In my last post, I introduced the topic of bisexual erasure and gave a brief explanation about what it means and what it can look like. Today I'm going into further detail on the more subtle ways bi erasure can appear in everyday life.

If a woman introduces you to her wife, would you describe their marriage as a lesbian relationship?  If two men are tying the knot, would the celebration be a gay wedding?  If a man and a woman are on a date, are they a straight couple?  

Well, maybe not! If any of the hypothetical people in the above examples are bisexual, then you may (or may not) be surprised to learn that describing their relationships with the words gay, straight or lesbian is an act of bisexual erasure, in more ways than one.

First, there's the issue of assigning a label to the relationship at all. She's not in a lesbian relationship if she's bisexual; he's not in a straight relationship if he's bisexual.  Relationships themselves don't have an inherent sexuality, and describing a relationship based only on the genders of the participants erases their personal identities.  

Second, there's the larger social issue of how bisexual people are defined by their relationships. It's depressingly common for a person's bisexual identity to be ignored or erased by others based on their relationship history. If a bisexual woman usually dates men, she's assumed to be straight, whether or not she's open about her sexuality.  If she eventually marries a woman, suddenly people assume she was a lesbian all along, or at least that she's gay now, prior relationships notwithstanding.  

This attitude led to the creation of the oxymoronic term “bihet,” which I've seen floating around on the Internet for a while now, used to describe bisexual people in relationships with someone of a different gender.  It's a combination of the words “bisexual” and “heterosexual,” meaning “a bisexual person in a heterosexual relationship.”  If you are still uncertain why “bihet” is a needless and offensive term, ask yourself: what would the opposite term be?  “Bihomo” isn't a thing.  If you need proof, a Google search of the phrase “bihet” brought up 525,000 results – a search for “bihomo” brought up 6,020.  “Biqueer” brought up 966. “Bigay” is a Tagalog word meaning “to give,” resulting in millions of false positive results and limiting the functionality of our little Google experiment, but I've certainly never heard it in common use. If “bihet” is the term for one type of bisexual relationship, it's a word with no antithesis, despite describing a scenario with an obvious inverse, such as a bi man dating a woman compared to a bi man dating a man.  

This term exists to distance bisexual people from their places and identities in queer spaces – it is a loaded term and it leads into a complex issue that I will elaborate upon in the next entry of our Bi Erasure series, Community Acceptance. I look forward to diving deeply into this and other important topics during this series, so I hope you read along and weigh in with your own comments or experiences.

Thoughtfully yours,

Alexia Thorne