Emerson College’s only independent, student-run newspaper since 1947

The Berkeley Beacon

Emerson College’s only independent, student-run newspaper since 1947

The Berkeley Beacon

Emerson College’s only independent, student-run newspaper since 1947

The Berkeley Beacon

#BiWeek and bisexuality as a cultural comparison

Rachel Choi
Illustration by Rachel Choi

I didn’t realize how much I had taken for granted being a queer person in New Zealand until I was forced to contend with my sexual identity for the first time at college. Coming from NZ’s capital city, Wellington, I grew comfortable with the notion that my sexuality just was; it was of no concern to anyone but myself. This is a deeply prevalent idea in NZ social culture, where humility is valued over almost anything. Sexuality exists as a part of you, but it is in no way the entire sum of your identity. 

This week is Bisexual Awareness Week, commonly referred to as #BiWeek, and I am using this time to explore my own relationship with my sexuality. I am proud to be bisexual, but it is a quiet kind of pride. Growing up in NZ, I found that exploring my sexuality and being queer simply does not feel the same way for queer people in the United States. In high school, almost everyone I knew identified as LGBTQ+ in some way, and yet our LGBTQ+ affinity group consisted of only 10 people at each meeting. I can only suspect the reason for this being that we did not necessarily require a physical safe space to exist in our sexualities and gender identities, because the school, the suburb, and the city were already safe spaces. 

This week is a chance to celebrate bisexual people, whether they feel the need to be ‘out’ and announce their identities or not. American media and consequently the American public seem to largely believe that coming out is an essential part of queer existence, whereas one study conducted by Michael Stambolis-Ruhstorfer and Abigail C. Saguy observed that the non-American parties they interviewed found coming out to “[reflect] a sensationalized idea of LGBTQ identity.” I am open about my sexuality in most aspects of my life, but I never once felt the need to come out and actively announce my bisexuality to someone. 

Being bisexual in the U.S. feels like a political statement. It feels like I am putting a part of myself on a platter for the world to consume, when the only person my sexuality should matter to is myself. It is an interesting cultural difference, and something I never took the time to consider before moving to the U.S. This disparity did not make sense to me at first. Same-sex marriage was legalized in NZ in 2013—only two years before it was federally legalized in the U.S. Is two years really a long enough time to account for the vast chasm between NZ and U.S. perceptions of queerness? 

According to Pew Research Center, just two percent of Congress identifies as lesbian, gay, or bisexual, whereas as of 2020, Radio New Zealand reports that LGBTQ+ ministers make up 10 percent of NZ’s parliament. This is a huge difference when you consider that the actual percentage of queer people in NZ and the U.S. is nearly the same. 

Even if queer policy makers in NZ are not always talking about their sexuality, their experiences as queer people profoundly impact the way they view the world, and therefore affect the policies they choose to support. Accurate representation of NZ’s population allows for the implementation of effective laws that work to benefit queer peoples’ rights in all aspects of their existence—not just their sex life, but the right to safety and security, the right to a family, and the right to simply exist without being scared that someone is going to force you to be someone you are not. 

Queer policymakers are no longer just paving the way for those who will come after them; they are, at this moment, making a difference in the world. But they are not alone. Queer artists, musicians, educators and notable activists, such as Anika Moa, Lucy Lawless, and Shaneel Lal—the first transgender person to win a New Zealander of the Year award—are crossing oceans with their message. 

Let us not forget though, that this week is not solely to advance a political agenda. While it is evident that the LGBTQ+ representation in politics is necessary for developing a well-rounded view of queer individuals in both positions of power and society as a whole, the best way to let queer people embrace their queerness is by letting them do that in whatever manner they wish to.

#BiWeek is a celebration, and let us treat it as such. As a week recognized by GLAAD, the Bisexual Resource Center, and Still Bisexual dedicated to celebrating the bisexual community, it is an opportunity for us to reflect on our experiences as bisexual people personally, culturally, and politically. 

As we lead up to Bi Visibility Day on Sept. 23, we are offered the opportunity to come together as a community, publicly or privately, regardless of how ‘in’ or ‘out’ we are. Despite cultural differences, we share what most of us see as an incredibly important part of ourselves. Let us revel in all of our similarities and differences and be young and beautiful and bisexual, together.

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About the Contributor
Ella Duggan
Ella Duggan, Opinion Co-Editor

Ella Duggan (she/her) is a sophomore communication studies major from Wellington, New Zealand, with minors in public relations and business studies. Outside of the Beacon, she is assistant music director for the Emerson Acapellics, an avid reader of romance novels, and loves hockey - Go Canucks!


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