Claims from pop star Jessie J’s unauthorised biographer recently set the internet alight with renewed discussion about the meaning and disagreement over the meaning of bisexual identity.
Chloe Govan claimed that because Jessie hasn’t dated any boys since the age of 17 (she is now 24), this was evidence that she was really a lesbian. She also stated that Jessie’s record label pressured her into making the claim of bisexuality because it was “trendy, exotic and a fashion statement”.
Jessie has since contradicted the claims on Twitter, but the controversy will ring true for many people who identify as bisexual.
The old myths about bisexuality (it doesn’t exist, it’s a transitional stage, they’re just being ‘greedy’) are increasingly being debunked in the academic literature, but they persist in society.
While the stigma of same-sex attraction is sometimes all too clear, what is most surprising is that biphobic views frequently come from other same-sex attracted people. At the 2011 Pride March in St Kilda, bisexual marchers reported that negative comments were made towards them, and biphobia continues to negatively impact on the lives of bisexual men and women.
The denial of Jessie J’s bisexuality is a perfect example of what many bisexual people experience. ‘You can’t be bi — you haven’t been with a man for x number of years’.
Why does bisexuality need to be continually proved? For some gays and lesbians, it is a label they may have used in the coming-out process, and they still view it as a transitional stage.
However, for bisexuals who genuinely feel an attraction to both sexes, the denial of their sexual preference is as offensive as saying homosexuality doesn’t exist to gays and lesbians.
Other offensive views are that bisexuals are more likely to be promiscuous and cheat than monosexuals, when the data indicates there is no difference. Monogamy and bisexuality are not mutually exclusive.
Bisexuals, just like monosexuals, can be attracted to people outside their relationship, without acting upon that attraction. The label ‘bisexual’ just denotes attraction to both sexes.
The effect of stigmatisation even within their own community is clear; bisexuals often report higher levels of mental illness and distress than lesbians and gays, especially where they are not strongly connected to other forms of social support. Bisexuals can also feel more excluded from services and groups that are specifically LGBTI-oriented, even though ostensibly they are to be included.
The Victorian AIDS Council/Gay Men’s Health Centre caters for bisexual men in the peer-based services offered from the Health Promotion program, while the Counselling Service, Clinic and Positive Living Centre all cater for the entire LGBTI spectrum.
By LAURA PRENDERGAST
INFO: www.vicaids.asn.au/support-services or call 03 9865 6700