They’re putting the B in LGBT | #facebookdating | #tinder | #pof

Natasha was in her first year of college when she made a new female friend that she liked — a lot. “Up until that point, I was very much with guys and didn’t feel like I was missing out on anything. A bunch of my friends began asking me if I liked her just as a friend, but I laughed it off,” says the 23-year-old economic researcher. The question of what this meant soon turned into a slow realisation that she is bisexual. She didn’t tell her parents until earlier this year, and while they were supportive, her mother asked her the one question a lot of young bisexual people face — if you like both, why not just go with a guy and have a ‘normal’ life?
In the past few years, more and more bisexual people have started coming out of the closet, not just to their families but even publicly on their social media feeds. Though Bollywood has largely skirted around bisexuality with the exception of Margarita with a Straw, the popular web series Four More Shots Please! has Bani J playing a bisexual gym trainer. The actor says she had no qualms about playing Umang. “The cool thing about Umang’s character is that she doesn’t feel any shame for who she is, which is why she comes out to her family,” Bani said in an interview.
But stereotypes continue to dog bi people, like baggage they can’t get rid of. There’s the assumption that they can’t be faithful, that they’ll never be happy with any one gender, or that they’re just unsure and confused. A scene from the show Sex and the City has been floating around the internet where a bisexual man is described as “greedy” and it is argued that bisexuality doesn’t really exist. This kind of harmful narrative is still common, and it stops many from embracing their identities.
Ajooni, 24, came out to her mom a handful of times. “She was empathetic but couldn’t relate. She asked if I wanted to date both men and women at the same time, which I didn’t. She also asked if I thought it was cool to be bisexual, and I explained that no, I’m not trying to be popular,” the Delhi resident says. She had a similar experience with a close friend who asked her if she was really sure. “To hear this from my friend and my mom, both of whom are very empathetic people whose opinions matter to me made me question it.” That leads to self-doubt, one’s internalised biphobia spiking and telling yourself ‘well, that girl I had a crush on is pretty androgynous looking, so maybe…’.
For men, there seems to be an added stigma. Zubair came out as gay when he was 18 and has only recently started telling people that he is indeed bisexual. “Because of societal conditioning, people think you can’t be faithful if you’re bi. If you date a woman, they wonder if they’ll catch you in bed with a man. Similarly with men, an insecurity creeps in because of the misconceptions,” the advertising professional says.
Even within the LGBTQ community, there is biphobia and gatekeeping. LGBTQ activist Sonal Giani found a queer support group when she was 21. “The minute I would say I was bi, people would stop talking to me or tell me to come back when I had accepted my identity,” Giani says. Graphic designer Nivedita was told that she was just in it for fun, and would end up getting married to a guy anyway. “That was hurtful, because you’re rejected by the very people who are supposed to understand you,” the 23-year-old says.
Building community within the community was the goal of Navdeep Sharma, a founder-member of Bi Collective Delhi, a support group and safe space for bisexual and pansexual people to come and talk. What began as a Facebook group turned into physical meetings and after a hopefully brief detour by way of Zoom meetings, they’re hoping to go back to real life soon. “At a basic level, it’s helped me make friends with other bi people. These are people whose experiences have been similar to yours.”
Dating, too, is complicated for bisexual people. In discussing dating apps with bisexual women, one word came up over and over again — threesomes. “The minute you put you’re bisexual on a dating app, it means you’re open to threesomes. Men weirdly fetishise you and want you to talk about your experiences with women,” says Nivedita.
So, how do things change from here? Sakshi, a member from Gaysi Family, a community for gay desis, points out that while we’re starting to see bisexual women’s narratives, there’s still a long way to go. “We barely get to hear about bisexual cis men or trans people who are bi. Without those, we don’t have a full picture and it shows that we, as a community, haven’t been able to create safe spaces for those narratives to come out.”
Meanwhile, there are small victories to rejoice over. When Ayesha*, a Bengaluru-based college student, asked her mom what would happen if she brought a girl home, her mother’s response that it would be difficult to accept was still a win. “She didn’t say impossible,” the 20-year-old points out.
*Name changed on request

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