October 24, 2016
I have always known that I was different; from age seven, sitting on the couch in my living room and hearing the word “faggot” casually uttered on a major television channel, that my difference is still unsatisfactory to many in the 21st century. I am a bisexual teenager.
There is constant dispute over whether or not my identity is real, whether or not a person identifying as bisexual is confused or simply just too young to understand who they are. Identifying as bisexual is not accepted like identifying as gay or lesbian is. Therefore, it is trivial that bisexual people are pushed back into their metaphorical closet. In a 2013 study by Pew Research Center, an underwhelming and dangerously low 28% of bisexual people reported that friends and family were informed about their sexual orientation– 77% of gay men and 71% of lesbian women reported they had informed friends and family. It was also reported, in the same study, people who identify as bisexual contribute 44% of the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender (LGBT) community– compared to gays at 36% and lesbians at 19%. This study is clear evidence that, although the most common LGBT orientation, bisexuals are less likely to tell their closest confidants about their identity than other LGBT people– which could only come to be if there was antipathy and denial of validity towards the orientation.
Perhaps the most common argument against the validity of bisexuality is: “bisexuals are just confused.” When I was in middle school, I remember my male classmates sat on the carpet of our classroom during Independent Reading time whispering and chattering. Their topic was always girls in the grade; how pretty they were, how well they fit in with the boys. I’d venture to lunch later in the day, sit with girls I barely knew, and listen to their similar conversations about the boys. I related to the girls and the boys. I was confused.
It was not until high school that I gave my sexuality a name. No longer am I confused, nor will I ever be. However, I still deal with anxiety, which, I believe, has originated from confusion about my sexuality when I was younger. My anxiety contributes to a larger, ongoing fight with depression. Bisexuals report a much higher rate of mental illnesses compared to all other sexual orientations, which includes bipolar disorder and anxiety. While this statistic is undeniable and very clear as a case for bisexual “confusion,” I ask you to look deeper into this situation; could this be result of the denial of bisexuality?
Bisexuals who have boyfriends, girlfriends, husbands or wives of the opposite sex are often posed with the question, “if you’re gay, then why are you in a straight (heterosexual) relationship?” In 2013, Pew Research Centers surveyed that 84% of bisexual people are in relationships with people of the opposite gender, and only 9% of bisexuals reported their relationship was with someone of their same gender. The argument of bisexuals “faking” their orientation because of this statistic does not consider the issues that come with identifying outside of society’s heteronormality: rejection by friends, rejection by society, rejection by a family that once cared, nurtured, and loved their “gay” child.
As a leader of a Gay-Straight Alliance, I feel the tension in the room when I talk about my sexuality. I lead my club fearlessly; we face adversity every day in our school, whether it be derogatory name-calling or the intrusion of our meetings, yet we still have not abandoned our original purpose: to create positivity around our differences. However, this is difficult to say to myself when I feel my peers go stiff as I speak about who I am. In a study by a Counseling Psychology P.h.D. student at University of Massachusetts, bisexual people reported nearly the same amount of biphobic experiences with gay men and lesbian women as they did with straight people. Why shut out an entire group of people who are happy to join the community? If one’s sexual orientation, whether it be gay, lesbian, or anything beyond, isn’t considered a “choice”, why is mine?
I am now a bisexual teenager, I’ve been bisexual since birth. 31% of Americans under 30 years old identify somewhere in between heterosexual and homosexual on the Kinsey scale, a tool used to evaluate and measure sexuality. Bisexuals fall directly in the middle of the Kinsey scale, but there are endless combinations of sexuality. How can 31% of young Americans be faking their orientations? How can 31% of young Americans be confused about who they are? How can one argue that bisexuality is not valid?