I don’t usually pay much attention to celebrity gossip. It’s all around me though, through coworkers or supermarket checkouts, so I absorb it whether I want to or not. Based on the way my social media feeds blew up, I could not *not* know that Miley Cyrus had recently split from her husband of 1.5 years, Liam Hemsworth.
What I didn’t expect was the wave of homophobic and bi-phobic garbage that would soon follow. During a break the couple had taken in 2015, Cyrus publicly announced that she was pansexual and gender fluid, and openly dated a few women during that break. Not surprisingly, people had opinions about this one woman’s dating choices. Bi erasure has a long and storied history, and I really shouldn’t have been surprised that most heteronormative people are completely unable to move past the binary. Out came the accusation of being greedy and the inability to be monogamous, neither of which are ascribable to a sexual orientation.
From the excellent online magazine bitchmedia:
As news of the couple’s breakup churned through the news cycle, so did photos of Cyrus kissing another woman, Kaitlynn Carter. Straight people on social media were critical of their spending time together, saying that it seems wrong to go on a vacation and flaunt it in an ex’s face immediately after breaking up, and that Cyrus was being “slutty” and “inconsiderate.” On the other hand, queer women came out in droves to celebrate having Cyrus “back,” glad that she had left a man, and suggesting her relationship with Hemsworth had always been temporary—a youthful pit stop on the road to a more valid queerness.
Nope, no understanding of the bi experience here. You’d think in 2019 that the needle would have moved SLIGHTLY when it comes to bi acceptance, but you’d be wrong. I dealt with exactly the same thing when I came out as bisexual in 1991; very little has changed. Lesbians had little interest in dating me then, and now it’s so-called gold star lesbians who scoff at me. When dating men, I rarely dealt with anything more obnoxious than a guy who thought me being bisexual meant endless threesomes for him. But I was married to a cisgender man and I’m currently engaged to another one. I’ve been dealing with my self-imposed bi erasure for years.
Because I’ve had more experiences with men, I’ve never felt queer enough to be comfortable in queer spaces. There’s no magic formula here or requirement that says Properly Bisexual = 50/50. Of all my bi/pan friends, I don’t think a single one of them would agree with that equation. But one’s relationship status does change their sexual orientation. Am I any less bisexual because I’m monogamous to a cisgender man? In that same vein, does a widow stop being heterosexual when she stops dating men? Of course not. So why do bi and pan people get all the hate?
As rough as it’s been for me (it hasn’t actually been that rough) it’s so much worse for men. If most people can’t handle the fluidity of a bisexual woman, they sure as hell freak out over bisexual men. A woman could have sex with dozens of women before marrying a man, and she’ll be considered straight. But if a man sleeps with one man at anytime in his life, there’s always the suspicion that he’s secretly and always gay.
I don’t have any good answers. I still haven’t fully dealt with my own bi erasure, so I’m not qualified to tell other people what to do. But I can start by treating myself more gently, and reminding myself that we all exist in a continuum. And rewatch this wonderfully heartfelt episode of Brooklyn 99 where Rosa Diaz c (played by the bisexual actress Stephanie Beatriz) comes out to her parents and the precinct.
And here’s some good advice if anyone would like to learn how to be a better ally.
Bell, Elly. “What Miley Cyrus’s Breakup Reveals about Queerphobia.” Bitch Media, 19
Aug. 2019, https://www.bitchmedia.org/article/miley-cyrus-breakup-bisexual-erasure?