Bi Culture Exists, and is Being Appropriated

Bi culture deserves its own recognition, and not to be confined to the shadows of gay representation.

Bi representation is both dead and alive, and buried in a box in the garden of gay representation. It’s not exactly philosophical, but merely a truthful reflection of the woeful state of bi representation. Yet, if you ever spoke to the queer community, you probably wouldn’t even know bi people existed at all.

How can a community have problems when it doesn’t seem to exist? Of course, bi people do exist. Statistics indicate that bi people could may well make up the largest percentage of the queer community but we’ve always been awful at getting any recognition. Our community, in terms of numbers, is an unstoppable force and yet it has met the immovable object that is erasure.

The statistics present the same old story: bi people are far less likely to be out than cis gay people, far more likely to have mental health conditions, more likely to self-harm, more likely to be raped, stalked and/or harassed. We also know that bi representation in the media is utterly abysmal and lagging well behind cis gay representation. Even when bi representation is included, producers are quick to dismiss it and label it as a phase or some way to show off a character’s more manipulative and duplicitous nature. Hardly inspiring. Additionally, bi representation is often appropriated. “The gays” as is jokingly referred to by the queer community isn’t a statement of empowerment when it’s used to imply bi characters (like Kellie from Black Mirror or Clarke from The 100) are actually bi and not gay. Hell, Harry Styles couldn’t even hint at being bi without lesbians hailing him as their icon. Hello, I think bi people (especially bi men) need their own icons right now.

There’s this idea that we’re all in it together in the queer community, but so often it is cis gay people who are saying that often at the expense of silencing other queer identities. Each identity – bi, pan, intersex, trans, ace, aro, gay, and so forth – deserves their own unique representation. Bi people shouldn’t just be taken over and appropriated whenever we finally get some representation. We deserve our own spaces, our own icons and our own culture too.

Part of the reason why this happens is because being bi is still seen as being half gay. This is a falsehood in every sense. For one, oppression shouldn’t be ranked (and even if it was, bi people actually have worse stats going) and the idea of a sexual or romantic binary is  inherently heteronormative and queerphobic. There is nothing more binary breaking than experiencing attraction beyond gender, so the idea that bi (and pan) people are somehow less queer is utter bullshit.

“Being bi is still seen as being half gay”

But there is a huge tribalism where stories must serve gay culture but not bi culture. We see this how there’s utter outrage over bury your gays tropes, but bi people never even get representation to begin with. Bi commentators are trolled for emphasising the bisexuality of characters and their past relationships with people of a different gender and seeing them as valid as the relationships had with people of the same gender. People think that only men in relationships with men or women in relationships with women is queer representation, which is simply biphobic gatekeeping.

Bi people have got their own culture and representation. Sure, there isn’t a huge amount through mainstream channels but it’s their and it’s ours. It’s part of queer representation but it isn’t gay representation. While all queer representation ultimately helps us all, we have to take care not to appropriate people. There’s a real harm in erasure – if you doubt that, just ask how you’d feel if someone constantly claimed your identity wasn’t real, but it was in fact someone else’s.

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