By Chantelle Archambault, September 21st, 2018 in
This Sunday is Bi Visibility Day, an annual celebration that began in 1993 to celebrate bisexual folks’ accomplishments, histories, and our unique positions within 2SLGBTQ+ communities. There is space in Bi Visibility Day to celebrate all identities that fall outside of the binary on the spectrum of sexuality, including pansexual folks, fluid folks, and two-spirit folks. It is particularly important to acknowledge the position of two-spirit folks within our community and the validity of First Nations, non-colonial sexual and gender identities.
Bi visibility is important to combat bi erasure, the tendency to ignore or reject the existence of bisexual identities. Bi erasure comes in many forms, but I’ve seen a few assumptions expressed most frequently. Firstly, bisexual people are often told they need to “choose” between being gay and straight. Bisexuality is seen as a side effect of exploration, curiosity, or confusion, a step on the road to discovering our true identity. Secondly, bisexual people are often labelled as either gay or straight depending on the gender of their current partners; but a bisexual woman doesn’t become heterosexual if she is dating a man, in the same way that she doesn’t become asexual when she is single. Thirdly, many people who have self-identified as bisexual are assumed to be exclusively interested in men. The assumption is that bi women and girls only claim to be bi to attract attention from men, while bi men and boys just haven’t come out as gay yet. These assumptions reflect a misunderstanding of bisexual folks’ experiences, but with time they can change.
To help people understand bisexual identities better, we need better representation of bisexual people and characters in the media and more visibility of out bisexual people. Media representation offers an intimate look into characters’ lives that helps us understand experiences different from our own; that’s why people who read more are said to be more empathetic. Seeing identities like this reflected in the stories we consume will decrease the stigma beyond the binary. It can also help bi youth to see themselves and to understand who they are.
To celebrate bi visibility and representation, we have compiled a list of bisexual folks who have made important contributions of action and representation within our community.
1. Shannon Purser
Actress Shannon Purser has said that while she doesn’t consider herself a bisexual icon, she decided to come out this summer to help others feel less alone. Purser recognizes the importance of representation; she says that having someone like herself to look up to as a child would have meant a lot, and she hopes that she can give young people the courage to openly and authentically be themselves. She has made similar steps for the representation of mental illness, openly talking about her OCD and depression.
Source: Digital Spy
2. Freddie Mercury
Freddie Mercury’s sexuality is still contested as the term bisexual was not commonly used for most of his life. However, he dated both men and women throughout his life and his obituary says he was “a self-confessed bisexual”. Freddie Mercury’s story has had intersections of bi erasure and whitewashing, with much talk of history ignoring his Parsi heritage. When he announced he had been diagnosed with AIDS in 1991, he became one of the most high-profile figures in the popular consciousness of HIV/AIDS.
Source: You Are Awesome, Advocate, Avert
3. Alan Cumming
Actor Alan Cumming is loud and proud about his bisexuality. Cumming understands the importance of representation, both as a figure in the public eye and as an activist—he has received many awards for his dedication to humanitarian work, including the Human Service Council’s Equity Champion Award which he received last year for his advocacy around 2SLGBTQ+ rights and domestic violence. He has also supported Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS. Cumming has been married to his husband, Grant Shaffer, for 11 years.
Source: Alan Cumming Official Site, Irish Times
4. CeCe McDonald
CeCe McDonald is a black, bi, trans woman and 2SLGBTQ+ activist. After accidentally killing an attacker while defending herself from a hate-motivated assault, McDonald served 19 months in a men’s prison before her release in 2014. The “Free CeCe” campaign to advocate for her release from prison drew attention to the systemic injustices against trans women of colour. Since her release, she has been recognized for her advocacy for the 2SLGBTQ+ community and for people of colour.
Source: Daily Xtra
5. Stephanie Beatriz
Stephanie Beatriz is known for her role as Rosa Diaz in “Brooklyn 99” and she is proudly bisexual both on-screen and off. Her article in GQ, “Stephanie Beatriz is Bi and Proud as Hell”, is beautifully empowering. While it is an intimate reflection of her own experience, I can definitely see myself in it and have heard friends and peers express similar worries, fears, hopes, and pride.
For anyone who has felt the effects of bi erasure, I would highly recommend watching this video made by out celebrities for bi youth.
Happy Bi Visibility Day!