Turncoat, opportunist, liar: why so much hate for bisexuals?

Even in communities and venues where liberal-mindedness and inclusion rule,  intolerance for bisexuals mysteriously persists. I wonder why.

Olympic diver Tom Daley announced via YouTube video that he “couldn’t be happier” in love with a man, but “I still fancy girls,” and the New York Times and Huffington post ran stories about snarky commentary skeptical that both these things can be true.

First the fun digression: It’s easy to get distracted by the beauty of a joyous first deep love, as you watch the video and his subsequent appearance on a British TV show , and as you read this tweet: “One day someone will hug you so tight. That all your broken pieces will stick back together.” Cue the Disney falling-in-love songs, say, “A Whole New World.” Ahhh. Except that Disney is so hetero-normative. And so we come back to the matter of non-acceptance, at both ends of the orientation spectrum.

Liar?: Is Bisexuality Real? Or the First Stop on the Gay/Lesbian Train?

Michael Shulman writes in the New York Times that “…Mr. Daley’s disclosure reignited a fraught conversation within the LGBT community, having to do with its third letter.” He quotes expert Lisa Diamond, that people don’t believe “… that bisexuality really exists, feeling that it’s a transitional stage or a form of being in the closet.”

Indeed, for some lesbian- and gay-identified people, “bisexual” was an early stage of self-acceptance:

”It’s easier to say this now [that you are bi] than before, and bi is a step on the path to self-recognition as gay for many guys. The girls include both some who want attention and some who are truly experiencing the turmoil. This is really an issue to be addressed by adults, in that changing the marriage equality laws and otherwise promoting equity will make any orientation accepted, and then kids can say who they really are.” – SQ

While for some bisexual might actually be a “gateway” self-label toward gay or lesbian, that doesn’t make it false for others. Dr. Diamond goes on to cite population studies that suggest there are more bisexual people than gays and lesbians, and Freud and Kinsey both believed bisexuality is quite common.

“I think people have sliding scales of attraction to each sex, and they are sometimes independent of each other.” -GC

“There are so many straight people who have had queer experiences but they won’t describe them that way.” -SH

A recent large study of teens by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention backs up Dr. Diamond’s assertion. Of teens in 13 different sites over 9 years, between only 1-2.6% identified as gay or lesbian, and 2.9-5.2% said they were bisexual.  How they labeled themselves echoed what they did: 0.7-3.9% had sexual contact only with “members of the same sex,” and 1.9-4.9% with “both sexes”.  (CDC, “Sexual Identity, Sex of Sexual Contacts, and Health-Risk Behaviors Among Students in Grades 9–12 — Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance, Selected Sites, United States, 2001–2009,” Morbidity & Mortality Report, June 6, 2011.

Do these figures surprise you? Is bisexuality “trendy” in your area, and if so, does this seem to reflect authentic attraction? What does your teen think?

Check out Science of Relationships for more myth-busting on bisexuality.

Click here to see another common, offensive dismissal of bisexuality: opportunism.

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