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Bi visibility in focus

For Yffar Manalili Aquino, bi confusion is present even among LGBT advocates. “I have joined numerous LGBT forums where, every time I say that I am bisexual, there are people who doubt me, eyeing me with suspicion as if I’m lying about my sexual orientation. That the very concept of bisexuality is hard to accept by many is an issue that leads to bi invisibility.”

When I was a kid, I had a crush on a pretty neighbor named Rose. I also had fantasies of Anna Larucea, the child star who played Trina in “Batang-X”; I hugged my pillow, thinking that it’s Anna.

I had my first girlfriend in high school. I remember waking up as early 3:00AM just to send her SMS. As any men are wont to do, I gave her flowers, and even dated her to the prom. She was, in fact, my first heartache, leaving me devastated when we parted ways.

I had other girlfriends after her. I even had sex with one of them; and I enjoyed it – a lot.

In college, I had an emotional feeling for one of my male classmates. I tried resisting it. I even kept hiding it. But I had sleepless nights thinking about him. I wanted to be with him all the time, but I couldn’t tell him about how I felt.

At that point in my life, I got confused about my sexuality.

So I began exploring as a man who has sex with other men (MSM), a term that is now widely used but I didn’t even know existed before. I had relationships with men, and sometimes met men just for casual sex. I joined chatrooms (e.g. Yahoo Messenger and mIRC) and had profiles in cruising sites (e.g. guys4men, fridae and lifeout) to hook up. I just got used to being MSM; it felt good.

When I had my first SOGIE seminar in one of the Catholic schools in Manila, one presentation piqued my interest – that of Fire Sia, who represented the “B” in the LGBT. Showing pictures of her ex-boyfriends and ex-girlfriends, she shared about her coming out story and how she became an LGBT advocate. I realized that there are others who are like me. That was when I decided to also become a bisexual advocate.

I eventually formed a support group called “Boys Legion”, aiming for this to be a bisexual support group intended exclusively for bisexual people. However, I realized that some people who joined the group weren’t bisexuals at all. So much confusion existed. For instance, there were times when I asked members if they had any attraction towards the opposite sex; and almost often, I was told that they had none. Yet they still claimed to be bisexual. One member explicitly told me that he’s a gay because he is a “bisexual bottom”. Identity, in this way, has become his way of hooking up. The group’s name was eventually changed to “Gays and Bisexuals Advocate for Youth (GABAY)” just to accommodate everyone.

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But bi confusion is present even among LGBT advocates. I have joined numerous LGBT forums where bisexuals are not well represented, if at all. And – get this – every time I say that I am bisexual, there are people who doubt me, eyeing me with suspicion as if I’m lying about my sexual orientation. That the very concept of bisexuality is hard to accept by many is an issue that leads to bi invisibility.

Consider that we do not even have a Filipino word for “bisexual”. Silahis is the nearest Tagalog term, though it is often used in a derogatory manner to refer to “a man who claims to be heterosexual but is actually a genuine bisexual or can be a closeted homosexual” (“Philippine Gay Culture: Binabae to Bakla, Silahis to MSM”). Other people refer to us as “AC/DC”, “paminta”, “halfmoon”, “maya”, “double blade”, “hatsing”, and “doble kara”. Many of these terms are – similar to silahis – derogatory and discriminatory.

To confront bi confusion means dealing with myths long associated with being bi.

  1. Being bisexual doesn’t mean that you can love both a man and woman AT THE SAME TIME. So bisexual people are not all promiscuous (e.g. Woody Allen once said it doubles the chance of taking someone home). Recognize that loyalty and/or infidelity can be seen in all sexual orientations.
  2. Bisexuality doesn’t mean you are attracted to both sexes equally. Attraction comes in different percentages. You can be attracted more towards the same gender, or you can be attracted towards the other gender more.
  3. Bisexuality is NOT JUST A PHASE. Think of Anna Paquin (Oscar-winning actress who played Rogue in the X-men franchise) who may have married a heterosexual man, but DID NOT LOSE her being bisexual (she once said her bisexuality does not have a switch you can just turn on and off; she can be married to a man yet still be attracted to other women, even if she does not act upon this attraction).
  4. There are people who claim that bisexuality doesn’t exist. That you are either gay (or lesbian) or straight; and that those in between are just confused on which side they belong to. But hey, I exist! I know other bisexual people who exist. Live with it. Perhaps some people are not just out yet because they are afraid that the society won’t accept them.
  5. Related to #4, that some bisexuals are “just” closeted or “discreet”. This may be true for some, but you don’t have to be discreet to be bisexual. Bisexuality is based on sexual attraction and not on gender expression.

After another chance encounter with Fire Sia, we decided to form a group, “Side B Philippines”, which now eyes to give face to the country’s bi community (e.g. even starting to do research on this sector). We’ve been further enlightened of the continuing evolution of being bi. That is, bisexuality was traditionally defined as the attraction to both men and women; but since there are people who don’t conform with the gender binary, bisexuality is now being redefined as the attraction towards more than one sex or gender. In this more open definition, the “bi” in “bisexual” refers to people of one’s own gender, and people whose gender is different. Of course the country may not yet be ready for this. But I believe that by educating people, we’ll get there somehow…

I had a boyfriend. Will I have a relationship with a girl after we broke up? Perhaps; if she can accept me 100% (and I can still do my LGBT-related advocacy). People have asked me if I prefer having a relationship with boys or with girls. I only tell them that I love the person for being who she or he is, and not because of that person’s gender. And for me, that sums up what bisexuality is all about – loving someone regardless of their gender.



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