One junior has had to deal with a lot of unsettling comments when she tells people she’s bisexual. “Oh, cool, you would be down for a three-way,” is one of them.
Every time she begins dating someone, Rachel Gibson is nervous about the possible assumptions her new partner might make because of common misconceptions surrounding bisexuality, she said.
Bisexuality is the attraction to both men and women.
Gibson thinks that, like any sexuality, bisexuality exists on a spectrum, with each individual’s definition differing from the other, she said. There is also a lot of overlap with bisexuality and pansexuality, which is the attraction to people regardless of gender.
A lot of people are sexually fluid, and bisexual people sometimes are more attracted to one gender more than the other. Although, they still are attracted to the opposite gender, this does not stop people from assuming they are either strictly homosexual or heterosexual.This could lead people to categorize bisexual people, junior Zackary Laster said.
“If you typically lean towards one or the other, they put you in a box,” Laster said.
Gibson has known that she was bisexual since she was 15 years old when she met a girl that she was romantically interested in. Before then, though, there had been clues that tipped her off, she said.
“There have been little things my whole life,” Gibson said with a laugh. “I mean, you know when you’re seven, and you’re watching a Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie movie and, like, Angelina Jolie was really so much better than Brad Pitt.”
For the most part, most people Gibson have met have been very accepting of her sexuality, she said.
“There are, of course, gross straight guys and [when I say I’m bisexual] they’re like, ‘Oh, that’s really cool. Have you like hooked up with your roommate?’” Gibson said.
Graduate student Alisha Fletcher also identifies as bisexual. Bisexuality is often misunderstood, and fetishized, she said.
“If I tell guys within the first few conversations that I am bisexual, they automatically assume that means I am willing to have a threesome or something like that,” Fletcher said. “Like, I didn’t say that, and that’s not inherently bisexuality, but people will assume it.”
Misconceptions and, on some occasions, discrimination, come from both sides of the spectrum, Gibson said.
“To straight people, I’m not straight enough and they’re like, ‘Just date a nice boy. Settle down. You’ll get over it,’” Gibson said. “On the other side of the spectrum, I have friends that are lesbians, and every time I talk about a guy they’re like, ‘Oh that’s boring. We don’t want to hear about that. Have you seen any cute girls lately?’ and I’m like, ‘Yes, but I’m talking about this specific guy right now.’ And I’m never quite gay enough for them.”
Bisexual people that pass as heterosexuals often have trouble with people assuming they are straight, Fletcher said. It’s difficult to explain that she is bisexual, and while it may sometimes be easier to say she is gay or queer, people will assume she’s a lesbian if she says that, Fletcher said.
“There’s a whole third-party [that] people forget,” Fletcher said.
Bisexual people make up 52 percent of the LGBTQ community in the U.S., with 5.5 percent of women and 2 percent of men identifying as bisexual in the U.S., according to the LGBT Movement Advancement Project 2016 report “Invisible Majority: The Disparities Facing Bisexual People and How to Remedy Them.”
Twenty-eight percent of bisexuals have said they are out to the people that are most important in their lives, in comparison to 77 percent of gay men and 71 percent of lesbians. Bisexual women are more likely than bisexual men to tell their families about their sexuality, according to a 2013 Pew Research survey.
Laster realized he was bisexual when he moved to Fayetteville in high school and had more opportunities to explore his sexuality than he did in his old town, Muskogee, Oklahoma.
Men might be less likely to come out as bisexual because there is more a stigma against homosexual relationships, so many men are afraid to explore their sexuality, Laster said.
“[Men are] not as nearly as willing to be vulnerable,” Laster said.
The majority of bisexual people are also in heterosexual relationships, according to the LGBT Movement Advancement Project 2016 report.
While some bisexual people are in heterosexual relationships, it does not discredit their sexuality, graduate student Sage McCoy said.
McCoy is a queer woman in a heterosexual relationship and chooses to use the word queer because she relates more to the identity surrounding bisexuality rather than the sexuality and is attracted to more than one gender identity.
McCoy also helped set up the LGBTQ mentoring program at the Center for Multicultural and Diversity Education and tries to represent queer women in heterosexual relationships in the LGBTQ community and as an advocate in the classroom, she said.
There are a couple of student organizations that support the LGBTQ community on campus that can provide a network and support for LGBTQ students. People Respecting Individual Differences and Equality and Out in Science, Engineering, Mathematics and Technology are two student-run organizations available, and there is also a free Counseling and Psychological Services mentoring group, McCoy said.
The Multicultural Center is now also offering a LGBTQ mentoring program, which pairs LGBTQ students with staff and faculty. The mentoring program will have monthly events, meet-and-greets, and workshops this academic school year, McCoy said.
“We have a lot of room to grow, but the Multicultural Center is really working on upping intentional programing and support for the LGBT population,” McCoy said.