Bisexual Teens Set the Record Straight
By Joleen Rivera, 17, Staff Writer
Our society likes people and things to be simple. Like, are you black or white? Are you a Democrat or Republican? Are you heterosexual or homosexual? But the fact is, things are complicated. And people, especially, can’t always fit into either/or categories.
Just like race doesn’t only consist of black and white, but includes “mulatto,” sexuality doesn’t just consist of “gay” or “straight”—it includes bisexuality.
“A bisexual person has the potential to be sexually and/or romantically attracted to more than one sex, but not necessarily at the same time or to the same extent,” explains Robyn Ochs, editor of the Bisexual Resource Guide and the International Directory of Bisexual Groups.
“Bisexuality stretches our imaginations, just like multiracial people do,” she adds. “It forces us to acknowledge complexity, and many people are uncomfortable with that.”
Since bisexuality forces many people to accept the complexity of sexuality, this can make them feel bias against bisexuals. This bias leads to many myths and stereotypes about bisexual teens.
Myth 1: Bisexuals Are Just Confused
Bisexual teens are often not taken seriously because bisexuality, in the eyes of some straight and gay people, often equals confusion.
“There’s a big difference between being confused and undecided than being undefined,” says Tiffany, 17, from Lebanon, NJ.
What’s the difference? one might ask. Many bisexual teens don’t want to be defined by either homosexuality or heterosexuality. They feel like it traps them. It’s not that most bisexual teens don’t know what category they fit under, it’s that they don’t wish to be under any category at all.
The “confusion” myth has no basis in fact, according to Ochs.
“Bisexuality is not a state of confusion,” she says, adding that many people are “in denial about the realness of young people’s sexualities.”
“People will often discount what teenagers say, with ‘Oh sure, you’re just experimenting. You’re just going through a phase. You don’t really know how you feel.’ It’s very disrespectful, because teenagers do know what they feel.”
Myth 2: Bisexuals Are Slutty and Easy
Ironically, the same openness that bisexuals’ value can, at times, work against them. The fact that bisexual teens have relations with males and females often leads to the stereotype that they’re “sex maniacs” who can’t be trusted.
“We’re thought to be ‘slutty’ people who hit on and sleep with just about everyone,” says Megan, 15, of Wildwood, IL.
“I’ve heard bisexual people called ‘perverts,’ ‘delusional,’ and even, get this, ‘greedy’—like we’re out to screw everything we see,” says Steve Bastinck, 17, of Newton, NJ.
Surprisingly, according to some bisexual teens, gay and lesbian teens also hold these stereotypes to be true.
Adena, 18, of Chicago, IL, is a member of BiYouth, an online resource for bisexual teens. She says that the hardest part about being “classified” as a bisexual is that “a majority of the population assumes that you sleep around a lot. The worst thing is that lesbians and gay men also believe these stereotypes.”
“It’s really hard, because you don’t feel completely accepted in the gay/les community, yet you don’t fit in with straight people either,” says Adena.
Many bisexual teens are actually in committed relationships, and detest it when the “easy” label is shed on them.
“Just as straight teens have a number of relationships during their high school years, so do bisexual teens. The only difference is that they might not always be with the same sex,” explains Tiffany.
“It disgusts me that people think I’m that way. I’m in a very committed relationship, and I would never behave like that, even if I was single,” says Megan.
This myth is simply not true, and not all bisexuals are sex-crazed, according to Ochs.
“One can be bisexual without having acted on it, just like you can be a heterosexual person who’s never had sex,” she says.
Myth 3: Bisexuals Are Really Just Gay
“A lot of people believe that bisexuality isn’t real and that it’s just a gray area between deciding whether you’re gay or straight,” says Adena. “But to me, and a lot of other bisexuals I know, it’s real.”
Ochs emphasizes that bisexuality is “a long-term identity.” She has identified as a bisexual for 25 years.
“However, people do have the right to switch their ‘labels,’ and this shouldn’t cast doubt on the validity of any sexual orientation,” she adds.
Ochs also mentions Alfred Kinsey, the famous human sexuality researcher, who believed that there aren’t “two discrete populations, heterosexual and homosexual; only the human mind invents categories and tries to force facts into separate pigeonholes. The sooner we learn this ... the sooner we shall reach a sound understanding of the realities of sex.”
Myth 4: Bisexuality Is a Fad
Is sexuality like buying a shirt from the Gap, because it’s in style? Some teens argue that bisexuality has become a trend.
Bisexuality might seem like a trend, because “more people are familiar with the word, and society in general is more accepting of bisexual (and also gay and lesbian) people than ever before,” explains Ochs.
Ochs adds that many more young people are coming out as bisexual today than ever before. But does this make bisexuality a trend? Or is this influx just another result of society’s slow acceptance of coming out (post-Ellen D.)?
Adena believes that there are many bisexual girls who act as if it is a trend.
“I think that there are a lot of girls who do become very ‘out there’ bi, because it’s ‘trendy’ and they think it’s cool, but this doesn’t mean that they aren’t bisexual. It’s more like bisexual promiscuity is a trend more than the actual orientation of bisexuality,” she says.
Moving Beyond Labels
The last thing teens want is to be ashamed of their sexuality. But proving these myths wrong has been a continuing battle for many bisexual teens. Due to these stereotypes, some feel that the word “bisexual” no longer encompasses their sexuality.
Adena wanted to find a word to describe her sexuality that didn’t have the word “sex” in it.
“I really disliked the word ‘bisexual,’ because it sounds like it’s all about sleeping with people of both genders. I wanted to find a word like ‘gay,’ ‘lesbian,’ or ‘straight’—a label that encompassed the idea that love is gender blind. A word that wasn’t so black-and-white,” she says.
As a result, Adena has been using the term “queer” instead.
Ochs advises teens to “go ahead and try on the labels that feel like the best fit, but remember, labels are just words that we use to give other people information about ourselves. They aren’t real. What’s real is you.”
The Bottom Line
Many bisexual teens simply see bisexuality for what it really gives them—a pure and natural attraction for a person, which surpasses gender.
“I always say that I’m attracted to someone because of his or her personality, not a penis or lack thereof,” says Adena.
Steve Bastinck sheds a different light on bisexuality. To him, it is a study of beauty.
“Your eyes are really open to the reality that there is beauty all around you,” he says. “People are so very beautiful.”
Editors’ Note: For more information on bisexuality, check out the Bisexual Resource Center; BiYouth; or the National Youth Advocacy Coalition.
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