Bi-erasure and the fetishisation of bi people is a serious issue the social platform is perpetuating
Despite being one of the largest contingents of people within the LGBT community, bisexual people face widespread biphobia and erasure. There’s little space for bisexual people to engage with each other, even on social media. And now it looks like Twitter is perpetuating bi-invisibility.
If you log onto Twitter and search for #bisexual, you’ll see nothing comes up across photos, videos or news. The error message states: “The term you entered did not bring up any results. You may have mistyped your term or your search setting could be protecting you from some potentially sensitive content.”
Twitter users have been speculating on what’s actually going on – the related search results (shown in the screenshot from Dazed’s own experiment) seems to show that Twitter relates #bisexual to porn and sexual references, with #publicporn #flasher suggested in the sidebar. From this, people have pointed to Twitter’s filtering of posts it deems adult content. However, this month’s rules update was thought to have banned any ‘pornographic’ content on site, but it actually referred only to paid advertisements.
Nevertheless, the clear sexualising of bi people is prevalent here onsite and in wider media – bi people have to defend themselves against this prejudice that they’re ‘promiscuous’ or ‘greedy’, or flip-flopping across identities people decide for them.
The sexualisation of LGBT people has been prevalent on other sites. Earlier this year, prominent YouTubers noticed the video platform had restricted a lot of their content, filtering it as ‘adult’ with an algorithm.
In a statement posted late last night, Twitter said: “We’ve identified an error with search results for certain terms. We apologise for this. We’re working quickly to resolve & will update soon.” Whether it’s a human error or automated censor, anything that stigmatises a community of people who are already fighting for validation by a wider subset is a real issue.
Other Twitter users have pointed out that white supremacists and neo-Nazi slogans have not been filtered by the site.
“Every bi-activist knows the problems of trying to search for bi-content on the web and some public wifi systems block it altogether, even when it’s nothing to do with sex, because bisexual is seen as a dodgy word in itself,” Kate Harrad of the Bisexual Index told the BBC. “This is why Twitter needs to be very sensitive to any filtering that reduces access to bi content, and very aware of the problem of bisexual erasure.”
Twitter is one of the biggest social networks that bi people engage on, a major medium for a group that lacks specialist media, representation by public figures or campaign funding – only 1 per cent of LGBT organisation’s spending goes towards bi issues, according to Funders for LGBTQ Issues.
Human Rights Campaign, Bisexual Index, Bi-Trans Alliance and more groups have spoken of their disappointment and anger with the clear erasure.
It can be exhausting being bi: having to prove you belong in queer spaces, navigate tired, dangerous stereotypes of promiscuity, battling microaggressions from LGBT and hetero people who are hostile or questioning of bi identity. Studies have shown that 44 per cent of bisexual youth have contemplated suicide, while others have explored the correlation between bi-exclusion and worse mental health.
As of writing, #bisexual still remains censored, and Twitter continues to do a pretty hack job of protecting its users from harassment across the board, while Russian bots roam free stirring political and social tension and shit.