Over the past decade, the United States has seen a steady rise in people who are openly bisexual. While sexual fluidity has been part of American culture for decades now, the key word here is “open.” It’s important to remember that more people are part of the LGBTQ+ community than we realize—especially those with attraction to both sexes.
While we typically recognize the struggle of gay individuals in “coming out,” bisexuals are often just as timid. This stems from not only internal confusion, but the fear that others might lump them as being gay or accuse them of promiscuity. In some cases, bisexual individuals aren’t always sure of how they feel and reluctant to put any type of label on it, so they keep it to themselves.
Thankfully, we’re living in what many are calling America’s Second Sexual Revolution. Not only is it okay to identify with the LGBTQ+ community, it’s okay to be bisexual or not know where on the sexual spectrum your interest lie. The result? More people than ever are brave enough to own their sexuality, including a rising number of bisexuals.
More Americans are embracing their bisexuality
As with many historical movements, women are paving the way for bisexuals today. While the reported number of bisexual men has remained consistent for several decades, since 2008, the number of bisexual women in the U.S. has grown substantially.
According to the General Social Survey (GSS), a little more than one percent of the population openly identified as bisexual in 2008. Ten years later, that statistic rose to over three percent. That increase might seem miniscule, but it’s a huge step for the LGBTQ+ community.
The rise in bisexuality is having a positive impact on other forms of diversity, too. In fact, bisexual women who came out within the past decade are predominately women of color. There’s no definitive reason to explain this, but it could have something to do with positive representation of LGBTQ+ members in the media.
Media representation is at an all-time high
TV shows have record-breaking highs for their number of diverse characters. This is especially seen on Netflix, which has become a staple in millions of households.
Gone are the days when bisexuals or people of color were portrayed as nothing but stereotypes on TV shows. Now, streaming services like Netflix are home to many beloved shows like Queer Eye and Orange Is The New Black, which focus on bisexual and other LGBTQ+ characters.
There’s also a new wave of television with nuanced bisexuality, which aims to normalize attraction to both sexes without overt emphasis on it. Acclaimed shows like Killing Eve (Hulu) and Fleabag (Amazon Prime) include bisexual women without typecasting them.
Open bisexuality is also more prevalent in real-world media. Political leaders, like Kyrsten Sinema, the first openly bisexual Congresswoman in 2012, are normalizing sexuality without emphasizing it. Another notable political figure is Tammy Baldwin, from Wisconsin. She’s the first publicly open lesbian to join the United States Senate.
Why is now a good time to come out?
The United States has scored some big wins for the LGBTQ+ community in the past several years. The U.S. legalized gay marriage back in 2015, serving as a historic moment for LGBTQ+ members. Thanks to this new law, millions of people now have the courage to embrace who they are and tie the knot with the ones they love.
Progress comes with a more positive attitude in the general public towards the LGBTQ+ community. If someone who’s bisexual feels like the people around them will react positively to them coming out, they’re more inclined to do so. This is reflected in the numbers of the GSS.
It’s important for the LGBTQ+ community to have a sense of solidarity. Bisexual politicians and diverse TV characters are the solidarity people need in order to feel comfortable coming out. If LGBTQ+ members never saw people like themselves represented in the media, it would be harder to stand up against the status quo. They see others living their truth and realize it’s okay for them to do that, too.
The political climate threatens progress
Unfortunately, there’s been a slight dip in people who openly identify as gay, lesbian or generally homosexual from 2016 to 2018. The GSS gathers information every two years and data for 2020 isn’t yet available. But the most recent data shows that while bisexuals are cruising upward, other members of the LGBTQ+ community are hesitant to disclose their sexuality.
Why is that? Some believe the decrease in LGBTQ+ members correlates to the current political climate, as the drop correlates with a conservative government taking office in 2017. Many speculate that the current presidency attracts supporters with biased beliefs, who may be more inclined toward discrimination based on sexual orientation.
Despite the drawback in sexual identification, bisexuals have more representation than ever in the media and the real world. Women everywhere are embracing sexual fluidity and realizing they’re not alone. As we wait on 2020 GSS data, it’s likely we’ll see the number of openly bisexual Americans continue to rise.