Bisexuals are having a moment.
Two weeks ago, Janelle Monae released the video for her Dirty Computer single, “Make Me Feel.” In the 80’s-inspired clip, she engages in a sexual tug o’ war between actress Tessa Thompson and an attractive man. The Daily Beast calls the single “a brilliant bisexual pop anthem.”
Issa Rae is currently developing an HBO pilot about a bisexual Black man, titled Him Or Her. And in January, writer Kyla Jenee Lacey went viral after The Root published her think piece, “Why I’m Open to Dating Bisexual Men.”
Now, more than ever, it seems Black folks are engaging in a very public discussion about bisexuality. It’s a necessary evolution because, let’s face it, bisexual men and women often get the raw end of the stick.
Even within the LGBTQ community, there is rampant biphobia. There’s either complete invisibility, in which we fail to acknowledge bi people at all. Or, there are comical misconceptions—bi people are greedy, indecisive, cheaters, promiscuous…the list goes on. With bi men, there’s often the assumption that they’re experimenting, and bisexuality is just a pit stop on the way to full-blown homosexuality.
But when you zoom in to the Black community, those same views are intensified to the point that they’re almost gospel.
I’d be remiss not to acknowledge some inklings of progress over the last few years. A 2013 NPR piece by Gene Demby found that Black people were more likely to support nondiscrimination policies for LGBTQ people, and several leading Black church officials spoke out in support of marriage equality.
That being said, there’s still a LONG way to go. In a 2015 article for The Advocate, BiNet USA Vice President Faith Cheltenham was asked if Black homophobia was a problem. She replied emphatically, “Fuck yes.” She went on to outline the characteristics of the Black community’s brand of discrimination, citing the tendency to turn to church leaders to rid LGBTQ people of demons. She cited the common phrase, “I love you. I don’t love your sin.”
As a Black bisexual woman, this was Cheltenham’s perception of the community. She still faced the same homophobia experienced by most LGBTQ people of color. To see these harmful views in action, look no further than the comments section of Lacey’s article. The responses are filled with ignorance, with people either outright declaring that bisexual men are “nasty” or stating that their “preference” is to date men who haven’t slept with other men. For LGBTQ people of color, this isn’t the first time we’ve heard of “preference” being used to mask prejudice.
What’s most exciting about this time (the release of “Make Me Feel,” Rae’s upcoming series, Lacey’s piece) is that there’s a dialogue taking place. Bisexuality is misunderstood by just about everyone. So, seeing a beautiful, colorful, bi exploration of desire in a music video offers a fresh perspective. Watching a comical character study of a bisexual Black man will give people realistic insight that they’ve never had. Listening to a Black woman express open-minded views about bisexual men will show that not everyone in the Black community subscribes to ignorance.
Part of what feeds the many misconceptions about bisexuals is the lack of information and visibility. Without access to bi experiences and feelings, without putting a recognizable face on this sect of the LGBTQ community, people are allowed to burrow in their prejudice and hold onto to their misguided beliefs. This moment, with so much Black bisexual media, is forcing people to engage. Even if their opinions don’t immediately shift, this is still progress.
With “Make Me Feel” and Him Or Her and challenging think pieces, bisexual Black people can step out from the shadows and the greater community can learn.
Cover photo- The Daily Beast