Despite composing nearly half of the LGBTI community, it still doesn't feel like there are many bi folks out there. It seems like our numbers pale in comparison to the number of gays and lesbians in the world; we are simply not visible.
When I first came out, this confused me. If there are so many of us, how come I'm not meeting more bi-identifying individuals at LGBTI mixers, gay bars, and Pride events? Why does it seem like every person I'm meeting is gay? Where are all the bi people hiding?
Then I started to write more about my experiences and embrace my bisexuality.
That's when I realized we're everywhere. We're just not vocal about it, and we don't attend LGBTI events with the same fervor as gays and lesbians.
Why? Because we don't feel welcomed.
I've written about my experiences at Pride events in the past. How the event really isn't for me as a bisexual identifying man. Now, I still attend Pride. I still have fun and march in the streets. But to say the Pride Parade is for the bi community is a blatant lie.
This past month there's been drama surrounding London Pride's failing to have a single bi group march in the parade of over 300 entries. I find it perplexing that not a single bisexual group was included in London Pride's march. Initially, when this was brought to the attention of those in charge of London Pride, they told us we were "too demanding."
Somehow asking for one bi group to march in Pride is considered demanding. Lord forbid someone holds up a flag that isn't the rainbow for just one float.
Now, due to the uproar and backlash from the bi+ community, London Pride did allow a bi group to march in the parade. But the fact that it was such a big issue — a big struggle — to allow one measly bisexual group to march at Pride illustrates how unwelcomed the bi community is in supposedly LGBTI inclusive spaces.
Even when they're advertised as LGBTI, many of us don't like attending events. Too often, they are really just LG. When this happens, we can't help but feel like outsiders from the one community that's supposed to accept us.
This is in large part why the majority of bi folks are not vocal or out publicly. We don't feel welcomed. We don't feel we have a community. In addition to not seeing see ourselves represented in mainstream media, we also don't see ourselves represented in supposed "queer" spaces.
Even though we are frequently invisible, we are everywhere. In the past three years, I've learned this over and over again.
I talk about my bisexuality more than the average bi person. It's not only something that I love discussing. It's also part of my job. So even when I don't plan on discussing my bisexuality with someone I'm meeting for the first time, inevitably, I'll be asked what I do. At which point I tell them I write for LGBTI publications, focusing on bisexuality.
So for me, there is no hiding, even if I wanted to. But I'm shocked to discover how many other folks are also bi. Some of my own internal stereotypes about bisexuality have even caused me not to see fellow bi people. Despite being a vocal bi advocate, I still have to deal with some of these internalized prejudices.
For example, I just learned that the bar-back at a straight dive bar I frequent is bi. Often, he's spoken to me about his girlfriend. He doesn't have a single stereotypically "gay" interest. By this I mean, the shows he watches, the music he listens to, and his mannerisms all screamed "straight man" to me. But when we got to talking about my sexuality, he said in his thick Long Island accent, "Yeah, you know I'm bi, too." My eyes widened. His poorly fitting graphic Ts and long basketball shorts had thrown me off. So too had discussions of his girlfriend.
"You seemed surprised," he said.
"I am," I replied truthfully, "Even though I shouldn't be. Even though I know there's no one way to be bisexual. But my bi-dar was way off".
Even though we both laughed together, I was frankly disappointed with myself. I should know better than to assume. Half of what I discuss in my work is how you shouldn't assume someone's sexual orientation, and there I was, doing the same thing I'd be telling others not to do for years.
But instead of beating myself up for it, I took another approach. I saw the beauty in it. He helped me realize how there are so many folks who are bi. Folks that you wouldn't expect due to preconceived notions that even we, as bi people, have about other bi+ people.
Not only that, because we often don't feel welcomed in queer spaces, there are going to be a lot of bisexual individuals simply existing and going about their daily routine in straight places. This is a good thing. It means that the more you talk about your bisexuality in any space, even ones that aren't LGBTI-specific, the more you're likely to meet folks who identify as bi.
So keep talking about being bi, no matter where you are. First off, it's not only great for visibility, but second, you never know who else around you is also going to be bi.