In a country where pride in anything outside of the straight and narrow is heavily frowned upon, and bisexuality is reduced to either an excuse for infidelity or a cover for homosexuality, Bisexual Pride Day is a hard nut to crack.
Bisexual Pride Day is observed annually on September 23 to recognise and celebrate the bisexual community, and bisexuality.
While the focus for the fight for the rights of the LGBT+ is rightly on the lesbian and gay community, and of recent the trans community, the bisexual community is not without its unique plights. Biphobia is alive and kicking, and as with homophobia, nowhere more so than in the world’s worst country to be anything but cis-heterosexual – Nigeria.
Biphobia is an aversion toward bisexuality and bisexual people as individuals. It can take the form of denial that bisexuality is a genuine sexual orientation, or of negative stereotypes about people who are bisexual.
There are many ways this affects bisexual Nigerians, each unique in how it affects different genders, social and age groups. The conversation is huge, so for this piece, we focus on how biphobia affects the self-expression of cis-gender bisexual women and men differently.
Erasure and fetishisation; pick your token.
If you have any attention to the prevailing conversation about male bisexuality in Nigeria, you will notice two things:
Homophobic erasure: Which recognizes the same-sex attraction of the man and dismisses his opposite-sex attraction as a cover for his homosexuality.
Stereotype-driven rejection: Where queer men lump bisexual men together as sex-crazed maniacs who want to have their cake and eat other people’s cakes too. Pun intended.
The former is an indictment on society, even if the society doesn’t introspect for a second to see it.
People acknowledge without saying so that there is targeted violence against the LGBT+ community, to the extent they reckon some will go out of their way to pretend to be something they may not be in order to protect themselves from said violence. Yet in recognising this, they dismiss the capacity of the bisexual man to determine his own identity and live it without any ulterior motives of self-protection.
The latter is a projection of internalised homophobia that seeks to punish the bisexual person for socially projecting only the acceptable bit of their sexuality – their opposite-sex attraction – hence retaining safety and social acceptance while enjoying their same-sex attraction behind closed doors with no repercussion.
Yet, what this stance tends to ignore is the fragility of whatever ‘safety’ anyone with even the tiniest bit of affiliation with the LGBT+ may enjoy. Like racial violence doesn’t spare even the most racially ambiguous person of colour, being the tiniest bit gay doesn’t protect anyone, bisexual or otherwise.
A good number of some of the celebrity marriages that crashed over accusations of homosexuality, as well as marriages of everyday people over the same, are cases of outed bisexuality meeting the violent homophobia of Nigeria’s ultra-conservative society. Whether in Kebbi or Ife.
The female bisexual Nigerian fares no better – it can be argued that she fares worse.
You are either:
Fully Erased: Women’s bisexuality is often dismissed as one of those things women just do that a patriarchal society looks at with the grace one extends to a child doing childish things. Of course, women sleep with other women, this thinking says. What do you expect when they can shower together, hug for prolonged periods, kiss, and cuddle one another?
It is dismissive sexism wrapped in the stinky foil of homophobia, the refusal to acknowledge the autonomy of women to be who they know themselves to be, and insistence on not seeing anything but opposite-sex attraction as a valid form of being.
Fetishised: Also born of sexism that sees women as conduits for the sexual exploits of men, sees the bisexuality of women as an avenue for men to fulfil their fantasies of woman-on-woman action. Beyond that, a woman’s bisexuality is not seen as a valid part of her being deserving of full recognition.
People are bisexual
We have written extensively about bisexuality, but if you need a refresher, Bisexuality is romantic attraction, sexual attraction, or sexual behaviour toward both males and females, or simply to more than one gender.
People are bisexual and they are no more prone to promiscuity than those who are homosexual or heterosexual.
The fight for recognition and equality for the LGBT+ community is also a fight for the recognition of the autonomy of women to be, with dignity. And until we achieve all, bisexual women and men will continue to wallow in the obscurity forced on them by a heterosexist society that refuses to see the humanity of anyone other than heterosexuals.