From the Bi Brain: Bisexuality as a Key to Understanding Sexuality, Queerness and Our Lazy Assumptions

By Olivia Silvey ’25


People are right: bisexuals truly do get the best of both worlds. We get to date men, women and those in between (or removed from the binary entirely); we get to explore the gay world and blend into the straight one; we get to field biphobia from both gay and straight people. Who wouldn’t choose this life? 

While I was hesitant to write this, not wanting to sound like another white girl who wants to win the oppression Olympics, bisexual erasure is a real and painful experience. For many reasons, both ends of the sexuality spectrum look down on us in the middle. While my experiences as a bi girl cannot speak for everyone, I want to take the time to break down some bisexual stereotypes and shed light on the inner bi brain. 

One of the most common reactions I get when I share my sexuality is surprise. Sometimes I get an explanation as to why the person is surprised, and sometimes I don’t, but a typical reason is that I “don’t look gay.” There are quite a few issues with this statement, the first being the use of the word “gay” instead of bisexual. Careless words like this point to a much deeper issue that the bi community consistently faces – we aren’t “fully” gay, but we aren’t straight either, so what the hell are we? Using “gay” as a stand-in for “bi” (or any other sexuality) in these situations is just plain lazy. (Personally, I sometimes use “gay” or “queer” as a blanket statement for the entire community, but not when referring to specific people and identities.) While at best lazy, at worst this refusal to use the word bisexual contributes to the imposter syndrome that I feel, along with many others, on a daily basis. While it wasn’t that difficult for me to come to terms with my sexuality or to actually come out, I struggle every day with being bi; I constantly feel the urge to convince both straight and gay people that I am truly what I say I am. This is not a unique experience, and seems to be a standard feeling for those of us who are “in between.”

There are more reasons I take issue with the reaction of “but you don’t look gay.” What does it mean to look gay? What does it mean to look straight? I won’t pretend to not know that yes, there are MANY physical indicators that we use to both present as a member of the queer community and to assess who belongs. Queer people who feel comfortable and empowered by layering these indicators are doing nothing wrong, either; I love seeing a lesbian rock an undercut or a gay man with a perfectly beat face. Instead, I am arguing (pleading!) that we do not depend solely on these physical indicators to express and assess queerness. As a bisexual, I’m supposed to wear Doc Martens, pierce my septum and cuff my jeans. I do none of those things, and genuinely do not want to – they’re just not my style. Why do we limit ourselves to these style choices as the only possible messaging of sexuality? Furthermore, why are queer people expected to display their sexuality — by society’s terms — on every front? 

I would argue that I do display my sexuality, but in my own way. I’ve noticed that I feel comfortable in more “masculine” outfits in my day clothes, and for dressier events, I opt for more “feminine” attire. My physical expression feels so versatile and freeing, which is exactly how my sexuality makes me feel too. Yet, I “don’t look gay.” To me, it just seems like you just aren’t paying attention, my friend. 

Let’s move on from me not looking gay. If I’m talking to a straight man, the next question I’ll typically get is either a) a threesome request or b) “how many girls have you gotten with?” To be completely honest, I don’t know if either of those questions should be dignified with a breakdown of why they are inappropriate – it really all comes down to the hypersexualization of women and queer people. These groups (both associated with femininity in some fashion, mind you) are reduced to physical traits yet again, although these intrusive questions do not deal with our clothes but rather the bodies within those clothes. Bisexuality and queerness as a whole is so much more than physical pleasure. To the straight boys that ask those questions and made it to this article: next time someone tells you they are bi, you could ask something like, “who is your favorite bicon?” (bisexual icon) or, “what movie causes the ultimate bi panic for you?” Keep it interesting but respectful. 

I hope these words help people of every sexuality to remember that bisexuality is real, and we aren’t going away any time soon. The painful, ignorant words you say to us are second guesses that already exist in our heads, which is even more reason to reevaluate how you view sexuality in its entirety. It is everyone’s job – not just queer people – to constantly rethink our preconceived notions about queerness and specifically, bisexuality.

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