Ramapo College celebrated Bisexual Awareness Week last Thursday, leading up to Bisexuality Day on Friday. The goal of the week was to recognize and celebrate the bisexual community. The college also sought to accelerate acceptance of the bi+ community and draw attention to specific public policy concerns pertaining to them. To commemorate the week, Kezia St. Louis and Adam Choinski, the Queer Peer Services Coordinator and Men’s Outreach Coordinator for the women center respectively, led a discussion on Thursday titled The Bi Man (And Other Nonwomen) seeking to breakdown society's double standards and stereotypes surrounding bisexual, pansexual and polysexual people. He also sought to have healthier discussions around sexuality.
The event opened with some introductions followed by St. Louis asking the group, “What are some of the typical stereotypes you see in the media of bi men?”
Some responded that bisexual men are typically not seen in the media at all.
“Often times I don’t see bisexuality represented in the media. Instead, what I see is a sort of binary in place, where you can only be gay or straight and claims to the contrary are regarded as acts of denial,” responded Literature Professor Kathleen Shannon.
This lack of representation is also reflected in some reports and studies. An LGBT community media advocacy group called Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation, also known as GLAAD, issued a report titled “Where We Are on TV” in 2015 that found that out of the 142 regular LGBT characters expected to appear in primetime programming on cable networks, only 18 of them are bisexual men, the third lowest in representation followed by transgendered women and men.
The discussion also touched on the different treatments of sexual expression on the basis of gender identity and sexual preference. The group was asked whether or not they observed any difference in the treatment of these matters.
“I saw this straight couple kissing, like making out. And while I thought it was disgusting, no one else seemed to mind – shrugging it off and dismissing it as just the way things were," said Ben Wilson. "Now to the front of me was a man who was dancing rather flamboyantly and the people around him were visibly disturbed by this. I just find this fascinating that one thing, the couple, was completely ignored, while the other one garnered a feeling of weirdness entailing a desire to not see someone express themselves like that."
Shannon added to this, drawing from her past experience.
“When I was in my youth you would never see gay men holding hands or women kissing, and even now when I see people do those things, me and others often go ohhh.”
St. Louis agreed with and advocated for “a need of increased information about bisexuality for people still deciding on their sexual identity as well as others who need to be aware of the existence of bisexuality.”
Overall, the audience in attendance seemed to take a lot out of the discussion.
“While I still have a long way to go, I feel I have a better understanding and appreciation of bisexuality thanks to this talk,” said Emily Fano.