So, earlier this week Miriam emailed me saying that she had no idea that it was #BiWeek. Neither did I. As the resident bisexual at Lacroix Ramos, I was a tad embarrassed that I was clueless about it. It has apparently been around since 1999, which is ironically the year that I
realized admitted that I was bisexual. Miriam asked me to write a quick blog post for Bisexual Awareness Week which runs from September 23-30, 2018. I immediately said yes, despite my initial ignorance of the event.
Why is Bisexual Awareness Week important?
First and foremost, it is needed to raise awareness of not only the existence of bisexuality and bisexual people, but also the truth about what it means to be bi. If society could see us for who we really are, we could put to rest the ridiculous stereotypes that make both gay and straight folks uncomfortable around us.
I’ll list a few of those stereotypes here, but please head over to the GLAAD website and check out their more detailed discussion dispelling the myths about bi people.
- Bisexual people are greedy and can’t be monogamous. – Trust me, I’ve been ghosted soooo many times after disclosing my sexuality to a date because of this one. It is the furthest thing from true but this is what people believe.
- Bisexuals are actually gay people that are just saying they are bi because they are afraid for the world to know that they are actually gay. Nope. We actually are attracted to both men and women and see beyond the sex/gender of a person when looking for love.
- Being in a same-sex relationship means that you are gay or in a hetero relationship means that you are straight. This is the complete erasure of our identity. One of the hardest parts about being in a so called “straight” relationship was that I didn’t feel seen. Not by my partner, nor by the world. It’s the reason that I basically had to come out all over again in my 30s after that relationship ended. I didn’t want anyone but him when the relationship was good. I just wanted to be able to continue to be myself.
- Bisexuality is a choice. Who would choose to be thrown in the cracks between gay and straight? I wouldn’t. It makes dating harder than it is already. Friendships are questioned. Your integrity and loyalty are questioned. It’s not a fun position to be in.
So, what does any of this have to do with immigration law?
It is through a lens of these stereotypes that adjudicators and lawmakers view bisexual immigrants seeking refuge from persecution because of their sexuality. One client once said that he was told by an officer in an interview that he could avoid persecution if he only dates women so as to appear straight.
You can get asylum on 1 of 5 grounds: race, religion, ethnicity, national origin, or membership in a particular social group. Persecution on the basis of sexuality has to fall under particular social group (although arguably it could also be considered a political opinion). The definition of “particular social group” is summed up as a group of people who share an “immutable characteristic.” An “immutable characteristic” is defined as something that cannot be changed or is “so fundamental to the identity or conscience of” a person that they should not be forced to change it. Matter of Acosta, 19 I&N Dec. 211.
So, what does that mean for the asylee I talked about above? It means that this officer believes that because he is bisexual his sexuality is mutable. A bisexual person could simply operate as a straight person and therefore avoid persecution. And if it is mutable, it must also not be fundamental. I mean bisexuals like men and women so they just need to make sure that they don’t fall in love with someone of the same sex and are only attracted to the opposite sex. This means either that bisexuality is not so important to one’s identity that it should not be forced to change. So, just… change????
This likely derives from the stereotype that bisexuals are no longer bisexual when they are in a hetero relationship. I mean a bisexual is just hetero+ right? Also, the widespread idea that bisexuality is a choice one makes and therefore can be changed (muted) has likely also misinformed this adjudicator’s view.**
It is 2018 and us lawyers still have to worry about explaining to adjudicators WHY a person’s sexuality shouldn’t be forced to chance in exchange for safety from persecution. #BiWeek is needed to raise awareness about the reality of bisexuality. It’s not a choice, nor is it changeable. It is a deeply imbedded identity.
The law reacts to the changing views of society. #BiWeek can help bring the awareness to society to knock down that first domino in the chain of events leading a better understanding and respect for bi folks. Society can then #LevelUp.
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