Why we need Bi-Visibility Day

This international awareness day aims to bring to attention the prejudices bisexual people face.

Sign Up

Get the New Statesman's Morning Call email.

Bi-Visibility Day is a great day of the year, albeit a quiet one. I must shamefully admit that I didn’t even know it existed until recently but that alone illustrates my conundrum, which I will come to. The day aims to bring national awareness to the feelings of millions of bisexual people – but has it been effective? Both the straight and gay communities in the United States first observed it in 1999 as a response to the marginalisation of bisexual people. Only last year, when a closed meeting was held on 23 September to discuss biphobia at the White House, was it “officially” welcomed into the UK in a statement by Jo Swinson MP.

As we all know, wherever we are on the map, love can feel and be irrational. However, we live in a world governed by rationality, where two people in love will not always end up together – and gender can certainly be one of the reasons.

This is what makes awareness campaigns like Bi-Visibility Day imperative – bringing to the forefront that our sexual fluidity exists despite which gender we are dating, particularly amid the films and books featuring a majority of characters who are either straight or gay, with no shades of grey. This isn’t an accurate reflection of how people really feel, whether they’re being visible and open about it or not.

The international awareness day also aims to bring to attention the prejudices bisexual people face. To this day, an image of two female celebrities clasping each other’s faces with their lips locked still evokes two lines of thought. Either, they are doing it for an audience as a marketing stunt, or, they are in the midst of a light-hearted bohemian moment. A phase.

While one or the other of these stubborn perceptions may indeed fall neatly into the gyrating laps of those involved in the passionate embraces, it does cast a large shadow over underlying and deeper emotions, which run beneath the seeming façade of light-heartedness.

This is where Bi-Visibility Day can and should come into force. Bisexuality is all too often brushed off as careless fun, notably when it involves a romance between two conventionally attractive women, which can be reinforced by “fantasy films” enjoyed on a quiet evening – or perhaps on several.

Prominent women who have made their same-sex attractions public are still few and far between, which is baffling when you consider at least one quarter of the female population admits to same-sex attractions. For many bisexual people, openly declaring their sexuality is too daunting a prospect, likely to raise eyebrows and encourage comments about “kinky fads”, especially if they’ve been known to date the opposite sex before. And for those with a desire for a “conventional” life, some may argue that there is no point in being visibly bisexual. Of course, that doesn’t mean that bisexuality doesn’t exist. It means it is still kept behind closed doors. Stories in literature, television and film would be wonderful opportunities to offer escapism through bisexual characters, but particularly in literature, bisexual protagonists are few and far between.

Modern female celebrities who make bold statements in their same-sex embraces are often labelled attention seekers, thus bisexuality isn’t finding a realistic or serious path into the mainstream media. It is all too easy (and sad) to see why some bisexual people will disregard their true feelings as a passing phase to be locked into their past. Many people dismiss same-sex attractions, instead choosing a love not doubted or questioned by society. So, with some viewing it as light-hearted fun and others casting a scornful eye on bisexuality as little more than titillation for straight men, the underlying feelings of bisexual women are being completely ignored.

There is a perception that if you are a conventionally beautiful women, you cannot possibly be interested in other women. The pressure that goes with the incredulity that some people express when they hear about a bisexual woman being true to herself can, over time, dent that woman’s attraction to other women. This self-doubt can lead to a mind-set that being with other women is only temporary fun in an effort to feel accepted in society.

Events like Bi-Visibility Day are significant, of course, but they need a lot more support and we need to make a lot more noise to make a real difference in such enduring rationality. 

Sarah Bramley is the author of Chelsea Wives and Their Mistresses.