Remembering My Hat

18th September 2012

Bi erasure

Filed under: Uncategorized — rememberingmyhat @ 18:24
Tags: , , , , , , ,

One of the things we talk about in The Bisexuality Report is the way that bisexuality gets erased as a legitimate sexual identity when people tack ‘and bisexual people’ on when they are really talking about lesbian and gay people. It’s often quite subtle.

For example, the opening three sentences of this Stonewall UK page about families and parenting are:

Gay men, lesbians and bisexual people have been parents for a long time. Some have children from a previous heterosexual relationship, some adopt and others become foster parents. More recently, LGB people have entered into surrogacy agreements and co-parenting arrangements.

The first sentence sets the scene and establishes the important point that queer parenting is nothing new. The second sentence lists the ways in which this has happened for many years. The third talks about more recent ways of forming queer families [1]. But the second sentence ignores the possibility that bi people may have different-sex partners with whom they conceive biological children. Their experience is made invisible by this list of ways in which LGB people become parents.

(cc) KristinNador

Or does it mean to imply that you’re not really queer if you have a different sex partner? That the ‘B’ in ‘LGB’ only covers bi people who are currently in same sex relationships? Are you in ‘a heterosexual relationship’ if your partner is a different sex? Some people who experience attraction to more than one gender might define themselves as heterosexual when they are in a monogamous different sex relationship, but others do not.

It’s not enough to tack ‘and bisexual’ on to something that is really about lesbians and gay men. Taking bisexuality seriously makes things more complicated – you have to think about the distinctions between identity, attraction and behaviour more, for a start [2]. But surely that’s a better way of thinking about such a multi-faceted  and changing thing as human sexuality.

[1] The historian in me is suspicious of the claim that co-parenting has happened only recently. Likewise, surrogacy, depending on what you mean by that term.
[2] As I’ve written about here: Jones, R. L. (2010). Troubles with bisexuality in health and social care. In R. L. Jones & R. Ward (Eds.), LGBT issues: Looking beyond categories (pp. 42-55). Edinburgh: Dunedin Academic Press.
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