Twitter debunks myths about the strange creature known as ‘bisexual’

An army of Twitter users remind us that queer identity is not as simple as "gay" and "lesbian."

 

Aja Romano

IRL

Published Dec 3, 2013   Updated Jun 1, 2021, 12:41 am CDT

Over the last two days, actress Maria Bello and Olympic swimmer Tom Daley both came out as bisexual—Bello with an earnest column in the New York Times, Daley with a nervous message to fans. Bello and Daley both stressed the complexity of their sexual identities as well as their feelings on the subject. But despite the attempts of the two celebrities not to spell anything out, many news and media outlets only heard one word: “gay”—a word the celebrities didn’t say.

Numerous media outlets who reported stories on the two celebrities described them both as “gay” in headlines. After an outcry from readers, a number of these outlets changed that label to “bisexual.” Perhaps most hilariously, Time originally lead with the headline “Maria Bello New York Times Out as Lesbian, which was later changed to “If You Think Maria Bello Is a Lesbian, You Weren’t Paying Attention.” Even members of the queer media got it wrong and had to apologize.

Bisexuals have always struggled to fit in within the queer community, where many gay men and women can’t or won’t recognize bisexual individuals as being among them—unless they happen to be dating someone of the same gender, at which point they’re labeled simply “lesbian” or “gay.” So to many, the headlines served to underline a feeling that their identity is constantly being erased.

Enter Vanity Fair columnist Richard Lawson, himself a gay man, who minced no words about Daley’s coming out:

To all the people saying “Actually, he came out as bisexual,” I’ll see you in six months when he drops that whole bit.

— Richard Lawson (@rilaws) December 2, 2013

@shoshpd What, all six of them?

— Richard Lawson (@rilaws) December 2, 2013

When @dogunderwater asked Lawson why he didn’t just take Daley at his word, Lawson responded, “because being socially honest instead of using precious terms has value.”

At this, frustrated Twitter user @verylemonade, who’d been participating in the conversation, dropped a grumpy subtweet:

There’s apparently only 6 bisexuals on the entire planet. #bisexualfacts

— ASSHOLE WIZARD GIRL™ (@verylemonade) December 2, 2013

Verylemonade’s hashtag immediately caught on, as Twitter users piled in to marvel at the “mythical and rare” bisexual, turning the gimmick into comedic commentary on the media’s supposed inability to acknowledge that such creatures actually exist.

Last confirmed sighting of a bisexual was in 1998.There have been many reported sightings bt it turns out they were confused. #bisexualfacts

— Izzy Lomax (@izzyelle) December 2, 2013

#bisexualfacts Bisexuals gain our power by hanging ourselves from the world tree for nine days and nights in order to gain hidden knowledge

— D K (@DecayDJK) December 2, 2013

Bisexuals emerge from the mist of the Scottish moors every hundred years in legendary village of Brigadoon. #bisexualfacts

— Charlie Thomas (@charlesthomas) December 3, 2013

A bisexual in motion tends tends to stay in motion. Use this to your advantage. #bisexualfacts

— Rebecca Weinberg (@sciliz) December 3, 2013

A bisexual has no less than three True Names, but will only ever tell you one. #bisexualfacts

— M.S., Sailor Badass (@zenithsun) December 3, 2013

At its best, the hashtag also toys with the tricky identity politics of being bi and of having complicated relationships in a world that wants clearly defined labels:

Bisexuals spend most of their time invisible, through their partners can detect them via a distinctive buzz #bisexualfacts

— The Poly Pagan (@Falcc) December 3, 2013

Just realized there are probably bisexual transsexuals and a wormhole opened up in my bedroom. #bisexualfacts

— Corey Freeman (@CoreyFreeman) December 3, 2013

So far the tag has trended mainly in Canada and Europe, but it’s still spreading this morning, probably because it’s hard to resist a trend so tailor-made for blending social commentary with a touch of the absurd:

Amazon has announced plans to deliver small packages within 30 minutes using flying bisexuals. #bisexualfacts

— Charlie Thomas (@charlesthomas) December 3, 2013

As for Lawson, he acknowledged to me on Twitter that he was enjoying the tag:

@ajaromano While I technically don’t endorse any hashtag games, this seems like a good one.

— Richard Lawson (@rilaws) December 3, 2013

But it’s doubtful a cheeky hashtag can keep the media and members of the gay community from trapping queer individuals into an either/or scenario. For now, the bisexual remains safest in the wild, free from its would-be captors.

#bisexualfacts The first bisexual was painted on the caves at Lasceaux. It’s…beautiful.

— Heron (@herong) December 3, 2013

Photo by Jim Thurston/Flickr

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*First Published: Dec 3, 2013, 3:54 pm CST