"I don't feel like the poster boy for bisexuality," a friend recently told me. "There's so much about what bisexuality is not, but not enough about what it is. I don't feel like I fit into the bisexual...agenda doesn't seem like the right word for it, but I can't think of a better one."
For reference, this friend of mine has been married for eight years to a woman. A woman he loves and cares for deeply. He's monogamous. He's faithful. He's open and communicative with his wife. Recently, he told her that he needs to experience an intimate connection with a man. He married young, and a couple years into his marriage realized his attraction to men. Now, over a decade after they started dating, he's discussing how to potentially open up his relationship with her and the ground rules that need to be set.
As a bisexual advocate and writer, I constantly attempt to educate the public, dispelling misconceptions about bisexuality. There are tired, false tropes that plague bisexuals: We're simply gay or using the label as a stepping stone, we're sexually greedy, we're all polyamorous, we're cheaters, we live for threesomes, we're all sluts, we're indecisive, we're all kinky and we can never be satisfied with just one gender.
These stereotypes are undoubtedly false. Many bisexual men and women are absolutely none of these things. I'd argue the most of bisexuals do not embody any of these stereotypes. It's therefore biphobic to assume these character traits and lifestyle choices about all bisexual folk, simply based off how they label themselves. But there's an unspoken issue with the way that I, and many others, attempt to dispel misconceptions: We conflate things that are inherently unethical with things that society has arbitrarily deemed unethical.
Being unfaithful to your partner, either by lying or cheating is unequivocally immoral. To think that bisexuals are more likely to be unfaithful is hurtful and biphobic. Questioning and (often denying) a fundamental part of our identity by claiming we're confused, indecisive or greedy is also problematic. Stereotypes like these attack bisexuals' credibility and integrity.
However, all the stereotypes that hypersexualize bisexuals aren't actually unethical. Being promiscuous isn't inherently wrong. Being polyamorous isn't inherently wrong. Neither is desiring threesomes or kinky sex.
We've accidentally created a "perfect bisexual." One who is monogamous, doesn't enjoy threesomes and doesn't ever miss other genders when s/he's with his/her partner. In essence, this ideal bisexual has a heteronormative relationship with his/her partner, regardless of his/her partner's gender.
What about the rest of us? The "messy bisexuals." What about my friend who feels guilty yearning to have extra-marital relationships with another gender despite loving her deeply and communicating honestly? Some bisexuals, dare I say it, might never be satisfied with one gender. Just like some homosexuals or heterosexuals might not feel satisfied with one partner. Of course this isn't all bisexuals, but we shouldn't be ostracizing bisexuals who do desire multiple partners of different genders simultaneously. Neither should we shame bisexuals for liking threesomes or sleeping around.
In attempting to define what we're not, we've lost sense of who we are.
There's an assumption about bisexuals who are more promiscuous: We're incapable of being honest, communicative or introspective. Where in fact, that's not the case. Sexual activity is in no way correlated with honesty. I'm dating multiple people right now of various genders. They all know of the other special people in my life, and in many cases, have met. I am a bisexual man who is open about his attraction to multiple people and open about his sexual behavior.
What's wrong with that?
As long as you're communicative with your partner(s), honest about your intent, expressing your needs and being receptive of theirs, then there's nothing to be ashamed about, bisexual or not.
Bisexual advocacy has come so far in the past decade. People now believe that:
1. We exist. (Isn't that nice?)
2. We're not all "gay" or "straight" or "confused."
But while we continue to push for equality and visibility, we must remember how diverse the bi+ community is. We must remember what actually is immoral and what America's puritanical roots have incorrectly deemed as immoral. While all assumptions, regardless of being positive or negative, are detrimental, we must approach them differently. The stereotypes that attack our integrity and self-worth are unacceptable. We must correct those who assume that bisexuals lack integrity. The other misconceptions, the ones that sexualize us, need to stop too, but in stopping those, we mustn't shame the bisexual folks who do prefer a polyromantic or sexually-explorative lifestyle.