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Online Dating: How Bisexuals Are Made Invisible

The corona pandemic gave online dating a boost. But what if people want to get to know women and men? At least on the large and paid placement portals, this is not possible for bisexuals. You have to choose a gender. If you don't want that, you have to create two profiles, i.e. pretend to be heterosexual and homosexual and bear additional costs. This pushes users to make their bisexual orientation invisible.

"We are well aware that our service is not currently able to optimally take into account the full range of sexual preferences," says Lisa Pernkopf from Elitepartner. There is no concrete solution to change that.

This discrimination on dating sites reflects a problem that is deeply anchored in society: "No matter who I am in a relationship with - it is immediately assumed that I am either straight or homosexual. I have to come out and explain myself again and again when I want bisexuality to become visible, "says JD, founding member of the Vienna VisiBi * lity association.

In a 2017 Statista survey on bisexuals' experiences of discrimination, 82.1 percent of around 3,000 respondents stated that they were perceived as heterosexual. The definition is not particularly complex: Anyone who feels drawn to their own gender and to other - possibly non-binary - genders is considered bisexual.

Searching for a partner without gender boundaries

What leads to so-called bi-erasure, i.e. making bisexuals invisible? "It is often assumed that bisexual people do not make up their minds and cannot or do not want to enter into a long-term monogamous partnership. Of course, that is nonsense. Whether someone wants to live their relationship monogamous, polyamorous or open is not linked to their bisexual orientation. Even homosexual or heterosexual people have such preferences, "says psychologist Guido F. Gebauer. He defines these prejudices as the reason for the exclusion of bisexuality on dating portals.

As a co-founder of the German-speaking partner agency Gleichklang, the psychologist wants to enable dating across gender boundaries. Around ten percent of users there explicitly declare themselves as bisexual.

Gebauer assumes that the low visibility in society mutually means that not all bisexual users come out as such on the platform. "Therefore, in addition to our own orientation, we also ask whether the partner we are looking for may be bisexual. This acceptance of bisexual orientations can make the search for a partner more open and relaxed - even for people who have not yet come out or their sexual identity do not want to set. "

Double discrimination

Bi-erasure does not only take place in the heteronormative majority society. Bisexual people are also confronted with prejudice and stigmatization from homosexuals: "I have the feeling that monosexual people find it difficult to understand that one can also feel attracted to more than one gender. There is double discrimination here", says JD. For three and a half years, VisiBi * lity has been organizing regular get-togethers for exchanging experiences and community building in Vienna as an association. "That was also extremely important for me at the beginning."

How valuable your own bisexual community is can also be seen in the stigmatization within queer circles. JD: "If bisexuals are in apparently heterosexual relationships, they are often excluded from the community. They are then not queer enough. That is why many bisexual people do not dare to take their rightful place and to be loud." VisiBi * lity took an important step towards visibility in 2016 when the group - not yet an association at the time - was the first official bisexual parliamentary group to be represented at Vienna Pride.

Some people hide for life because they fear the consequences of an outing. Others break under the enormous pressure that double discrimination brings with it. An American study from 2017 came to the result that bisexuals are at a higher risk of developing mental illness and suffering from depression or anxiety.

Between prejudice and fetish

Where is the tolerance when it comes to the fact that everyone can love and desire who they want? On online dating portals such as Tinder or Ok Cupid, where many bisexuals are active, they are often confronted with more prejudices than solidarity, says JD. "Obviously discriminatory was a profile of a lesbian woman that said 'no bisexuals'."

While some queer people do not perceive bisexuality as clearly enough, other heterosexual users even perceive the orientation as a fetish. In both cases, JD sees the reason in the patriarchal character of our society and the male gaze - the male view of things: "If you look at the prejudices about bisexuals, women say they do it for the attention of men . Men are assumed to be gay and do not dare to say that. " In both cases, the male perspective is in the foreground.

Anyone who uses dating apps like Tinder is not necessarily looking for a long-term partnership. Some users want sex, others swipe left and right in search of self-affirmation. As long as everyone has the same options when looking for a partner, that's not a problem.

By excluding bisexuals from the big dating portals, they support bi-erasure and common prejudices in the direction of promiscuity. The question is whether people with this sexual orientation can be interested in a serious, long-term relationship, says Guido F. Gebauer: "According to the motto: Sexually it's okay, but it doesn't matter as a partner."

Gebauer and JD agree that bisexuality is no longer classified as just a sexual preference and becomes visible in society. Gebauer: "In order to at some point also recognize forms of relationships beyond the traditional two-person models." (Nina Horcher, December 20, 2020)