While the visibility of gay, lesbian, and transgender individuals in on the rise, bisexual individuals continue to be pushed to the edges of visibility. This is partially because of society’s struggle to recognize bisexuality as a legitimate sexual identity.
There’s still a lot of prejudice and misunderstanding of bisexuality. Lots of people, including people within the LGBTQ+ community see bisexual people as straight people pretending to be gay or gay people pretending to be straight. Or bisexual people are seen as promiscuous people who just want to have more options for erotic adventures. Or they’re seen as incapable of making a choice.
Another huge problem with bisexual visibility is a result of bi-erasure. This happens when others mislabel a bisexual person because of their current relationship status. When a bisexual person is in a relationship with a person of the opposite gender they’re often assumed to be straight. When a bisexual person is in a relationship with someone of the same gender they’re often labeled as gay. Bi-erasure also occurs when people assume that someone isn’t bisexual just because they haven’t had relationships with people of both genders.
All of these assumptions about bisexuality are incorrect. People who identify as bisexual are attracted to people of both genders. Their identity as a bisexual person is not defined by who they are currently in a relationship with or even whether they’ve had relationships with people of both genders. Their bisexuality is determined by them alone, based on their understanding of their attractions.
There are a few celebrities who have publicly identified as bisexual and who have been vocal about what it means and doesn’t mean to be bisexual. Here are some celebrities who have spoken out about their own bisexuality and have fought against bi-erasure in Hollywood.
12 Anna Paquin
Anna Paquin, best known for her role as Sookie Stackhouse in the HBO series “True Blood,” came out as bisexual super publicly in 2010. She participated in the “Give a Damn” campaign, which sought to promote equality for the LGBTQ+ community. In the campaign she announced, “I’m bisexual and I give a damn.”
Of course, people were confused by the announcement because Paquin had announced her engagement to costar Stephen Moyer less than a year earlier. Paquin became one of the clearest public voices clarifying that current relationship status has nothing to do with sexuality.
In 2016 Larry King called her a “non-practicing bisexual,” assuming that she would identify as straight these days because she had been married to a man for years and was now a mother in a heterosexual relationship. Paquin remained calm as she absolutely schooled him on sexuality.
She stated that her sexuality did not change because she was married to a man or because she was a mother. Paquin asserted that she is still attracted to men and women, which makes her bisexual, regardless of who she’s currently sleeping with or in a monogamous relationship with.
11 Andy Dick
Andy Dick is another celebrity who’s super familiar with having his bisexual identity denied. He’s also one of the few male celebrities who’s been actively slut shamed. Andy Dick is known for his bad boy, wild child, drug and alcohol fueled antics, especially related to his sexuality. His hookups, with both women and men, have been the topic of many a gossip mag cover and the straight communities and gay communities have dismissed him for it, calling him promiscuous and saying that his hookups were the results of intoxication rather than attraction.
In reality, Andy Dick has been openly bisexual for a long time and though he admits that some of his explicit encounters certainly were chemically fueled, his sexuality has nothing to do with his now under control addictions. Dick says that many try to label him as gay just because he’s open about being with men, but in reality, his attractions aren’t limited to any specific gender.
He’s also dismisses the idea that bisexuality is a “cover” for being gay. He’s adamant that his bisexuality is a legitimate identity, just like being gay or straight.
10 Evan Rachel Wood
Evan Rachel Wood told an “Esquire” reporter in 2011 that she had always been attracted to women and men, but she didn’t publicly claim the word bisexual until a year later when she came out on Twitter. Since then, she used her fame to bring visibility to the bisexual community, which is largely ignored, even within the LGBTQ+ community.
Wood has described coming to terms with her sexuality as a confusing and painful process. She always knew she liked women, but also knew she was attracted to men. In her teens she suppressed her feelings for women because she didn’t feel safe expressing them. As she got older, her feelings confused her even more because she wasn’t familiar with bisexuality. She knew she wasn’t a lesbian, but she also knew she wasn’t straight, and she couldn’t find a label she identified with.
Even after figuring out her own feelings, she didn’t see the importance of publicly coming out as bisexual until other actresses started to do so. This made her realize that it was important for bisexual teens to see their sexuality represented in the media, so she came out publicly and proudly said, “I’m bi.”
9 Amber Heard
Amber Heard has never seen any reason to hide her bisexuality. When Ellen DeGeneres asked Heard about it on her show in 2010, Heard answered honestly. Unfortunately, this honest answer landed her in hot water with her agents and Hollywood producers. They warned her that attaching herself to the label “bisexual” would be the end of her budding career. Luckily, she ignored them.
Heard said she’d never attached her attraction to a person to their gender, so it didn’t seem like a big deal to her. She realized the impact it had when she claimed her bisexual identity and she saw it as part of her responsibility as a public figure to bring visibility to the sexual identity.
