Bi and Pan Erasure: Can it end?
Our society is still deeply stuck in the binary: that an opposite sex couple must both be straight and a same sex couple must both be gay. Can we dismantle this bi erasure?
A few days ago, I was taken aback when a friend of mine asked if I had a partner or significant other. The reason for my sheer surprise was two fold: 1. I had never been asked about partners without genderised pronouns being used, and 2. The friend clearly acknowledged my bisexuality and who I am.
You may wonder why I took it so personally and have kept this conversation in my mind for so long. You see, I am usually questioned about my love life by people who only ask whether I have a girlfriend or a boyfriend. Notice the ‘or’ in between. People tend not to include the two in a question and instead, only refer to the one.
This is an obvious case of bi erasure, a core part of biphobia which often takes place. The term ‘bi erasure’ is the act or thought, whether intentional or not, to ignore, disregard or downplay bisexuality in our society. This can be in terms of narrowly interpreting historical characters or events, ignorantly discussing a person’s love life with them, acknowledging only certain aspects of the news or a person’s life, or falsifying the lived experiences of a bisexual person.
In similar instances, the pansexual community faces erasure too. Some may argue that pansexual people face it more severely because ‘bisexual’ is included in the LGBTQ acronym but pansexual is not. Either way, both communities face similar hardships in terms of being recognised and validated in society. Hence, it is important for the communities to support one another.
The sad reality is that whilst heterosexual people are often guilty of erasing bisexual and pansexual people, gay people have also been guilty. There have been many cases of biphobia and panphobia within the LGBTQ+ community where some gay individuals have argued that bisexual and pansexual folk are not “fully out” yet in terms of being queer. This is extremely problematic as it dehumanises and disregards their full identity.
In addition to this, we, as bisexual and pansexual individuals, need to check…