“So, you’re a… lesbian? Or just sometimes?”
In the new film Appropriate Behavior, bisexual protagonist Shirin—played by writer/director Desiree Akhavan—has a conversation with her brother about her romantic life that goes like this:
“Maxine and I were in a relationship.”
“So you’re a lesbian?”
“I was pretty into all the guys I was with so I think I’m bisexual.”
“And that’s a thing?”
Yes, it’s a thing. But it’s also many different things.
In the film, Shirin’s brother goes on to ask whether she needs to come out to her parents, now that her lesbian relationship is over. But his fictional ignorance reflects so much real-life ignorance.
Last year, in Slate’s Dear Prudence column, Emily Yoffe advised a bisexual woman in a monogamous marriage to a man against disclosing her sexual orientation—apparently bisexuality should only be made public when it’s being “acted on”—in bed.
When True Blood star Anna Paquin told Larry King last year that she was marrying a man, he asked, “Are you a non-practising bisexual?” That question—whether bisexuality exists—along with its partner in ignorance—the insistence that bisexuality can only mean actively sleeping with men and women simultaneously, or at least, trying to—are things bisexual women confront on a regular basis.
While bisexuals are gaining political ground and visibility — Congress has its first openly bisexual member, Representative Kyrsten Sinema (AZ), and in 2013, there was a White House roundtable on bisexuality—not everyone gets it.