Bisexual erasure (also called bisexual invisibility) is the act of ignoring, removing, hiding, or falsifying bisexuality. Bisexual erasure can be done by heterosexuals, homosexuals, and even bisexuals. However, there is some question as to whether bisexual erasure actually exists.
Bisexuality is the term used to describe the romantic, spiritual, and/or sexual attraction for two genders. There are other meanings given to the term as bisexuality will depend on the individual and how they see it (for example my girlfriend says she loves the person for who they are not for what gender they are, and identifies as being bisexual). Bisexuality and bisexuals come with a list of myths associated with this sexual orientation, including the presumption that they are just using that label so that they do not have to commit to being either heterosexual or homosexual; they’re trying to be popular; they’re confused, or just simply experimenting with their sexuality. There are many other myths associated with being bisexual. A quick search on Google will find you a collection of various sites which can provide you with lists of what some of them are. Two common ones are that bisexuals cannot maintain a stable relationship without the need to cheat, or that bisexuals love threesomes. Bisexuality does not mean that the person has to love two people at once, or mean that they are unable to love one person and maintain a healthy, committed relationship with one person.
If you only see the world in shades of black and white, it is difficult to understand the concept of someone being attracted to both males and females. Most people who feel this way will simply make a comment about how they should decide whether they’re heterosexual or homosexual and stop fooling themselves. You are not going to want to waste your time caring about someone who is ‘confused’ or ‘experimenting’. This can come from both the heterosexual community and the homosexual community. This is why we have what is known as the bisexual community, as sometimes it is hard to find just where you fit in the world when both sides can reject you.
When bisexuals identify as either homosexual or heterosexual this is also seen as bisexual erasure. The reason for this is because you are not admitting your true identity to the world; and possibly not to yourself either. But when you look at the fact that they may not be accepted in either community can you really blame someone for choosing to wish to be identified as one or the other? It may not help make bisexuality more accepted, but it is understandable why some may do it. I do it myself, but at least I am willing to admit that yes I am bisexual I just choose to identify as being a lesbian (if you want to be more accurate I identify as rating a 5 on the Kinsey Scale as I am predominantly homosexual, and only incidentally heterosexual). And I also have no problem with bisexuals or see them any differently than I do anyone else.
The Kinsey Scale is a scale from 0-6 which explains where you feel you fit when it comes to being heterosexual, bisexual, or homosexual. If you are a 0 then you are heterosexual, and if you are a 6 you are homosexual; the numbers between represent different degrees of bisexuality. It is basically a scale which shows that we do not all fit perfectly into the three specific sexual orientations.
In the media bisexuality is not always shown in its true form. In some TV shows and films you will find characters who will identify as being either heterosexual or homosexual yet are participating in bisexual behaviours. This is seen as bisexual erasure. Examples of this include the television show House. Whilst it does have the bisexual character of Thirteen, it failed to consider the possibility of their patient being bisexual in the season six episode ‘The Choice’. The storyline is based on the fact that the patient is gay, gets ‘fixed’ and is now straight (the cause of his problems). There is no middle ground or possibility that he could be bisexual brought up, and in the end to save him he has to become gay again and cannot possibly have feelings for his fiancée since she is a woman.
Although Seinfeld had at least three female characters that dated both males and at least one female they were always only identified as being heterosexual or homosexual, never bisexual. In Sex in the City, Samantha becomes a lesbian in the fourth season, only to return to becoming heterosexual later on. This may have just been Samantha experimenting with her sexuality, which can happen, but with Samantha’s attitudes towards sex, it would have been unsurprising to see her date another woman, making her bisexual.
