“Though most bisexuals don’t come out,” Sylla said. “Most bisexuals are in convenient opposite-sex relationships and aren’t open about their sexual orientation. Why would you be open, when there is so much biphobia?”
Spend any time hanging around bisexual activists, and you’ll hear a great deal about biphobia. You’ll also hear about bi erasure, the idea that bisexuality is systematically minimized and dismissed. This is especially vexing to bisexual activists, who point to a 2011 report by the Williams Institute — a policy center specializing in L.G.B.T. demographics — that reviewed 11 surveys and found that “among adults who identify as L.G.B., bisexuals comprise a slight majority.” In one of the larger surveys reviewed by the institute (a 2009 study published in The Journal of Sexual Medicine), 3.1 percent of American adults identified as bisexual, while 2.5 percent identified as gay or lesbian. (In most surveys, the institute found that women were “substantially more likely than men to identify as bisexual.”)
Then there’s the tricky matter of identity versus behavior. Joe Kort, a Michigan-based sex therapist whose next book is about straight-identified men who are married but who also have sex with men, says that “many never tell anyone about their bisexual experiences, for fear of losing relationships or having their reputation hurt. Consequently, they’re an invisible group of men. We know very little about them.”
Bisexuals are so unlikely to be out about their orientation — in a 2013 Pew Research Survey, only 28 percent of people who identified as bisexual said they were open about it — that the San Francisco Human Rights Commission recently called them “an invisible majority” in need of resources and support.
But in the eyes of many Americans, bisexuality — despite occasional and exaggerated media reports of its chicness — remains a bewildering and potentially invented orientation favored by men in denial about their homosexuality and by women who will inevitably settle down with men. Studies have found that straight-identified people have more negative attitudes about bisexuals (especially bisexual men) than they do about gays and lesbians, but A.I.B.’s board members insist that some of the worst discrimination and minimization comes from the gay community...