in this day and age, when we have made so many strides forward as a culture, that there’s still so much stigma attached to the idea of being attracted to any gender. And yet, bisexual women are still facing these exact same misconceptions.
There is a continued need for the discussion of bi-erasure – the minimizing or dismissal of the bisexual narrative from the LGBTQ+ community.
Sexual identity isn’t a trend, nor is it even a choice. It’s part of who we are; it’s not a phase the way one might try out a new hair color (or trendy side bangs.)
For women who came of age in the ‘90s and ‘00s as I did, there wasn’t a whole lot of representation of sexual fluidity in Hollywood and pop culture. Yes, we had Angelina Jolie and Drew Barrymore, but the way that celebrities spoke about bisexuality was much different from how it’s discussed today. Additionally, there wasn’t a whole lot of discussion about being attracted to any gender identity. The conversations about bisexuality in high school or college revolved around “both” genders, which doesn’t take into account nonbinary gender identities.
While bi-erasure is a challenge that many young women (and men) still face today, it’s worth noting that the celebrity representation is much stronger.
We have Rowan Blanchard, who came out as queer on Twitter in January, saying that she is open to having relationships with any gender in the future. There’s Halsey, who is openly bisexual and who has been outspoken about the damages of bi-erasure. And there’s Amandla Stenberg, who hit the nail on the head when she said, “You forget that you can be both,” in regard to having crushes on girls and guys.
These celebrities are essential figures in the queer community, especially for LGBTQ+ youth. Their presence is a simple reminder that no one is alone, which can sometimes make all the difference.
When a popular celebrity comes out online or speaks to important issues, that can be the one tiny piece of motivation that a young person might need in order to embrace their own identity. It’s that connection, the feeling of “me too,” that we all so desperately seek.
Representation matters in a way that’s more urgent than ever, and perhaps the only way to combat bi-erasure and biphobia is to keep reminding ourselves that no one’s sexual identity is a falsity. Sexual orientation is something that’s ingrained in us; it’s not all of who we are, but it is a part of who we are.
And at the end of the day, there are no rules. Some people choose to label their sexuality; others don’t. Some people feel secure and comfortable by claiming a specific title in the rainbow, while others would prefer to fall under the queer umbrella. There’s no one standing with a clipboard, waiting to check off your qualifications.
The beauty of sexual fluidity is that it knows no boundaries, the way that attraction and emotions aren’t limited by gender.
So if you’re struggling to find a name for yourself, know that you are fine just the way you are. Your sexual identity is your own, and it is beautiful no matter where you fall on the spectrum. Don’t ever let anyone tell you otherwise.