Looking at the bi contingent in the LGBT community, one of the things we hear from our detractors is that it seems awfully suspicious that most of the out bisexuals are in different-sex couples.
It's assumed that this is a reaction to being on the gay scene, or that opposite sex relationships have more 'privilege' and so we're choosing the easy option. Or that we're straights trying to get in on the gay scene and be 'cool'.
What utter rubbish. Let's look at some graphs and see why!
When talking about the range of sexualities, a lot of people visualise the Kinsey Scale across the population as a curved graph. Kinsey's research suggested that it was a bell curve, and this is where we start to run into problems.
People know what bell-curves look like. They visualise them as starting low, cresting in the middle at a higher value and then dropping down again. Like this:
Because they know that sexuality is a continuum and what a bell-curve looks like, some of them then say things like "Completely straight or gay people are quite rare" or "most people are bisexual". This is common, even on the bi scene - we internalise the "equally attracted to" myth to assume that although we don't have to be equally attracted to 'both' sexes to be bisexual ourselves, that there is, somewhere, a large number of bisexuals out there who are all Kinsey 3's.
But a graph can be curved without being symmetrical. And although the Kinsey scale is usually written out with nice chunky integers (0,1,2,3...) it's perfectly easy when talking about a big population to have fractions.
This means we can, and should, re-visualise that graph. Let's start with the idea that in the UK, the majority of the adult population is heterosexual. According to mainstream thinking, the sexuality of Britain runs something like this:
Every survey done (anywhere, ever) comes up with a set of figures like this - so rather than assuming people are in denial, let's assume they're telling the truth. The question you ask makes a lot of difference, which we go into in more detail in another article (How to Hide Bisexuality), and people don't answer "Are you A or B?" questions routinely with "C!" as they assume they're not allowed to.
There is more than two categories, and we hope you would agree that sexual attraction is a spectrum rather than a series of rigid boxes, so let's go back to our curve. A curve doesn't need to crest in the middle, and if we know the number on one side is higher then we can visualise the hump as being in a number of places.
So, should the hump be at 1 then, or 2? Doing either of these would correctly increase the numbers we're visualising for hetero- and homosexuality - fewer gay people than straight. But it would also suggest that there were more people who were bisexual than there are heterosexual. No surveys show that more people are attracted to both sexes than are attracted to just the different sex to them.
So, taking a deep breath, let's put that hump in at 0. Maybe slightly higher than 0, but not as high as 1. This is a continuum, not a series of boxes:
Now the graph curves down to the gay community, and it's still a bell curve. Most people are straight, some people are queer. What does this mean for bisexuals?
We here at the Index define bisexuality as Kinsey 1-5, so there's still a lot of bisexuals out there. As with the poorly pictured curve of yesteryear (top of the page) there's still more bisexuals than there are gays.
But look at who is in the bisexual slice. The majority of bisexuals are low-number Kinsey - more attracted to the opposite sex than the same sex.
Is this likely? Another way of thinking of bisexuality is as something separate to gay/straight, so if it can be thought of as being equally likely to occur in people who are gay or straight, and if there are far more straights than gays ... you see where we're going with this, right?
(If you don't like Bell Curves incidentally, we could just as easily draw a straight line from 0 to 6.
This makes little difference to our general points, because although it does greatly increase the number of high-Kinsey bisexuals, it still suggests they're outnumbered by the low Kinsey numbered ones)
Two reasons. Firstly because the vast majority of potential partners available to bisexuals are heterosexual or low-kinsey bisexuals (see any of the above graphs). This isnt about who we're attracted to, it's about who is attracted to us. But also because bisexuals are more statistically likely to be primarily attracted to a different sex. It's not about being equally attracted, after all.
What if most bisexuals are low Kinsey-scorers?
What does this mean for studies into bisexuality? Well - it's bad news. Most of these draw on the B section of the LGBT community, where the majority of actually bisexual people (as opposed to "bi identified happy to socialise on the gay scene" people) are not to be found.
Similarly for health-care; treating bisexuality as a footnote on gay men's safer sex materials is a disastrous failing of focus. Yes, bisexuals are a minority on the gay scene. But the bisexuals on the gay scene are a minority of bisexuals.
Bisexuality is healthy, normal and ordinary. For people to embrace their sexuality we need to reach them and explain this, to strip away the complications imposed on the label by others. We're not reaching them by going just via the gay scene and specifically gay publications. You'll reach some bisexuals via Boyz and the Pink Paper, sure - but you'll reach others via Bizarre, Time Out and Simply Knitting. (Not to mention loads of straight people and non-scene gay men & lesbians)
So, next time you look around a gay event and wonder where all the bisexuals are, consider looking around a football match, or a theatre audience, or the queue for the bus - that's where the bisexuals are. We're not hiding, we're just not scene.
Bisexuality - Ordinary, Common, Fun in Groups!