We’re so excited to bring you our new show, Somewhere to Belong.
Bisexuality generally refers to being attracted to more than one gender. During this project we’ve been using this as an umbrella term to include those who identify as Bi, Pansexual or Queer, we also try to encompass all of these beautiful terms by referring to all those who identify as belonging to this amazing community as members of the Bi+ community.
I’ve known since I was a teenager that I was bi. (I prefer the term ‘queer’ for myself, but recognise that’s a loaded term for some in the LGBTQ+ community) However, I only came out in my early 30’s because as someone who is ‘straight passing’ and having been predominantly in relationships with guys, I didn’t feel as if I qualified to be queer. And to exacerbate my own sense of internalised bierasure (we’ll talk about that term more soon, along with privilege) I came out while a good few years deep into a very happy, comfortable, long term monogamous relationship with a cis guy. I’m still with the same guy and he’s not getting rid of me that easily. Even when I came out to him, I knew that I didn’t want to end or open up our relationship, and he’s been nothing but supportive of my revelation, bemused by my own self-imposed stigma and hugely encouraging of this project. In the best way possible, my coming out to him was met with a very calm, relaxed ‘Cool, ok. Can we still play Super Mario later?’ Apparently, it wasn’t much of a surprise to him, or to many other people I’ve told for that matter. More importantly, it wasn’t a big deal to most. But that still didn’t help calm these querulous doubts that had that I didn’t get to count myself as part of the queer community. I felt too vanilla. If I was bi, shouldn’t I be single and out trying to hook up with lots of people? Shouldn’t I allow myself to be ‘unicorn hunted’ by couples looking to save their relationships? Shouldn’t I really butter my bread on both sides? (what does that even mean anyway?)
If I didn’t want to do any of these things, then could I really call myself bi? I was too scared to try and approach, let alone join, online (thanks, Covid) groups for fear that I would be rebuffed. I was terrified of having my own ridiculous self-belief confirmed that my kind of bi didn’t count. It held me back from getting to know what it really meant to be Bi+ and from connecting with this community.
So I started to talk to some friends about it, fellow members of the Bi+ community and otherwise. And I noticed, again and again, that similar experiences were being recounted to me from fellow community members. And I noticed, again and again, that recurring (and unhelpful and inaccurate) beliefs were being expressed from some of those not in the Bi+ community. Don’t get me wrong, these people weren’t being aggressively biphobic, I’ve been very lucky in that sense. But at some point in their lives and consumption of mass media (I’m looking at you PornHub) etc, they had encountered these opinions and stereotypes of Bi+ people, and because of the lack of representation out there, these opinions and stereotypes had never been challenged. The more I talked to people, the more I wanted to talk to more people. The more I talked to people, the more the idea for a new show kept percolating in the back of my mind.
According to Wikipedia - Bisexual erasure (Bi Erasure) or bisexual invisibility is the tendency to ignore, remove, falsify, or reexplain evidence of bisexuality in history, academia, the news media, and other primary sources. In its most extreme form, bisexual erasure can include the belief that bisexuality itself does not exist.
According to The Bisexual Report: Bisexual inclusion in LGBT equality and diversity (The Open University, 2012) : Of all the larger sexuality groups, Bisexual people have the worst mental health problems, including high rates of depression, anxiety, self harm and suicidality. This has been found both internationally and in the UK specifically, and has been strongly linked to experiences of biphobia and bisexual invisibility. While there has been little research into bisexual people’s physical health, links between mental health and physical health suggest that bisexual people should also be considered more at risk of physical health problems.
Most Bi+ people that I have spoken to, even if they weren’t aware of this term ‘Bi Erasure’, have expressed that they have had lived experiences of this. In some ways I have experienced it myself, and feel that this is one of the factors for my own struggles to accept that I was ‘allowed’ to be queer. Is it surprising, then, to hear about how this can have a huge impact on a person’s mental health? I know that being erased, ridiculed or reviled, or fear thereof, because of being queer has been of major detriment to my own wellbeing in the past, and it was mostly my seeking to improve my mental health that led me to finally coming out.
It’s also, apparently, a very common thing for Bi+ people to be very selective in who they come out to, for fear of being ridiculed, erased, rejected, marginalized or even for fear of their own safety. I myself haven’t come out to everyone in my life for these same reasons. Less for fear of being rejected, but more for not wanting to face the perhaps inappropriate questions, assumptions disguised as questions and misbeliefs that it may throw in my direction. However, we’ve making a show about it and I’m literally writing a blog about it right now, I’ve also made quite a few mentions of it on social media… So I’m sure some of them have got an inkling, right? I’m very privileged in many ways and I think it’s important to acknowledge that here. I’m white, I’m cis, I didn’t grow up in a faith-based community that rejects homosexuality/bisexuality, I didn’t grow up in a what may be considered a homophobic or biphobic country (but that is open to debate, Great Britain) I’m not subject to fatphobia or racism in my everyday life. So, if I was struggling, even while still benefitting from all these apparent ‘green ticks’ from society, how difficult and potentially dangerous must it be for someone who isn’t as privileged?
And right there I had another reason to start talking to more people. So early on in 2020, I pitched an idea to producer Laura.
Towards the end of summer in 2020, we carefully crafted a set of open ended questions, did a good deal of research in how to respectfully and ethically collect and collate oral histories, and then my producer (the AMAZING Laura Furner) and I put a call out on social media, asking for members of the Bi+ community to get in touch if they’d be happy to chat to us about their experiences. I won’t lie, I was expecting maybe 3 or 4 people from the London area to get it touch. I wasn’t expecting over 30 responses within the space of 24 hours from people all over the world. It turns out, a lot of people wanted to talk about it! Sharing the interviews between us, we’ve been talking to more and more people over the last few months, and it’s culminated into the beginnings of a show that will hopefully tell more than one story of what it means to be Bi+ right now. Of course, the pandemic is still insisting on its reruns, so we’re unable to announce the exact dates for the show just yet. So until that time when we’re able to scream about via the medium of pictures and Gifs on Instagram, we’re going to keep beavering away behind the scenes to make this show, Somewhere to Belong, as truthful and engaging as it can possibly be. Thanks to the incredible support, patience and encouragement from David and The Lion and Unicorn Theatre, we know that it’ll be coming soon, and we know it’s going to be brilliant. 2020 was crap right? Well, we’re determined to have a lot more fun in 2021, and we can’t wait for you to join us. On another tangent, or perhaps this a footnote… an aside, if you will. There is an outdated belief that because the term bisexuality has ‘bi’ in it, it thereby enforces the (false) belief that gender is a rigid binary (ie either male or female) and is therefore transphobic. This couldn’t be further from the truth. Bisexuality, on a whole, is defined as being attracted to more than one gender, and that includes the trans community, the non binary or gender fluid community and every other glorious community that may want to identify under different terms. Of course, I can’t speak for every individual member of the bi+ community, yes, a particular individual who happens to be bisexual could indeed be transphobic, just as they could if there were part of the Straight, Gay or Lesbian community, but that does not mean Bisexuality, Pansexuality or being Queer is transphobic by default. Thank you for coming to my TED talk.