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Commentary: Bisexuality Day of Visibility: Creating Awareness

  • Published
  • By Brianna Russ
  • Air Force Materiel Command Diversity, Equity, Inclusion and Accessibility

This commentary is written by Brianna Russ on behalf of the Air Force Materiel Command LGBTQ+ Barrier Analysis Group.

September 23 is Bisexuality Day of Visibility, which is also called the Bi Day of Visibility. This day is meant to create awareness of the bisexual community.

Bisexuality is defined as the state of being attracted to people of more than one gender. In a 2022 Gallup poll on Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer and other (LGBTQ+) identification, 4% of American adults self-identified as bisexual. That represents 57% of the LGBTQ+ community, which makes up about 7.1% of American adults. However, many bisexual people are hesitant to express their identities at home and in the workplace because of the misconceptions about the community.

Research by the Harvard Business Review shows that being out in the workplace can significantly increase satisfaction in the workplace as well as enthusiasm and pride in one’s work, which leads to increased morale. Bisexuality is an important aspect of many of our Air Force Materiel Command Airmen’s lives, so we’ve asked some of them to share their thoughts on being part of the community.

What does bi visibility mean to you?

It means owning my bisexuality, whether that is internally or externally, and being proud of who I am as a person.  Additionally, I would say that it means celebrating bisexuality and acknowledging these members of the LGBTQ+ community.  I think there is somewhat of a lack of education on bisexuality, and a part of bi visibility means learning about this community and what we can do as a society to understand their truths and their feelings. – Capt. Lauren Leet

What misconceptions exist around bisexuality?

There are many misconceptions. Some of the ones that I have personally encountered are that my bisexuality is a “phase” or an “act” in an attempt to be contrarian or unique. I’ve been told that my bisexuality, particularly because I’m a female-presenting person, is a performance to attract men. Conversely, I’ve also been told that it’s a performance to repel men. Some people assume that bi people are greedy, incapable of monogamous relationships, or hyper-sexual. And these misconceptions are present in both the straight and gay community. One misconception I feel strongly about is “passing privilege.” Some members of the LGBTQ+ communities think that when a bi person enters a relationship with someone of the opposite gender that we get the privilege of passing for a straight person. This “privilege” ends the moment I come out as bisexual. Regardless of who I’m dating, I’m not straight or gay. As soon as my bisexual identity is revealed, there is no privilege; I’m viewed differently by straight and gay people. If I’m in a same-sex relationship, I experience similar homophobia to those in the queer community. If I’m in a relationship with someone of a different gender, I feel accused by the LGBTQ+ community for “hiding in a straight relationship,” and, conversely, from the straight community, I experience the misconceptions of my bisexuality being a performance or exoticized by my partner. – Mattie Carter

We're not a certain percentage gay or straight—we're 100% bisexual. I do know some people who thought they were bisexual but later admitted they were just curious, gay or lesbian. Today, however, if someone has made a conscious decision to be open about their bisexuality, they very likely know who they are, and they're not just curious. Whether you're like me and have known since you were about eight years old or are just coming to terms with who you are, it's you—only you are right when it comes to your own life. – Brandon Manak

Have you ever experienced biphobia in the workplace?

In terms of homophobia in general, I have been on the receiving end of many conversations instructing me to be careful about becoming the “Gay POC” for all things LGBTQ+, as it may “hurt my career.” (As a note, all of these conversations came from retired or separated service members, as well as some peers). After rejecting this advice, over time I saw first-hand why this thought process is quite outdated. At all steps of my leadership chain, from squadron commander to our top Air Force leaders, I have seen continued prioritization of diversity, and I am proud to be a part of that movement. – 1st Lt. Evangelinn Rook

Yes, with as many misconceptions as there are around bisexuality, I think some biphobia is inevitable. However, I’ve never felt like it’s with malicious intent. It’s a lack of education and exposure to bi people, and I’m happy to change that for them. I see it as an opportunity to smash those misconceptions. – Mattie Carter

Do you feel it is important to be out in the workplace? If so, why?

I think it's important to be proud and comfortable in the workplace, and I feel like if sexuality comes up in conversation, you shouldn't be afraid to say your sexuality out loud out of fear of repercussions.  However, I don’t think it's fair to have to ”come out” to people in the workplace because I don’t think it's fair that heteronormativity is standard when it is 2022. – Kayla Hernandez

I do believe it is important to be out in the workplace. There is something so powerful about being able to proudly live your truth in every aspect of your life. I know I didn’t always have this belief, and I do recall thinking for a very long time that my sexuality has no bearing on my performance, so why did it matter if I was out or not. When I finally decided to come out to a supervisor, I remember being slightly disheartened by the response.  In comparison to their response about a heterosexual coworker telling them about their significant other, I remember them seemingly sweeping my comments about my significant other under the rug and not addressing them. I don’t remember the supervisor holding anything against me with regards to my work performance, just noticed that the interactions between myself and them versus their interactions with my heterosexual coworkers were vastly different, in that mine were surface level and solely about me and their interactions including conversations about their significant other. – Capt. Lauren Leet

What is one thing your non-bisexual coworkers can do to support bi visibility?

Allies can help support the Pride Community by destigmatizing involvement with LGBTQ+ activities. The community didn’t get to where we are today alone, we need allies to be out there at our events and helping implement change. Listen and educate yourself on LGBTQ+ matters, both socially and politically. Be an active bystander for your circle of friends and coworkers, working to educate those individuals who don’t quite understand certain aspects of the Pride Community but are willing to listen and learn. Actively ensure those around you know you have a zero-tolerance policy for homophobia, regardless of if it is explicit or implicit.  – 1st Lt. Evangelinn Rook

Be supportive, that is literally all I ask for people who aren't in a marginalized population, whether it is bisexual, gay, lesbian, Hispanic, women, etc. Be supportive, even if you don't fully understand what or why you need to be supportive. Support anyway, because someone you know or love is watching and listening. – Kayla Hernandez

One of the ways in which non-bisexual coworkers can support bi visibility is to ask inclusive questions. Rather than making comments like, “I would have never known,” or “That’s surprising,” asking questions about their partner or activities they enjoy participating in can help bisexual people feel seen without feeling like there were or are judgements attached, or that the fact that they are bisexual is the most interesting part of the conversation they are having. – Haley Hogue

By taking the time to read this article, our hopes are that you have learned something new about the bisexual community and are more aware of the presence of the bisexual community on our installations. The AFMC LGBTQ+ Initiative Team would like to thank all of the volunteers who provided their testimony.

To learn more about ongoing DEIA initiatives, send an email to AFMC.A1KQ.All@us.af.mil.