Silence… Pretend… Ignore… Avoid… Deny…
The Seattle Times recently published an article regarding the lack of acceptance of bisexuality by both straight and gay/lesbian communities. (“Study: Most bisexuals still haven’t come out” 7/22/13)
The article highlighted a photograph of an African-American woman, her male Caucasian spouse and their handsome biracial child. However there was a discrepancy between the article and the photograph in the failure of the article to provide any information regarding the status or African-American bisexuals “coming out” or responding to rejection from either their community or the majority population.
The article brought forth attitudes held by both members of gay/lesbians and straight communities as well as startling statistics regarding the impact of rejection upon bisexuals. The article suggests that both communities are distrustful of bisexuals, holding onto stereotypes that bisexuals are indecisive or incapable of monogamous relationships.
It was found in a Pew Research study that as a result of rejection by both communities that a time in which many gay and lesbians are “coming out” asserting their civil rights, most bisexuals have chosen to remain closeted or hidden from public view. Furthermore the research study developed the following findings:
· Only 28% of bisexuals said that most or all of the important people in their lives knew about their sexual orientation, compared to 71% of lesbians and 78% of gay men.
· Only 11% of bisexual people said most of their closest co-workers knew of their sexual orientation, compared to 48% of gay men and 50% of lesbians.
· Bisexuals were less likely than gay men and lesbians to say their workplaces were accepting of them.
The article goes on to state that as a result bisexuals suffer from isolation. Studies have found that
· Bisexual people are at greater risk of emotional distress than gay/lesbian or straight people.
· Bisexual women are more likely to binge drink and suffer depression.
· Bisexual people are more likely than gays/lesbians and straight people to harm themselves or endure suicidal thoughts
Although I find the research to be startling as it provides proof that due to rejection, bisexuals are forced to reside in two separate closets: a straight one and a gay one. The research also indicates that bisexuals are responding to the absence of a clearly defined community and the psychological stress of having to hide their sexual orientation.
However what I find most interesting is the photograph featuring of a African-American woman, her male Caucasian spouse and their handsome biracial child yet the article fails to provide any research or documentation regarding the impact of rejection being dealt with by bisexuals of ethnic minority communities.
In essence the photograph appears to serve as a prop adding “color” to an article that focusing on the psychological impact on bisexuals belonging to the “majority.” Historically ethnic minorities have been cited in such articles as an “afterthought.” In this situation, the article does not even bother to attempt to hide its use or rather misuse of ethnic minority bisexual people. Clearly this is one of those situations in which “they are seen, yet they remain invisible.”
In the article the biracial family “exists” for the enjoyment of the reader. The reader attains internal satisfaction, observing the ethnic diversity of the mother and father as they are beaming with smiles as they hold their child. However their “story” is not being told.
As the article clearly points out the rejection that Caucasian bisexuals are facing in both gay/lesbian and straight communities, it fails to provide information which is widely known that bisexuals of color and bisexual ethnic minorities are often responding to rejections from three communities: gays/lesbians, straight people and their own ethnic minority community.
Furthermore, where Caucasian bisexuals are responding to rejection due to sexual orientation, ethnic minority bisexuals are responding not only to the same rejection by the gay/lesbian and straight communities as a result of their sexual orientation, but to the rejection by their ethnic community, which denies them a source of protection and a safe harbor from the racism, oppression and discriminatory treatment that they face day to day due to the color of their skin or ethnic origin.
Whether the photograph serves its purpose in “selling” the article” is not of concern. The real issues are those of invisibility, manipulation and the failure of the article to tell the story of the people in the photograph.” The article used this family in a manner that is a disservice and in doing so reinforces the perception of “invisibility” for ethnic minority bisexuals.
There is interesting research that has been developed among the topic of bisexuality within the African American community
· Due to homophobia within the African-American community, African-American bisexual youth are often reluctant to disclose their sexuality
· In a large sample of behaviorally bisexual men, it was found that African-Americans were much less likely to disclose their sexual orientation to their female partners than whites
· Two major predictors for disclosure among African-American men were current age and age at initial engagement in sexual behavior, with older and more experienced men being more willing to disclose their sexuality.
There continues to be a wall of silence and ignorance (lack of knowledge) within the African-American community regarding bisexuality. To provide clarification, the use of the word bisexual as a label and identity varies from group to group and from bisexual individual to bisexual individual. To provide some understanding to the question of what is bisexuality here are a few of the more popular definitions currently in use:
· Someone who is capable of feeling romantic, spiritual, and/or sexual attraction for either male or female gender.
· A person who loves despite gender.
· One who loves individuals first and genders second.
· An individual open to sexual or emotional exploration with two genders.
This African-American bisexual individual does not merely exist. He/she is not invisible. They are alive. They live vibrant and meaningful lives. Their presence brings a picture of diversity of the human tapestry that is among us. They have a story that deserves to be told.
Members of the ethnic minority bisexual community are knocking at the door. The public, viewing and listening have a right to hear their story.
The Visible Man