Christopher Biggins and biphobia on Celebrity Big Brother
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While attempts have been made to minimise offense caused (Biggins has since claimed to have many bisexual friends, that old chestnut!), many remain outraged by his remarks. The controversy began with a casual conversation with contestant Renee Graziano about the LGBTQ community, in which Biggins argued that bisexuals are the "worst type" for "not wanting to admit they are gay."
Such comments echo widely held assumptions that bisexuality is a stepping stone on the path to accepting your homosexuality or, conversely, that bisexuality is a phase of experimentation before running back into the open arms of heterosexuality. Ignorance about bisexuality is still sadly commonplace and despite the many leaps and strides made for LGBTQ rights, it remains a largely misunderstood and ignored orientation in discussion and cultural representation.
Take, for example, how Orange Is the New Black, a series which is celebrated for its diversity of characters and stories, still tentatively dances around its protagonist’s bisexuality and Piper Chapman herself never fully embraces her identity, choosing instead to awkwardly shuffle around the term. This reluctance to proclaim one’s bisexuality is common: a recent Workplace Equality Index survey found that bisexual men and women are seven times more likely to disguise their sexual orientation at work. Alongside long-standing bisexual erasure, the stigma and confusion surrounding bisexuality still runs rampant in both heterosexual and LGBTQ communities, with many admitting reluctance and anxiety about dating bisexual men or women due to fears of cheating or insecurities about polysexual identities.
The most common misrepresentation of all is the pervasive myth of the promiscuous bisexual. This was certainly evoked in Biggins’s most recent rant, in which he blamed the spread of HIV on bisexuals who "went to those [third world] countries and had sex with those people and brought it back to America." What is particularly upsetting about Biggins referring to HIV as a "bisexual disease" is the fact that this stereotyping and apportioning of blame was utilised against the gay community in the 1980s and sadly still continues today. These stereotypes are all too familiar territory; in the case of bisexuals, it is assumed that if you are attracted to two or more genders, you are predisposed to a life of promiscuity and unsafe sex. There are so many problems with this stereotype, it’s hard to begin.
Firstly, having multiple consenting sexual partners and treating all parties involved with respect is not a negative thing. Monogamy in and of itself is not a virtue. If bisexuals choose to have multiple partners or practise polyamory, this is not harmful, taking for granted of course that the sex is both consensual and safe. Secondly, not all members of a community are the same: there are bisexuals who are polyamorous, there are bisexuals who have had many sexual partners, and at the same time there are bisexuals who are fiercely monogamous and who have had a small number of sexual partners. Communities are diverse and this is something to be celebrated and embraced. One simplified stereotype cannot adequately encapsulate a large group of people with different opinions, lifestyles and personalities.
So, in the aftermath of the untimely eviction of Christopher Biggins and his calamitous comments, let’s take this controversy as an opportunity to talk openly and educate those who still maintain confusion about bisexuality. Ultimately, the best weapon against biphobia and bisexual erasure is discussion, so let’s speak loudly, proudly and openly.