“If you’re bisexual, you should be more masculine.”
19-year-old Elnara [not her real name] recalls the words she often hears from the LGBTIQ+ community with which she maintains close ties.
“I can’t explain to those people that self-expression is not related to sexuality. Sometimes they tell me that either I am a lesbian, or that I was brought up with the psychology that I should have feelings for some man because I am a woman, or even they say that there is no bisexuality, it is just curiosity,” she says.
According to Elnara, the bisexual identity is not taken seriously within the community and it is rather linked with binary stereotypes and put into masculine and feminine molds.
“There is serious discrimination within the community. They even say to me, “you go for the easiest,” or “you are not honest,” she says.
But Elnara is not alone.
For years, bi+s have not been sufficiently represented within the LGBTIQ+ community in Azerbaijan. They were not sufficiently discussed by the activism panels, nor were they covered by the media materials. On top of all, they face discrimination, too.
In short, it does affect bisexuals and bisexual awareness. At a time when forced heterosexuality and monosexism prevent people from expressing themselves, bi+s have become one of the social groups that suffer from this.
“You have to love either a boy or a girl. You can’t choose whichever you want,” 19-year-old Ayla [not her real name] recalls the words she heard from her friends just like Elnara did, adding that she often has to listen to some annoying jokes about orientation.
“They make some annoying jokes about sexual orientation and call it ‘a dark humor.’ “Especially at a time when sexual orientation is exposed to a lot of insults and we cannot easily express it, it is not right for these groups to use phobic expressions against each other,” she says.
According to Ayla, she is just discovering herself trying to understand who she is. She is actively socializing with LGBTIQ+, but not with the bi+ community. This is because she doesn’t even know if there are any places where bi+s come together.
Nuray, who is studying French language translation, says that she platonically fell in love with a person of the same sex when she was 16 and accepted it only as friendship. Over time, she felt that it was not just a friend’s love and realized that she was bisexual. However, she faced a different reality after she socialized with LGBTIQ+ people.
“I never saw people who would declare their bisexuality while joining the community. Or very few people did it. Also, since I had a partner from the opposite sex, everyone would tell me that I am heterosexual,” says Nuray, adding that the process of her self-acceptance took a long time because of this.
She encountered the same situation one more time when she was walking on the street with her LGBTIQ+ friends.
“We saw a couple who were holding hands. One of the fellows jokingly called them “heteros” to which I responded “maybe they’re bisexuals?” They objected to me claiming that since the society sees the couple as hetero, they should also be called hetero,” she says.
Rena [not her real name], who is studying at Baku State University, considers the neglect and marginalization of her bisexual experience unacceptable.
“People from the LGBTIQ+ community say to me that ‘you don’t face the difficulties that we do.’ I understand that the community is suffering a lot. People think that they will be happy if they put the blame on someone else,” says Rena, adding that she can create a safe environment by isolating herself in the community. So her personal experience is much easier.
According to a representative of the Gender Resource Center, which is a queer-feminist organization, bi+s are represented within other queer communities instead of creating their own community. Their visibility is low not only within society, but also within queer communities.
“In addition, bi+ “communityization” progresses in a different format than the communityization of other queer identities and socializations,” the representative of the center says, adding that their activity as a platform is generally related to the availability of resources to different queer communities while maintaining intersectionality. Bi+s have benefited from training, meetings and discussions related to community building and awareness raising, as well as psychological support services.
In response to the question addressed to the “Breath LGBTI+ Alliance” about what kind of work they have done regarding bi+s over the past two years, it said that they work more with transgender people.
“This is a choice, and the reason for the choice is that transgender people are the most vulnerable group, they are excluded from the labor market, community, society, social and political activities, they are rejected by their families and they do not receive any support and protection from the state,” the representative of the organization replied noting that the transgender community needs more protection because crimes related to transgender people have reached unprecedented levels in the past two years alone and that transphobia is at epidemic levels, and transgender people are just trying to survive.
Although they only started their activities last year, the Q-Collective team, which focuses on strengthening intra-community relations, providing support and increasing skills, has so far held a number of events involving psychologists and social workers. Although there were bi+s among the participants, no event focusing on their problems was organized.
Last year, one of the “Qıy vaar!” queer-feminist podcast series touched upon the topic of Bi+ visibility, biphobia and monosexism. One participant reported experiencing monosexism on the part of his cisgender male partner, who told him, “I won’t be jealous of you if you’re ever with someone of the same sex.”
The article was developed as part of the mentoring program of the QueeRadar platform.
Author: Ali Malikov