Why Bisexual Erasure Hurts Us All – Jamie Arpin-Ricci
In what is being called “the first queer guide to Christian marriage- “Modern Kinship”– authors David & Constantino Khalaf offer incredibly practical and much-needed wisdom for queer Christians. Ranging from dating to a life beyond “I do”, the book explores the unique challenges LGBTQ+ Christians face in their pursuit of a life-long partner. In a section called “Challenging Geographic Limits”, they open with this:
“This is the hard truth: if you’re a single LGBTQ Christian who would like to be in a relationship with someone who shares your faith, chances are you’ll have to move. As with every rule, there are exceptions. But if you’re pinning your hopes on being the outlier, you’re increasing the difficulty of a battle that is sufficiently uphill already.”
Working with gay and lesbian Christians from across the country and beyond, my experience is that this has largely been true for far too many. Given that the field is already smaller than the sea of straight people, add the element of religion (an additionally divided context some times), and the idea of finding a partner could seem nearly impossible. After all, not everyone has the means and freedom to travel to simply date, let alone consider the implications of moving completely. For this very reason, many have given up the thought of a long-term relationship, let alone marriage.
Yet as someone who identifies as bisexual (or pansexual, depending on the context), I was frustrated by a dynamic that I see all too often that needlessly contributes to these problems. But before we move on, a few helpful definitions to set the stage.
Monosexuals: those who have romantic and/or sexual attraction to members of one sex or gender only, regardless of sexual orientation. Straight, gay, and lesbian people are generally in this category.
Non-monosexuals: those who have romantic and/ or sexual attraction to members of more than one sex or gender expression. Bisexual and pansexual people are generally in this category.
This distinction is critical when talking about sexual orientation and identity, in part because it is often assumed that gay and lesbian people always have more in common with bisexual people than they do with straight folks. In this case, that assumption is shown to be untrue, with important impacts. This point is illustrated beautiful (if painfully) in this video by Graysons Crosbie:
What this video so expresses so well is the all-too-common experience of non-monosexual and non-cisgender folks face in our own pursuit of identity and community. The pressure to conform through denial and erasure breaks us into pieces and pushes us back into the closet, denying so many of us the experience of wholeness, both as individuals and within relationships. And these pressures often come from within the LGBTQ+ community, which creates an added level of exclusion we shouldn’t have to face to begin with. This is bisexual erasure (or bi-erasure, for short). While many of you will be familiar with that term, let’s lay out a definition to be clear:
Bisexual Erasure: The tendency to ignore, remove, falsify, or re-explain evidence of bisexuality (non-monosexuality), including the belief that bisexuality does not exist.
While I won’t go into detail about all the ways bi-erasure can happen, for me it has included the assumptions that I’m just gay but uncommitted; sexual greedy; in denial; confusion, lying. The list could go on and on. Again, since much of this ends up coming from gay and lesbian folks, it can feel as though there is nowhere to turn for support and understanding. Suffice to say, bi-erasure is a real and harmful reality. I know countless bisexual people who have been overlooked or overtly rejected by potential gay and lesbian partners because of how they identify. I know many others who were bullied into re-identifying as gay or lesbian to even have a chance.
So, coming back to the beginning of this article, what does bisexual erasure have to do with LGBTQ+ Christians in their pursuit of long-term relationships and marriage? In simplest terms, dismantling bi-erasure would open up a significantly larger pool of people from which we can find healthy, long-term relationships. While erasure unquestionably harms the ones erased the most- it’s no surprise that studies show that bisexual folks are at higher risk of experiencing anxiety, depression, and suicidal thoughts- it also harms everyone else as well. Given that bisexual folk represent (conservatively) 40% of the LGBTQ+ community, yet are also significantly less likely to come out because of discrimination and erasure from both straight & gay/lesbian communities, the potential dating pool gets significantly reduced.
Let me put it more starkly: Many LGBTQ+ will never find long-term love and marriage precisely because of the impact of bisexual erasure.
While the harm of bi-erasure goes much broader and deeper than that, such a reality is no small thing. Bisexual erasure harms us all, but more than that, dismantling bi-erasure can only benefit us all.