Law and Order: SVU usually seems to point towards people having to either be heterosexual or homosexual, and there are a few examples in the show where people who could actually be bisexual are classed as being homosexual or heterosexual. In one episode, a character on the ‘down-low’ is hiding his gay identity – even though he is happily married – because he is having secret sex with men, and in another a suspect is dismissed because he is gay so he could not be raping women. ‘P.C.’ however is a more positive example of bisexuality. As a part of the Law and Order: SVU fandom I have also noticed this opinion that people must be either homosexual or heterosexual seems to continue into the fandom. There are fans who support the possibility of Elliot and Olivia being together, and others who support the possibility of Olivia and Alex being together. An argument over it is often made saying that Olivia is heterosexual (on the show she has only been seen with men) or that she (or Alex) is gay even though they have both been seen dating men, not women. I am sorry to say but you cannot dismiss either possibility of there ever being a relationship between either pairing over sexualities as Olivia and Alex could be bisexual. Which brings me to my final example (but believe me there are many more out there) – Willow in Buffy the Vampire Slayer. In the first three seasons Willow is seen in relationships with men and attracted to men. Then, in the fourth season she develops feelings for Tara, and for the rest of the show she is a lesbian (or gay as they always seem to call it). In order for Willow to actually be homosexual that would mean her whole relationship with Oz was nothing. It is hard to understand your sexual orientation, and it can take time to fully realise it, but Willow most likely is bisexual despite the show never saying this and always brushing her off as “being gay now”. It is also common to find that come sweeps week we suddenly have characters who are experimenting with their sexualities just so that the show gets some more ratings (arguably House did that with Thirteen, but at least she remains a bisexual throughout her time on the show and is shown with both males and females). After sweeps week is over it seems that these characters are no longer experimenting and return to being heterosexual.
There are also two examples (that I know of) of novels which were turned into television shows where bisexual characters do not continue over into the shows. Gossip Girl carried very little of the book’s content over to the TV show. Some of the pairings and love triangles did continue over, however some of the characters were also changed. The show is now in its fifth season, so it is understandable that over the years it has evolved a lot further than the eleven books which make up the Gossip Girl series (not including the prequel or sequel).
In the novels, the character of Chuck Bass is seen as a secondary character, and it is often hinted that he appears gay (although he does also have sex with women). From this, although it is never stated, you can presume that he is bisexual. When this character was transferred over to the television series he was promoted to a primary role and his bisexuality completely removed. This series of novels also has an example of what may be bisexual erasure (other than Chuck’s sexuality never being revealed) in the character of Dan Humphrey. He experiments with being gay for a while, before returning to being heterosexual as he realises that being gay just is not him and he loves Vanessa. This may be a true fact, he could have just been experimenting; but he also could be bisexual. The other example that I am aware of is in Pretty Little Liars. In the novels the character of Emily is bisexual, but in the television series she is a lesbian (despite having feelings for and dating Ben at the start of the series).
The only example in films which I am aware of which could be seen as bisexual erasure is in the film The Kids Are All Right. In a film directed and co-written by a lesbian you would think that it could be a positive example of homosexuality and showing them in a good light, but I do not believe that the movie does this. The movie basically says that lesbians have to have men in order to be fully satisfied. The character of Jules is married to a woman, and she identifies as being a lesbian/gay. However, she has an affair with a man. The movie does not consider the possibility that Jules could be bisexual which would explain why she loves her wife (Nic) but also enjoyed the sex with Paul. Then there is also the fact that Jules and Nic both like watching gay porn together. For me that hints towards both characters being bisexual, but at least Jules appears to be.
Another thing which occurs in the media is when a celebrity comes out as bisexual only to be referred to as being homosexual or heterosexual (depending on what gender they are with). It is brilliant that the media is not hiding the existence of homosexuals, however it appears that for now bisexuality is still not accepted enough to always be mentioned.
Outside of the media, online dating appears to be something which is becoming quite popular, and there are many sites which allow you to do so. I only looked at about eleven popular dating sites and four of them only allow you to say you are looking for either men or women, five of them I was unable to see without joining so I could not check, and only the final one states that you can meet men and women on the site but I was unable to check if you can say you are looking for both on it either. Whilst I can understand that some bisexuals may be looking for same-sex partners on there because they do not want to look for them in their area or it is harder to find, there should still be the option to look for both. This does not seem to be acknowledging the existence or possibility that bisexuals exist and may require assistance finding love too. For a bisexual to join these sites would like them to choose which gender they would prefer to find instead of allowing them to search for all potential matches from both genders.
These are only a few examples of what can be classed as bisexual erasure. Does this prove that it exists? I’ll leave that decision to you. The only thing that I will tell you exists is bisexuality, no matter what anyone else tells you it is possible to be attracted to both males and females.