The need for recruitment – er – visibility

BCN 79 cover

This originally appeared in BCN issue 79, June 2006

Diary of a ‘crap lesbian’ part eight…

The astute reader will know that I always, deep down, knew that I was bi. I spent years the out and out lesbian, and I almost believed it myself, so much so that I was confused when I let my guard down and let a boy in.

When I first saw reruns of ‘Maid Marion And Her Merry Men’ at the tender age of way-too-young-to-mention and fell head over heels for Maid Marion, followed rather swiftly by Sara Gilbert playing Darlene in Roseanne my first thoughts were ‘I’m a girl and I fancy girls, so I’m a lesbian’. It didn’t occur to me to stop and question if boys were still part of the equation. All this was years before I met the girl who was to become my first partner, and I kept it to myself.

Aside from a brief sojourn into the murky waters of bisexuality, close the end of my career compulsory education I identified as lesbian until the age of 20. It was then that I, with the help of a male friend, discovered that, yes, I was bisexual, but we all know that story.

Now I’m happy with my sexuality, and I’m starting to question the motivation behind my previous choices. Why did my brain choose to process this new information in the way it did? Why did it assume that liking girls = Lesbian? It’s an easy conclusion to jump to, but that doesn’t mean it’s necessarily right.

I think the probem has to do with a lack of bi visibility, or rather, the wrong kind of visibility. Take, for example, Sex And The City, specifically the episode in which the show arguably ‘jumped the shark’, namely ‘Boy, Girl, Boy, Girl’ in season three. Carrie and her shoes date a bisexual man, and Carrie is somewhat uncomfortable about it. That’s probably a fair enough reaction from someone as straight as Carrie, and she did the right thing; she discussed her fears with her friends who, Samantha aside (‘I’m trisexual – I’ll try anything once!’) are useless –

Carrie: The weird thing is he was so open about it. You know ‘hi I’m a bisexual’ like um ‘hi I’m from Colorado’ or something.
Miranda: I don’t think you’re allowed to be bisexual in Colorado.
Carrie: ‘Is that a problem?’ I mean what kind of question is that: ‘Is that a problem?’
Miranda: Of course it’s a problem.
Charlotte: What did you say?
Carrie: I said it wasn’t a problem.
*They all look at her.*
Carrie: I panicked. He’s such a good kisser.

Then later…

Samantha: You know, I think it’s great. He’s open to all sexual experiences. He’s evolved. It’s hot.
Miranda: It’s not hot, it’s greedy: he’s double dipping.

Their general consensus was that bisexuality was a brief stopover on the journey between Straightsville and Gaytown. If the reaction of a group of cosmopolitan, thirtysomething, trendsetting New Yorkers presented here is realistic, and I have it from a reliable source that it is, we’re in trouble. This episode presents bisexuality as superficial and trendy. We’re greedy, but hey, we’re good kissers!

Surprisingly or not, the best place to look for positive images bisexuality in the mainstream at the moment is Yorkshire Television. Where, in Emmerdale, the bisexual Ivan is new to the village and sporting a beautiful Geordie accent and a gay boyfriend. The BBC offers us Dr. Who’s out and comfortable Captain Jack, then cancels out this positive image over in Albert Square where Sonia Fowler, still married, has entered into a relationship with her best friend Naomi; this relationship is styled lesbian.

Shows like Queer As Folk and The L Word have done a lot to promote a positive image of homosexuality. Some might argue that with that the battle is half won. Maybe it is, maybe it isn’t, but I want the battle to be wholly won.

After the repeal of section 28 in November 2003, we can reasonably expect bisexuality, along with homosexuality to be recognised as a valid lifestyle choice. Unfortunately this does not seem to be the case. Bisexuality is presented in an unfavourable light, a gray area between the accepted extremes of homo and hetero.

There is an overwhelming lack of bi visibility in the Big Wide World. I’m not suggesting a recruitment drive, just that more people, especially teenagers, have the resources to make an informed choice.