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Dirty Bis: Our New Bisexuality Column

Welcome to ‘Dirty Bis’, our new bisexuality column by Maedh Pierce.

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Frequenting a club recently, patterned amongst beautiful queers I had just met, we began to discuss our identities. We were a wonderful group: non-binary, trans, pansexual, bisexual, polyamorous, monogamous, and questioning. As we became acquainted, a friend of my partner, Carolina, became increasingly frustrated concerning my identification with bisexuality. To their mind, perhaps they were doing me a kindness, explaining that I did “seem more pansexual.” Yet, as I heard their extensive opinion, my mind wandered to all the reasons I unerringly identify as bisexual. My choice stems from the history we hold, the conversations we spark, and the love we have. From – as Shiri Eisner puts it – my capacity to feel attraction for all genders and those who identify with none.

Perhaps this was how I should have replied to their inquisition. But, as this brief conversation set me on this mission of rectification, I thank them. For those who, like me, that night, seek a quick bite of bi+ culture in their lives, or perhaps, a faster quip to bisexuality deniers/opposers/dismissers, Dirty Bis is here for you.

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Presently, we are almost past the idea that bisexual is a dirty word. Conceptions of bisexuals as “dirty” emerged around the AIDS crisis, mostly centring around cis bisexual men, the narrative, coming from the heterosexual community, feared transmission of the virus. Our community exists at an intersection. And so was perceived as a sort of vector capable of harbouring disease, dishonesty, and sexual insatiability. 

Coming to sexual awareness in the early to mid-2010s, I struggled with language, invisibility, and self-recognition. I did not see my identity reflected in the media, the books I read, or the music I adored. In reality, bisexuality was as pervasive then as it is now. Making up over 50% of the queer community, we were never a minority. Yet, in our under-representation, so intense it seemed intentional – we forgot our strength. 

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Our community offers writers like Julia Shaw, Robyn Ochs, and Shiri Eisner. Artists like Bee Illustrates and Ananya Rao-Middleton. Singers Phoebe Bridgers, Anitta and – I’m claiming her, you can cross-check the lyrics– Fletcher. Actors: Drew Barrymore, Megan Fox. Nor are we a new addition. Brenda Howard, Virginia Woolf, Whitney Houston, Simone De Beauvoir. All are outstanding in their respective crafts. All, for generations, had their bisexuality erased and subsumed into monosexual spheres.

I list so extensively to demonstrate that we are everywhere and that we constitute a colossal part of queer culture and culture at large. This receives an acknowledgement, with our art, work and personhood, though often sexualised, being lauded. Yet, continuing, I’m sure few of us can claim we have ceased to experience regular, if less overt, biphobia. So, what is it that’s happening here exactly? Why isn’t a heightened appraisal of bisexual culture resulting in heightened social acceptance and, by apropos, reduced ostracisation?

This column, like any bisexual will tell you, strives to demonstrate bisexuality as not a throwaway facet of our sexual identity but rather a meaningful, contributory part of sculpting our mindsets, insights, and talents. 

Take, for example, Brenda Turner. In circles that acknowledge her, Brenda Turner is often deemed the “mother of pride.” To possess such a title, you might think more of us would have heard of her, but somehow, we haven’t. I hadn’t come across her activism until this year while reading Dr Julia Shaw’s aptly named: Bi: The Hidden Culture, History and Science of Bisexuality. Howard, born in 1946, was a nurse, activist and bisexual who, after the 1969 Stonewall riots, central in coordinating the protest that took place one month later. Yes, Pride. A bisexual woman, who identified as kinky and poly, was a key figure of the inaugural celebratory protest, suggesting that it be extended from one day to a week of activities. In the bi+ community specifically, she organised the New York Area Bisexual Network in 1988 and the first chapter of Alcoholics Anonymous specifically for bisexual people. Information on her is limited, the most helpful I found being the memorial site established by her partner. Dirty Bis will strive to counter this, to make bi+ history accessible and less extramural. Here is a space where we can tell our stories, past and present.

We dispute the narrative that many have accepted, that we are newcomers or drop-ins to the LGBTQ+ community. Yet, the wilful non-telling of our stories does cause history to disappear. It does, however, mean that we must fight to have them – in all their fluidity and non-conventionality – told.

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Dirty Bis will strive to achieve this. We will tell stories, old and new, documenting art, emotions and choices within our community. We want to investigate: What are bisexual issues? And, what is a bisexual activist framework? Featuring a variety of writers, bimonthly, we’ll examine the bi+ community from angles novel, inclusive and ameliorative.

And while we wish to celebrate, to open the gates that kept our stories from us, we also endeavour to address how and why we are at heightened risk of sexual assault, poverty, self-harm and substance abuse. To address exclusion experienced not only in heterosexual spheres but also in queer circles – to heal and to disrupt.

Join us?

Team Nonchalant x

Maedbh Pierce
Maedbh Pierce

Currently living in Berlin, yet tragically, not a fan of techno, Maedbh (she/her) is an English and Philosophy graduate (UCD, Dublin) and freelance writer. To date, her writing explores and celebrates queer identity, life and culture.

Find me on: Web | Instagram

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