By Sasha Rivera '19
Greed, promiscuity and confusion. These are some of the things that first come to mind for some uninformed people when confronted with the topic of bisexuality. From Sept. 20 to Sept. 26, the internationally-recognized Bisexuality Visibility Week aims to break these negative and inaccurate stereotypes and to educate the public about this particular sexual orientation. The Queer Resource Center (QRC) at Pomona College held special events throughout the week, including a group dinner with Dr. Tania Israel, a professor in the Department of Counseling, Clinical, and School Psychology at the University of California Santa Barbara. Dr. Israel also gave a TEDx talk on bisexuality, the video of which was featured at one of the event days for the QRC.
Bisexuality is commonly perceived as a 50/50 attraction to men and women. However, this definition is incorrect in that it upholds the gender binary and misconstrues the levels of attraction to various genders, which vary for each individual. Actually, bisexuality is the attraction to two or more genders. These attractions are not divided perfectly at all times. Rather, attractions may vary from time to time; a bisexual person could go through a period of being more attracted to feminine individuals, and then later experience a phase of attraction to masculine-presenting people. There is no set formula for bisexuality; what gender(s) a person is attracted to, and how strongly at a certain time, varies individual to individual.
A common issue bisexuals face is erasure by those within and outside of the LGBTQ+ community. Bisexuals are often seen as confused and unable to decide whether they are homosexual or heterosexual. When a bisexual is in a relationship with someone of the same gender, they are automatically assumed to be homosexual, and vice versa with someone of the opposite gender. These perceptions are often due to the apparent need for assumptions and labels within society, as well as ignorance to the fact that there are more sexual and romantic orientations than just gay and straight.
Another myth about bisexuality is that people who identify as bisexual are more promiscuous and more likely to cheat due to their attractions to multiple genders. However, sexual and romantic orientations have no correlation to promiscuity. How often one has sex or is unfaithful to a partner is based solely on the individual themselves, not on a community identity.
These are only some of the issues Dr. Israel addressed in her TEDx talk, which the QRC played on Tues, Sept. 22. In the video, Dr. Israel discussed the idea of bisexuality and her own identity, and then focused on the relation of bisexuality to nonbinary gender systems. She discussed her own internal conflicts of being bisexual and trying not to uphold the gender binary divisions of just man and woman. On Sept. 25, Dr. Israel spoke in person at the Kravis Center about bisexuality and the experiences of bisexual people to all Claremont College students, faculty, and staff who attended the event. She elaborated on many of the topics she did not have the chance to include in her TEDx talk, especially about the gender spectrums and the almost infinite possibilities for gender identity. This talk was followed by a dinner at the QRC, where students had the opportunity to ask questions and hold mutual discussions in a more intimate setting. Many shared their own experiences with their identities and answered questions about coming out, the relationship between attraction and gender, and how to make the Claremont Colleges more bisexual-friendly.