I had never heard of Bi-erasure before, but here we are
As a straight female in her late 20s, I’ll be the first to admit that I’m not fluent in the ins and outs of the LGBTQ+ world. I have my opinions and I’ve heard testimonials, of course, but I’d never claim to understand what it’s like for them in present day society. And while I count myself a curious ally, there’s a difference between admiring the water and actually swimming in it.
I’ve lived my life in what I would describe as a very chill manner. I accept people (and who they love) as they are. #LoveIsLove, they say—and I stand by it. But there are people that just don’t feel the same and don’t share my let-them-live-their-lives thinking.
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Bisexual erasure (AKA Bi-erasure or Bi-invisibility) is when someone questions or denies the existence and legitimacy of bisexuality. Let’s paint a pretty picture:
There is a gay couple spending time with friends and they’re called a “gay couple.” However, one of the partners say, “Well, I’m not gay. I actually identify as bisexual.” And if someone in their circle were to say something like, “Well, you’re in a relationship with a man now, so you’re just gay. There’s no need for that bisexual thing anymore.”
That last statement, dear friends, is a clear case of bisexual erasure. And the idea of this baffles me because of one thing: Why? Who in the world has the right to identify someone else’s orientation? But alas, it’s a very real (and damaging!) thing.
I came across this article from 2017 and the author of it noted three particular instances where she experienced bi-erasure:
- When friends assumed she had only ever dated women because of who she was currently dating
- When a lesbian would tell her that she would eventually have to choose a “side”
- When lesbian romantic partners would tell her that she was only into girls specifically because of them and that, if the relationship were to end, she would be back on the boy-loving train
And as she says, “That’s not OK.”
Insisting that someone is either “gay/lesbian” or “straight” somewhat illegalizes previous relationships that don’t fall into this category. And while I know that some of us (myself included) would erase past partners from our history, that choice/wish should always be an individual one to make.
And what might make it worse is that it completely strips the person away from a genuine part of their life. Imagine being a straight teenage girl, ogling Zac Efron circa High School Musical, eventually realizing you like women (too) and being made to think that Zac was just a figment of your imagination—a way to meet society’s standards and therefore inaccurate. Like that part of your life and all the feelings and experiences that came with it were fake. As if you were invalid and that those years of your life don’t matter—all because you now like the same sex, too (or, you know, the opposite, depending on your situation).
In a perfect world, shit like this wouldn’t happen and shit like this wouldn’t matter. But before we change the world, there are little things to keep in mind to keep ourselves in check. For one, past relationships don’t dictate present preferences. Another: sexuality doesn’t dictate promiscuity. And one last thing: just let people live.
Besides, what is with our obsession to put people in a neatly-named box?
Art Alexandra Lara