Amy Andre

What Does a Bisexual Look Like?

Filed By Amy Andre | September 27, 2011 10:00 AM | comments

Filed in: Living
Tags: bisexual community, identity, lesbian hair style, publicity, street harassment

My spouse and I were walking down the street the other day, when a man in a pick-up truck shouted a word from his vehicle. He shouted out the word "lesbians!"

ERW.jpgI wondered why.

We were not holding hands at the time, so, from my perspective, we weren't overtly displaying to the world what our relationship is to one another. But, since he shouted, "lesbians!" - not "female couple!" - it's clear to me that his declaration had nothing to do with whether or not he could tell that we're partners.

It so happens that my spouse is a lesbian. But he didn't shout, "lesbian!," singular. He added an "s". "Lesbians!" plural. Since there were no other people anywhere near us on the sidewalk, I have to assume he was (loudly) trying to describe both of us.

I'm not a lesbian, but clearly something about either my appearance or the appearance of us two non-hand-holding women together (or both) made him think that I was. After all, he didn't shout "lesbian and bisexual!" But what about my appearance made him skip over "and bisexual" as a possibility?

Considering the fact that studies show that twice as many women identify as bisexual than identify as lesbian (yes, bi women outnumber lesbians two to one), the odds were just higher anyway that, if he thinks I'm not straight, then I'm probably bi. So, what could it be that made him assume we were both lesbians?

My spouse surmised that it was our hair. We both have pretty short haircuts. But does that mean that lesbians get to have a monopoly on hair length as a signifier of sexual identity? If so, I'm jealous!

I shouted back - at this point, much too late for him to hear - "I'll take it!" Because even though I'm not a lesbian, it's certainly no insult to be mistaken for one, especially if the mistake is based on my awesome hair style! Sadly, he didn't get to hear my acceptance of his declaration, but it gave my spouse a good laugh. Sometimes, that's all that matters...

Street harassment and violence are no joke, though. But luckily, in this case, the event began and ended with that one word: "lesbians!" It was almost as though he thought, "That's what lesbians look like, so those must be lesbians!," and the only word that popped came out of his mouth during this train of thought was, "lesbians!"

Nonetheless, the incident got me thinking: what does a bisexual look like? Or, more specifically, how can someone wear their bisexuality on their sleeve, if people's assumptions about our sexuality are based on things like haircuts? Especially if those haircuts are also being assumed to only belong to monosexuals (in this case, lesbians)?

The only conclusion I could draw is: we need a bisexual haircut! I think the bi community needs to come together and decide on one hair style, and that will be the bi hair style. Then, we need to be able to advertise the fact that that is the bi hair style, so that people can recognize us - but, of course, never harass us or act violently towards us. Again, this no joking matter, since research shows that bisexual women are more likely than monosexual (lesbian and straight) women to experience domestic violence. Obviously, biphobia has got to go. But what I'm talking about here is developing a signifier, an aesthetic, a queer/ clear marker for bisexuality.

We'll publicize what the hair style looks like. And we can publicize the idea that, if you see two people with that haircut, and you're driving past them in a pick-up truck, and you have no intention to harass them but you just feel utterly compelled to shout a word in their direction related to your beliefs about their sexual identity, you should definitely, definitely shout out the word "bisexuals!"

It's just that much more accurate.

Caption: Out bi actress Evan Rachel Wood has great hair! Maybe we should go with this style. Image source.

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Is this article directed for femalebisexuals only?
What about me? :)
A male bisexual?

Nick, I would imagine that the article is for readers of all genders and sexual orientations, not just bisexuals. I certainly notice that the examples and statistics given are about women, but that doesn't mean that the content doesn't apply to bi men. Bi men who desire visibility could just as easily benefit from a bi look or bi haircut.

Also useful to note: examples or statistics in articles tend to be about dominant groups. Almost all statistics about the gay/queer folks are about cis gay/queer folks, yet as someone who is trans and queer it's up to me to assume that I'm meant to be included. Medical studies have previously excluded women (and always exclude trans folks), yet the results from those studies are assumed to apply to all people. It's pretty standard for marginalized populations not to see themselves reflected in media or academia. Having rhetorical examples and statistics cited focus on marginalized populations -- especially when the author is speaking from personal experience -- is not about necessarily discriminatory or even exclusionary, it's just a temporary deviation from the standard privileging that members of dominant groups have come to expect.

"Almost all statistics about the gay/queer folks are about cis gay/queer folks, yet as someone who is trans and queer it's up to me to assume that I'm meant to be included."

That's funny, I always assume the opposite.

Yes, it's up to us to assume whether or not we are meant to be included. I'm more thinking about how same-sex benefits are an issue that effects trans folks in same-sex relationships, but the examples given are always two cis people in a same-sex couple.

It's certainly true that other examples don't include us. When a cis queer woman is going on and on about how... oh, lets say women with short hair are so hot, I typically don't assume she intends to include trans women with short hair in that as well, and unless given reason to think otherwise, often assume the opposite.

Wait, if the lesbians get Seven Approved Haircuts, why are we stuck with only one? Shouldn't we have seven, too? Or fourteen?

Seeingeyegrrl | September 28, 2011 10:22 AM

Okay, great idea! Someone was asking me the other day about 'labels' and I am just ready to do away with all of them and go back to 'queer' which to me means different from the majority. Personally I think it is important to ask what people want to be labeled as, but overall....right at this moment, I am tired of labels. Just let them call me whatever. In reality, their hate by whatever name, I hope will just bounce off...

Paige Listerud | October 1, 2011 1:08 PM

I wish bis had come up with the asymmetrical haircut I see on a few young people these days. But, alas, it seems to be about being a young student or artist hipster, no association with fluid sexuality per se. I don't know--eyeliner for all bi/pan/fluid of any gender? Then we could walk like Egyptians.