Heard’s sexuality was questioned again when she got engaged to actor Johnny Depp. People wondered if she was still bisexual or if she’d changed her mind. Heard was clear that her sexuality had nothing to do with who she was currently with.
When she and Depp split after her physically abused her, some tabloids alleged that her bisexual past made Depp jealous of all the women she hung out with, which led to the abuse. These allegations, true or false, brought to light the fact that bisexual women are at increased risk for domestic abuse, largely because there’s a false perception that they’re more likely to cheat with their female friends.
Heard has not commented on whether her sexuality had anything to do with the divorce, but blaming her abuse on her sexuality is despicable and irresponsible.
8 Alan Cumming
For years the media has tried to insist that Alan Cumming is gay, even though he’s always identified as bisexual. The actor has had long term relationships with both men and women. He’s even been married to both men and women. And any statement he’s given about his own sexuality has always been clear: he’s not gay, he’s definitely not straight, he’s bisexual.
Cumming has said it’s his experience that if he identified as gay or straight based on his attractions at the time, he’d be denying his true feelings. He’s been married to his current husband for a long time now, but says that he’s still attracted to women. If he chose to call himself gay just because he’s been married to a man for years, he’d be denying the very real parts of him that are still attracted to women.
Cummings says he vehement about properly identifying himself as bisexual because he doesn’t want the media to erase his true identity. If he allowed them to get away with labeling him gay by not challenging the label, he’d be misrepresenting himself, and to him, that matters a lot.
7 Cara Delevingne
Cara Delevingne is unfortunately super familiar with having her sexuality dismissed. In 2015, Vogue printed an article about Delevingne in which the writer suggested that her attraction to women was simply a phase, even saying that her parents believed it was a phase. At the time, Delevingne was 22 years old and dating musician St. Vincent. Delevingne fired back at the magazine, saying that she’d fallen in love with St. Vincent and that she’d struggled to come to terms with her feelings before finally accepting them and going public with their relationship.
Many young people who identify as bisexual, especially young women, get told that their attraction to both genders is a phase and that they’ll eventually pick a side. Vogue’s incorrect assertion that Delevingne’s relationship with St. Vincent was just a “gay phase” is indicative of this prejudice against bisexuality.
Since then, Delevingne has been romantically tied to both men and women, but she’s always quick to remind people that her sexuality isn’t tied to who she’s currently dating. She told reporters recently that she gets really upset when people automatically assume she’s gay just because she’s dating a woman. Delevingne says thinking solely in terms of “gay” or “straight” is outdated and she wishes people would be open to more experiences of identity and sexuality.
6 Clive Davis
A lot of people over the age fifty don’t even know what it means to be bisexual. Even fewer people in this age bracket would probably describe themselves as bisexual. But Clive Davis, who grew up in a time when it wasn’t even okay to be gay, came out as bisexual at the age of eighty! As an old, white guy in the music industry, Owen doesn’t really fit the picture of a bisexual man, but in his memoir, he was glad to finally claim the label.
His memoir recounts some of the explicit adventures he embarked on while trying to figure out his sexuality. He has dated and slept with both men and women over the years. Since the 90’s, his long term partners have both been men.
Many men of his age who come out later in life are assumed to have been gay the whole time and just repressing their sexuality. Owen has been clear that this was not his experience. He’s said that he’s had wonderful sexual relationships with people of both genders, and that he wasn’t hiding his attraction to men in his relationships with women. Owen is adamant that no one has to be gay or straight, that bisexuality is a legitimate sexuality and his personal experience.
Halsey’s bisexuality has always been a large part of her music. She’s sung about her sexuality multiple times and it’s a major theme of her new album, which features a track she did with another openly bisexual artist about her relationship with an unnamed woman.
Halsey also isn’t scared to call out the false narratives the media creates about bisexuality, mainly the narrative of the straight girl going through a gay phase. She said that perpetuating this narrative erases the legitimate experiences of women who are trying to explore their sexuality and it discounts these experiences as nothing but experimentation. She’s called out straight singers who’ve released songs about experimenting with other women, namely Katy Perry, for perpetuating these harmful narratives.
Halsey has also faced a lot of criticism about her own bisexuality. An article in BuzzFeed went as far as to say that she started to act “straighter” as she became more mainstream. Halsey shot back saying that she was under no obligation to prove her bisexuality by acting any particular way. Her sexuality is hers to declare and own, and no one is allowed to define that for her.
4 Lady Gaga
Lady Gaga has been openly bisexual almost as long as she’s been famous. She came out as bisexual in 2009 in an interview with Barbara Walters. She also revealed that her song “Poker Face” is about being attracted to women. She’s is very active in LGBTQ+ causes and has frequently said that her LGBTQ+ fans are her favorite and most supportive fans.
