The primary cause is social stigma and prejudice. Our culture doesn’t generally recognise bisexuality as a legitimate sexual orientation. Bisexual people receive messages from society that bisexuality doesn’t exist, and that they are lying or confused gay or straight people. We are told that bisexuality is a transitional phase, and that bisexuals are promiscuous and require simultaneous relationships with members of both sexes. Bisexual people rarely meet openly bisexual people in their social circles, or see them depicted in TV or film drama.
Society’s negative view of bisexuality undermines our confidence in our bisexual identity and often leads us to hide in the closet. It’s common for bisexual people to identify falsely as straight or gay to avoid prejudice and ridicule. I used to.
When I first came out as bisexual aged 19, my girlfriend told me that bisexuality didn’t exist and that I was just a confused and attention-seeking straight person. When I came out to a friend, he told me that men who said they were bisexual were really gay. My self-esteem plummeted. Instead of receiving support and acceptance, I was told that I didn’t know my own mind. I decided that coming out as bisexual was a bad idea.
After that, I chose to hide my bisexuality. I alternated between straight or gay identities depending on who I was with at the time. This never felt right though, and not being able to be openly bisexual knocked my confidence. I often felt unhappy.
In my late 20s, I realised that I would never feel comfortable if I couldn’t be honest about who I really was. I finally began coming out as bisexual to everyone. A weight was lifted, and my life got so much better.
So why exactly did identifying as bisexual make such a positive difference? For me it boils down to three things:
1) It Boosts Your Self-Esteem and Confidence
Assertively identifying as bisexual enhances your confidence and makes you feel better about yourself. It’s true that if you hide your bisexuality, then you’ll avoid some of the prejudice and stigma directed at bisexual people. But there’s a cost. You’ll never feel known and accepted by others.
We all want to be loved and accepted. When we don’t receive enough love and acceptance, especially from the important people in our lives, then our confidence and self-image can be low. If you choose not to identify as bisexual, then a major part of who you are will never be known and accepted, even by your closest friends and family.
In addition, if we don’t identify as bisexual because society doesn’t like it, then we validate society’s view that bisexuality is something to be ashamed of, or something illegitimate. This can contribute to internalised biphobia, where we feel that there really is something wrong with our bisexual orientation and identity.
2) You Become Part of a Community
Identifying as bisexual connects you to a community of other bisexual people. You can interact with bisexual people online via forums, blogs and vlogs, or in person at bisexual social and support groups.
It’s hugely empowering to engage with the experience of other bisexual people. It helps relieve the sense of isolation that we commonly feel, and enables us to develop our understanding of our own sexuality.
Building relationships with other bisexual people will also reinforce your sense of bisexual identity. Witnessing others confidently identifying as bisexual is a great confidence booster!
3) You Change Society
Identifying as bisexual challenges society’s prejudice and faulty beliefs about bisexuality. Society says we don’t exist? Well, here I am, bisexual and proud! Society says this is just a phase? Well, I’m still bisexual!
Every person that identifies as bisexual and tells others about it changes perceptions, even if you only tell one person! The more people identify openly as bisexual, the harder it will be for myths and negative messages about bisexuality to survive. Identifying as bisexual, therefore, doesn’t just improve your life, but also the lives of others.
So, if you’re lacking confidence in identifying as bisexual, consider the benefits. It really can change your life!
I’d love to hear your thoughts. If you don’t yet identify as bisexual, what are the main barriers holding you back? If you do identify as bisexual, how did it change your life?