Queer Life and Culture

What is Bisexual Culture?

By Zoë Mikel-Stites

A few months ago I sat in my friend’s basement surrounded by queer, non-binary, bisexual and pansexual friends. We had pooled the pizza money and red wine and settled in to the couch to talk about our experiences in the middle of our respective spectrums. At the end of the night, after commiserating, comparing, discussing and hugging over our shared space between definitions, Kimberly posed a question to the group:

“So, what do you think bisexual culture is?”

The room went silent. We threw around half joking suggestions.

“Flannel!”

“Having a crush on EVERYBODY.”

“PUNS!”

And a few more serious ideas.

“Not feeling gay enough for gay people, and not feeling straight enough for straight people.”

“Always being seen as gay or straight depending on the supposed gender of your partner.”

“Everything is bisexual culture.”

At that same discussion, someone asked if we felt like we had a community of our own. Most of us said no. Even though we never landed on a solid answer that night, it’s something that I’ve been thinking about ever since.

What do people think bisexual culture is?

When I started writing this, I decided to do three google searches to see what the top results were for each

  1. What is gay culture?
  2. What is lesbian culture?
  3. What is bisexual culture?

Search #1 – What is gay culture?

The results for “What is gay culture” were massive, varied and insightful. Amazon book promotions came up, both fiction and non fiction, social commentary on the development and change of American gay culture and academic articles about the treatment of the gay community appeared.

Search #2 – What is lesbian culture?

The search for lesbian culture was still pretty well filled out, if much more narrowed in scope. Lesbian fashion, mostly geared towards women interested in masculine or androgynous styles, discussions of how the lesbian community and gay male community have clashed, and resources for lesbian women all came to the surface.

And then I searched for bisexual culture.

Search #3 – What is bisexual culture?

If it’s listicles you’re looking for, telling you which fashion trends, baked goods, and music groups are being “claimed as bisexual culture” you will not be disappointed. If you’re looking for resources on coming out in the middle of the spectrum, discussions about bisexual solidarity and meetups, fiction or nonfiction that features characters, conflicts, or people who are bisexual, non-binary, or in the middle of almost any spectrum, you are going to have to look much harder.

I didn’t expect the results to be good, but I didn’t expect them to be quite that useless—it turns out that bisexual erasure is so prevalent that Google has picked it up as well.

It is so frustrating as someone who has found community on the internet to see this. It is hard enough to come out as gay, but when you don’t fit at either end of the spectrum, and you search the internet — the place where you have information at your fingertips about anything you want, where marginalized people and communities have found each other since the beginning of the world wide web — and you find a void where you were hoping to find other people like you, it is just disheartening. And that is speaking as someone who isn’t trying to find their identity on the internet, who isn’t in high school and closeted, or trying to figure out their sexuality any more.

Bisexual culture doesn’t exist – yet

If you believe the internet, there are a lot of things that have recently become bisexual culture, from lemon bars, to cuffed jeans to asymmetrical bobs to Sailor Moon. But when it comes down to finding unifying traits and spaces, and general community, we haven’t had the time to carve that out yet. While bisexual people have existed for millennia, we have had to root out transphobia from our own community, in addition to having to fight against erasure from both gay and straight people. 

Related content: Read more about bisexual erasure and dating while bisexual.

Coming out as bi was dismissed as a stepping stone, dating someone who presented the same way as you meant you were just gay and in denial, dating someone who appeared to be a different gender meant you were straight and just wanted attention, and it always meant that you were never allowed to just exist as you were without fighting against the people who were supposed to support you.

In all of the fighting, we haven’t gotten the chance to define who we are as a group, because we have been too preoccupied trying to exist.

But maybe this is good?

As a result, our culture right now is one of eclecticism. Bisexual fashion and values pull from everything around us, drawing from the communities that we straddle the borders of. We’ve borrowed flannel from one side, and flowing dresses from the other, combat boots on the right side, and Urban Decay eyeshadow pallets on the left.

This is frustrating, but I think that we have an opportunity. We are the beginning of our own culture existing. We are in a place to craft what the future of our group looks like. We get to fill that void with all the colors of the middle of the spectrum, all the crayons that got forgotten, all the flowers, and leather, and eyeshadow, and baggy jeans, and leather jackets, and sparkly fishnets. We may not have our own culture, but we are finally getting our own space, and we get to choose what to do with it.

What do you think bisexual culture is? What do you want it to be? Let us know!

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