“What does a bisexual look like?” is not a question often asked. We exist in a hinterland between the straight and gay worlds and are often misunderstood as a result. The outdated (and somewhat offensive) stereotype of a lesbian is that they lean towards the masculine spectrum and the stereotype of the straight woman is that they lean towards the feminine. And gay men are feminine and straight men are butch (according to popular and ill-informed legend)…
But what lies in the middle? Something a little…alternative?
One look at a page like the fabulous Bi Chic Fashion on Pinterest would suggest that we bisexuals are indeed all fiends for tattoos, piercings and badges. But there may also be a case for suggesting that we are generally only photographed in our peacock feathers and not when we feel a little beige. There is more of an allure to a photograph of someone bedecked in attention-grabbing finery – or grungery – after all, than there is to someone in a hoodie and jeans or a grey tracksuit.
“There is certainly more acceptance of same-sex displays of affection in your typical alternative venue than there might be in a mainstream nightclub,” says Mark, 28. “This goes along with things like cross-dressing being expected and often welcomed. I think bi people often find a safe place on the alternative scene because you can more or less be who you want to be. Nobody will bat an eyelid if they see two girls kissing in a corner when they are in a room full of people dressed like that.”
“Most people who I’ve met who are bi, definitely fall into the alt category, be it goth (or variants of) or metalhead or whatnot, so I usually assume that if someone is alt, they’re more likely to be LGBT or questioning,” says Sara, 37. She considers the image difference somewhat gender-specific. “From memory I don’t think I’ve met a straight cis alt female, but I have met males, so I’d say that from experience it definitely applies more to females than males.”
Jay, 45, agrees to an extent – albeit with a caveat. “I’m an out-and-proud punk and so are a lot of my bi friends, but to the wider world I’m essentially closeted as a bi man married to a woman. However, I think it’s less to do with fewer men being bi than it is to do with it being harder to come out as a bi man. I couldn’t imagine going on a Pride march or anything and yet I’ll happily walk down the street with a green mohican.”
Kate, 23, wears long blonde hair and dresses and could not disagree more. “Bi people are like anyone else. Traditional femme lesbians are accepted as part of the LGBT umbrella so why not us?” She adds, however: “I know a lot of bi people without tattoos and piercings, but then perhaps I mix in different circles to your average bisexual. I don’t really think it’s a pressing issue, especially at the moment. But each to their own.”
“I dress like your average man but I am out as bi to everyone who asks,” says Adam, 35. “I do sometimes concede to a subtle bisexual pride symbol but only as a small pin badge or something. However, I admit that a lot of my bi friends and acquaintances dress eccentrically. Including my partner, who is more or less tattooed from top to bottom and has a handlebar moustache and a septum ring.” Adam’s partner, Eric, 34, chips in to add: “I didn’t expect to meet a bi man like Adam. Most of my bi friends are, as his are, quite alternative. But I suppose he’s the exception who proves the rule.”
Aesha, 21, works as a tattoo artist. “I don’t know if there is such a thing a bidar,” she jokes. “But I’m pretty sure a lot of my clients have been bisexual, just from the general chit-chat we’ve had. And there has been more than one occasion when I’ve been asked for a pink, purple and blue symbol which I’m more or less sure is a nod to bi pride. We’re only on the first day of Tier Five but I do miss that camaraderie I had in the parlour.”
It was undoubtedly easier to show off those peacock (or beige) feathers before Tier Five but in the age of social media we still can (and do). Even if we’re partying “alone” on Zoom or posting endless selfies of ourselves in our favourite clothes on Facebook. Sara’s final words on the matter say it all. “We’re awesome in more ways than one, obvs. Or however the youth of today speak.” However the youth of today choose to speak – or share – may the bisexual community be itself in all its flying colours forever.