Being a bisexual woman myself, I am well accustomed to having awkward, and sometimes just plain rude, conversations with people who don’t understand – and don’t really want to understand – my sexuality.
Bi-erasure is, unfortunately, incredibly common and a problem that seems to be regularly ignored.
So, what is bi-erasure?
Bi-erasure is the term for when someone questions or even denies the legitimacy or existence of bisexual people. This can take the form of many scenarios; for example, many bisexual people find that they’re told they “Can’t be bi” if they’re in a relationship with someone of the opposite sex.
Telling a bisexual person that they must be straight because they’re in a relationship with someone of the opposite sex makes as much sense as telling a straight person they must be asexual because they’re single. The amount of times that I, as a bisexual woman, was told that I couldn’t be bi because I was in a relationship with a man, was infuriating. I didn’t just switch off my sexuality! The experiences of bisexuals differ greatly of course. Some bisexual women find themselves being objectified, whilst bisexual men are often treated like they don’t exist at all.
So, with all of this in mind, I thought it would be helpful to have a list of the top 10 things not to say to bisexual people.
10 – What percentage are you?
“Are you like 50/50, or more 60/40?”
“I’m 100% bi. Next question.”
9 – You just haven’t met the right man/woman yet.
The idea that a bisexual person will magically become straight if they meet the “right” person of the opposite sex is ridiculous and quite frankly more than a little insulting.
8 – So you’re into threesomes? Do you only have open relationships?
Why do we live in a world where this is an okay thing to ask someone? It invariably seems to come from someone you barely know as well. Don’t do this. As for open relationships, sure, some bisexual people are in open relationships, as are people of all sexualities. This has absolutely nothing to do with sexuality!
7 – You don’t know you’re bi unless you’ve slept with someone of the same sex as you.
I haven’t slept with Henry Cavill either, still pretty certain that I’m attracted to him though.
6 – So you’re too scared to come out as gay/lesbian?
Seriously, being bi comes with its own challenges. It’s not like it’s easier or harder to be any sexuality and unfortunately, bi people do sometimes face bi-erasure and biphobia from other members of the LGBT+ community, so it’s not like we’ve chosen to pretend to be bi for an easier life. Seriously. We’re real.
5 – Oh you’re bi? Do you fancy me?
Thankfully this one pretty much stopped after I finished school, but the other girls finding out I was bi lead to everyone assuming I fancied them. As if straight people are attracted to all members of the opposite sex?
4 – You’re just greedy.
This one is guaranteed to get an eye roll out of the bisexual person you’re speaking too. We’ve all heard it a thousand times. Just stop.
3 – Oh you’re bi? That’s hot.
Honestly one of the creepiest things you can hear as a bi person. Imagine telling someone that they’re hot for being straight. Please, don’t do this.
2 – Are you sure it isn’t just a phase?
Again, pretty much stopped after I finished school, but to this day I still occasionally get asked this. No, my black lipstick and heavy eyeliner was a phase, my sexuality certainly isn’t.
And lastly, but certainly not least…
1 – How can you be in a relationship if you’re bi? Doesn’t that just mean you’ll cheat?
This is so unbelievably rude. No, being bi does not mean, in any way, that an individual is more likely to cheat than anyone else. If I’m in a monogamous relationship with a man, that doesn’t mean I’m suddenly going to be so desperate to be with a woman that I’ll cheat on my partner, or vice versa. It’s such a silly thing to say and one that all bisexual people are bored of hearing, so please stop!
So there you have it! The top 10 things not to say to bisexual people.
There are of course other examples; we often hear “Oh, I used to think I was bi as well” or “everyone is a bit bi aren’t they?”; this is often meant in a well intentioned, reassuring way, but it’s worth considering how dismissive this can sound, especially if it’s being said to someone who has just felt comfortable enough to come out.
I will add that if you ever want to learn about a person’s sexuality, it’s always okay to ask questions! Just don’t be rude. Don’t ask super personal questions that you wouldn’t be comfortable answering if the tables were turned, and treat a bisexual person like a human being.
That’s all we ask.