During World Pride week, all members of the Gender and Sexual Diversity (GSD) community should be able to feel proud of who they are and exist in queer spaces without fear of harassment or rejection. However, for many of us, this isn’t a reality. I and other members of the Bisexual community have received considerable street harassment from within the GSD community during the World Pride 2017 march in Madrid.
Some reactions myself and my fellow bisexual acquaintances often get first hand from gays and lesbians, on account of our bisexuality, include the disappearance of smiles, eye rolling, ending a conversation abruptly, or directly telling us our sexuality doesn’t exist. Hence, when we are at Pride and we have our bisexual flags (or pansexual, polysexual, etc.) and we are visible – what happens? We get harassed.
Here are six stories of biphobic harassment experienced by fellow bisexuals on the day of the protest, when having our protest signs and flags made our sexual orientation very visible.
#1 “He clearly meant it as an insult”
Two bisexual friends of mine were on their way to the Pride protest, surrounded by people getting ready for the march. They had their bisexual flags tied around their necks like superhero capes and were carrying signs that said “100% bisexual”. They walked past a couple of men sitting on the grass, who, like many other people, were waiting for the march to start. “One of them yelled, “Bisexuals!” in a tone that clearly showed their disdain for us”, Kate tells us. “It made me really angry but I didn’t reply because we were in a hurry. I can’t believe that we have to put up with bullshit like this, especially when we are the largest group in the GSD community”. Her friend, Olivia, stared angrily at the offenders but didn’t say anything to them.
#2 “Walking in enemy territory”
Another friend of mine, Víctor, was in the bisexual block of the protest march along with many other people. He was waving a bisexual flag and holding a protest sign with the slogan “100% bisexual” when a drunk man started to repeatedly yell at them “¡Viciosos!”, which loosely translates as ‘immoral’ or ‘sex addicts’. “Learn who Brenda Howard* is and then we’ll talk”, Victor responded. “Initially, I only felt bad but after a while, I had the feeling that I was walking in enemy territory, as if it weren’t my world, but instead a hostile world.”
*Brenda Howard was the activist responsible for organising the first pride march to commemorate the anniversary of the stonewall riots, and she was bisexual. (wiki link: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Brenda_Howard)
#3 “Excuse me, isn’t this gay pride?”
A short time later, Victor experienced another biphobic attack. “We were close to Colón and I had the bisexual flag. There was a group of men talking in English asking each other loudly that wasn’t this meant to be ‘Gay Pride’ and what were bisexuals doing there. I felt even more out of place. In the end, I didn’t react, first of all because it would have been difficult to stop, as the group had already started moving away, but also because I was afraid that the people around might join the aggressors, and that would be painful for the people in our group that hadn’t heard the men”.
#4 “I felt taken aback and disorientated”
Carlos Castaña, a coordinator of the COGAM bisexual group, also experienced biphobic harassment during the march. “We were very close to other people, surrounded by people on both sides. We were marching, everyone was having a good time, shouting out our chants, laughing, dancing and jumping. At one given moment we passed in front of a group of guys who started to clap and yell at us, ‘Cool! Long live the viciosos!’ (loosely translated as immoral/sex addicts). I felt taken aback and disorientated because I wasn’t expecting it and I didn’t have enough time to process it in the moment.” After speaking with fellow bisexual protesters, Carlos saw that he wasn’t the only one who had been affected by it, “and this confirmed for me that we had indeed been attacked, but at that moment we decided not to confront them because only some of our group heard them, so the rest of our fellow protesters could continue marching happily. I worry about the damage that it could have done to the young people that were there with us. Already this type of rejection is responsible for the fact that bisexuals stay closeted longer than gays and lesbians. Furthermore, this biphobia that we encountered wasn’t coming from outside but, in fact, from inside the SGD community.
#5 “I felt attacked and I confronted him”
Regarding that same group of men, a bisexual woman recounted the following incident: “When I walked past them, they said to me, ‘Look, these women are the smartest ones, they screw everyone’. I turned around and confronted them, looking them in the eye, I said, ‘Is that right? We screw everyone?’ but they simply replied, ‘Yeah, right?’ I felt attacked and like I hadn’t been taken seriously. Furthermore, it seemed to me to be a particularly sexist attack because we never say this to homosexual or heterosexual men.
#6 “What business have they got here?”
Carlos Castaño also told us, “Afterwards, when I was speaking to a friend about what had happened to us, she told me that she had also experienced biphobic harassment during the march. She told me that a group of people walking past her gave her a dirty look and said, ‘Bisexuals! What business have they got here?’
Street harassment, regardless of the type (sexist, biphobic, racist, homophobic, etc.) often leaves the harassed person with the feeling of not having done everything that they would have liked to have done, maybe because everything happened too quickly and they didn’t know how to respond, but more than anything, it’s simply because, you do what you can, and there’s not really a satisfactory way to respond. “I would have liked for it not to affect me, and have said I didn’t give a shit and waved the bisexual flag in their face’, Carlos says. “Although the experience of the Pride march overall was positive and we felt supported by the majority of the march attendees who shouted our chants with us, the “joke” that those men made didn’t make us feel good. ‘Jokes’ can do a lot of harm, and I wonder that if this is how they treat us when we are a large group joyfully reclaiming our sexuality, what must they say behind our backs”.
Sometimes, it easier for another person to intervene and show their support. “I would have liked someone else to respond or say something,” Victor said, “and, although I was afraid of facing hostility, I would have liked to have responded directly to them, looking them in the eye.” There are also times when the best thing that you can do is to do nothing, “the block was a safe space,” Carlos assures, “and for many people there it could be that it was the first time that they had been surrounded by other bisexuals, and as I like to say, the best way to show your disregard is not to give it regard.
The invisibility of bisexual is ongoing, harmful, and to come out over and over again as bisexual is exhausting, but at the same time, it appears that the invisibility is what saves us from biphobic street harassment.
Given that one of the biggest problems is that the data about biphobic attacks is scarce, we would like to remind everyone, that if at one time you have suffered this type of harassment, whether it be physical or verbal, you can register it through Levanta La Voz! Madrid’s website (https://levantalavozmadrid.ihollaback.org/), or app (for the app search “Hollaback”) or on the webpage of the Observatorio Madrileño against homophobia, transphobia and biphobia (www.contraelodio.org) whenever it takes place in Madrid. “Now that I have registered what occurred during the march at World Pride, I feel respected and well attended to,” says Carlos.
This post is also available in: Spanish