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Bi Erasure in “Orange is the New Black”

Ever since the Netflix-original series Orange is the New Black premiered on July 11, 2013, the buzz has been increasing about the show’s varied portrayals on-screen, ranging from racial and sexual diversity to trans* characters and beyond. One of the biggest issues in relation to the LGBT+ community that the show has brought up is the lack of use of the term bisexual – despite the apparent bisexuality of the central protagonist and other characters as well …

When asked about her thoughts regarding Orange is the New Black, Bisexual Resource Center President Ellyn Ruthstrom said, “I enjoyed the show a lot and thought it was a shame that for a show that is trying to push the boundaries on several levels, that it still resorts to the old binary of gay/straight.” Ruthstrom felt like the show “missed an opportunity” and is awaiting Season Two. “Piper is clearly bisexual so perhaps it will be explored better in the future.”

Bisexual activist Aud Traher furthered Ruthstrom’s sentiments, saying, “I still think the idea of calling anyone ‘ex-lesbian’ is incredibly dangerous. It gives credence to not only bisexual invisibility but … putting this into popular media only cements it further into the dominant discourse that queer people can be ‘cured,’ that queer women only need to find the right man or have sex with one to ‘cure’ them.”

Viewers will have to wait to see if Piper comes out as bisexual in Season Two, or if her journey of self-discovery still has longer to go before she’s comfortable identifying with a specific label. Season One of Orange is the New Black is currently streaming on Netflix. Season Two is set for a 2014 debut.

Click HERE to read full Article


A.J. Walkley is a bisexual activist and the author of Queer Greer and Choice. Her third novel, Vuto, inspired by her experience as a US Peace Corps Health Volunteer in Malawi East Africa has just been released. Walkley currently resides in Arizona, USA.

Let’s look at the whole “no labels” thing for a second …

Sally Ride.

When Sally Ride was alive, she stayed pretty much in the closet. The evidence suggests that she was bisexual, having relationships with men and women. And she herself preferred No Label, for what I assume were both personal and professional reasons, as I think NASA would have kept her on the ground rather than painted rainbows on the Shuttle.

That’s her right. No one has to label if they feel that it’s to their benefit … as soon as she died and was posthumously outed, the GL community was all over her. “First Lesbian in Space!” They co-opted her as a symbol, and not as a Queer symbol, not as an LGBT symbol, but as a specifically Gay symbol, with all the baggage that comes with it …

What’s the lesson here? If you are an advocate of the No Labels label? You not only have a label, but you are also going to be given a label, against your express wishes.
It hurt to grow up bisexual

For the longest time I thought there was something wrong with me. I interpreted all of my romantic and sexual attractions to “just strong feelings of friendship”. How could I feel attracted to someone when that feeling felt the same for both genders? Society had taught me that those feelings where something I should feel only for men, or if I was fucked up then I would have them for women. The possibility that I could have them for both was never an option, people where either “normal” or homosexuals. So for the longest time I just ignored my feelings assuming they where just friendship feelings.

Then college came around. I know it sounds cliche, discovering my self in college but it was the first time where it was safe to question who I am and not who I was supposed to be. I finally recognized my feelings as attraction. I spent a good portion of college wondering if I was straight or a lesbian. I would get a crush on a boy and think “oh, this must mean I’m straight” only to fall for a girl in six months. It took me two years of going back and forth before I finally identified as bisexual.

The day I came out to myself was the most painful, terrifying and relieving day if my life. I knew who I was and that meant that I would loose a lot of people when and if I came out.

I came out to my roommate and she was incredibly supportive, I came out to a few more friends and they where mostly ok with it, a little awkward but ok. Then came the first person who told me to “pick a side”, as if I hadn’t spent years trying too. She was a girl I wanted to ask out, a very hot lesbian. It killed me inside, I had spent years avoiding dating and romance because I couldn’t pick and the first person I ever tried to date said that? It was like years of internal struggle did not exist, I would later learn the word for it, bi-erasure.

That was year ago, I still have a hard time letting people know I’m interested, I’m still in the closet with a lot of people, and it still hurt when people try to erase my identity. But today I am happier than I have ever been, I’m at peace with myself. I can feel anger instead of insecurity when my bisexuality gets dismissed. I am still lonely and long for a relationship but it no longer feels as impossible as it once did. For now I love myself and that is enough.

I do have one request for people, please don’t question the label someone choose for themselves, it may be a stepping stone or it may the result of a very long struggle.