Stolen Pride: A Case of Bi-Erasure
June is nationally recognized in the United States as LGBT Pride Month. During the month, Pride festivals take place that include marches, concerts, and parties. issues that haven't been resolved are discussed, and there's an overall celebration of the queer community and how far we've come. However, sometimes these events forget that there is a reason that there is a “B” in the commonly used acronym LGBT. The “B” stands for bisexual, but also would cover other non-monosexual identities such as pansexual or polysexual.
The most persistent issues for bi, pan, and polysexual communities are being visible and validated. Pride festivals shouldn’t be a place where either of these are issues exist. Unfortunately, this is definitely not the case. I’ve encountered multiple stories of bisexual individuals trying to be visible at these festivals only to be treated as if they don’t belong there just because they are capable of dating people of the opposite sex. I imagine those who identify as pansexual or polysexual face this as well. Recently, YouTuber RJ “TheNotAdam” put out a video describing his experiences at this summer’s L.A. Pride where he faced discrimination. The queer community - including him - were just beginning to mourn for Orlando as the Pulse shooting had happened the night before, and were terrified as a man tried to drive into the L.A. Pride festival with bombs. It is also highly likely that many of the victims of the Pulse shooting were bi, pan, or polysexual themselves.You would think this would bring everyone together.
There’s already so much hate from much of society, so it is hard to understand why certain groups within the queer community think it is okay to discriminate against bi, pan, and polysexual people. The reasoning behind this discrimination is, albeit, ignorant. It’s based on the misguided ideas that these identities are “less queer” or “essentially heterosexual” because those who use these labels may be capable of heterosexual attraction. This discrimination can become even more aggressive and prevalent when these people are part of other marginalized groups e.g. race, differently abled, or gender.
Some of the least welcome people at Pride festivals are those who appear to be heterosexual and cisgender. It’s understandable that many queer people may not want those who truly identify as heterosexual and cisgender invading spaces like Pride festivals, especially when some treat Pride as nothing more than a large party. It’s debatable if heterosexual and cisgender allies should be allowed to attend Pride festivals. However, true allies would understand if a festival is meant only for queer people, and would try to find other ways to support the community rather than attending so they aren’t really the problem. However, judging people who attend Pride festivals only on the fact that they seem to be heterosexual and cisgender is incredibly short-sighted and assumes a lot, and we all know what happens when we assume. It’s so dangerous and harmful to ignore the possibility that the people in a seemingly heterosexual relationship may in fact be bisexual, pansexual, polysexual, or even trans. It is also possible that a couple attending a Pride festival is indeed in a heterosexual relationship, but may be asexual or on the spectrum. Why anyone at a Pride festival thinks it’s their job to judge these people and make them feel unwelcome is beyond me.
To put the ridiculous nature of these attitudes towards the bisexual community at Pride festivals in perspective, Brenda Howard, a bisexual woman who was part of the Stonewall Riots (known as the beginning of the Gay Rights Movement), led the first Pride festival. Pride festivals may never have came to be without members of the bisexual community, so there is no justifiable reason that the “B” of LGBT should not be welcome there. Regardless, all members of the queer community should be able to be fully out and proud during Pride festivities.
Jessica Keller (she/her) is part of the Concept: Staff. Learn more about the staff here.