Unfortunately, Lady Gaga has had to face a lot of public questioning of her sexuality. The media is always quick to point out that Lady Gaga has never been publicly romantically linked to a woman. They cite the fact that she’s “always” dated men as proof that she’s “not really bisexual.” Even queer media questioned Lady Gaga’s sexuality after she made statements about how she doesn’t consider herself a gay woman and doesn’t feel totally included in the LGBTQ+ community.
Gaga’s statements actually bring to light real issues with being bi in the LGBTQ+ community. She isn’t a gay woman, she’s a bi woman, so saying she’s not really a gay woman doesn’t mean she isn’t queer. And bi women and men are often excluded from the LGBTQ+ community because they’re seen as “not queer enough.” Questioning Gaga’s sexuality just because she doesn’t identify the way people want her to or because she expresses feelings of exclusion is exactly what keeps bi people excluded from the queer community.
Questioning Gaga’s sexuality because of who she decides to date is also a form of exclusion. People who identify as bi may never date someone of the same gender. It’s all about attraction, not relationship status.
3 David Bowie
David Bowie was one of the first celebrities to toy with gender roles, gender identification, and sexuality publicly. Bowie was always his own person and he didn’t really bother trying to conform to what people expected of a male musician. Though he didn’t initially identify as queer, he brought queer identity to the forefront and became an icon for millions of queer identifying people who were struggling to find their place in mainstream society.
Bowie was constantly asked to identify his sexuality with labels that other people could understand. At one point, he identified as gay, even though he was married to a woman, but later said that this was a mistake. After that he identified as bisexual. He was married to women and fathered children, which led many to mistakenly believe that Bowie had abandoned his queer ways. Later in life, Bowie expressed his frustration with being asked to label his sexuality. It seems he believed his sexual fluidity didn’t conform to labels.
The truth of Bowie’s sexuality may never truly be known, and his life is a demonstration of the ways in which labeling sexuality hinders our expression of sexuality. Bowie was certainly queer, and bisexual seems to fit his life experiences when viewed from the outside, but the fact that Bowie was so reluctant to self-identify with one particular label shows how labels limit those who experience their sexuality as being outside the traditional labels.
2 Margaret Cho
Margaret Cho confused a lot of people when she identified as a queer woman even though she’d been married to a man for years. In a blog for Huffington Post, Cho explained that she’s bisexual because she’s attracted to women, and that being married didn’t invalidate her sexuality. Cho went on to explain that she’d slept with both men and women, which put her firmly in the bisexual camp. Though she also admitted that bisexual was a limiting term in her experience because she’d slept with trans people as well. She called out the idea that there are only two genders as false, way before it was ever part of public discourse.
Cho has also been very open about the fact that she and her now ex-husband had an open marriage. She’s said that she couldn’t stand the idea of sleeping with the same person the rest of her life. She continued to sleep with both men and women while married and maintained her self-identification as bisexual.
Many tried to vilify Cho’s openness about her sexual adventures and used it to justify the belief that bisexual people are simply nymphomaniacs who want to sleep with everyone. People who identify as bisexual are no more or less promiscuous than people who identify as straight or gay. People’s discomfort with Cho’s willingness to express her sexual desires comes from sexist beliefs that women’s sexual desires are somehow improper.
1 Frank Ocean
In 2012, Frank Ocean posted a moving piece on his blog where he told the story of falling in love with a man when he was nineteen years old. He called it his “first love.” The piece wasn’t exactly a “coming out” and Ocean shied away from labeling himself as gay or bisexual in the letter. Of course, the Internet exploded and Ocean had to deal with countless questions asking him to explain the letter, his sexuality, and asking him if he identified as bisexual.
When pushed to give his sexuality a label, Ocean rejected the notion of labeling himself at all. He said that he was more than willing to be honest about his experiences and feelings, which included falling in love with a man. But he was also clear that life contains a multitude of experiences and that he was unwilling to try and label those experiences.
Ocean is one of the many celebrities whose experiences seem to lend themselves to the label bisexual, but who refuse to label themselves as such. This is indicative of a society that can’t come to terms with all the nuances of sexuality and that seeks to define everything, even when it doesn’t fit within traditional definitions.
When celebrities claim their bisexual identities publicly and speak openly about their experiences as bisexual people, it puts a spotlight on the bisexual community. This helps increase awareness of bisexuality as a legitimate sexual identity and it helps people better understand what it means to be bisexual. It also allows people who identify as bisexual see their experiences reflected in the media, which is essential to making them feel included.
Sources: Huffington Post, US Magazine, New York Daily News, Bi Magazine, The Hollywood Reporter, Advocate, Salon, Autostraddle, People Magazine, The Guardian, Paper, Slate, New York Times, LA Times, Mic