Finding Bi+ Identity Through Memes

Dec 8, 2023 | 2024 Winter - Bi+ World Wide Web

By Kelsey Goeres

Memes make us feel like we’re a part of something. They say: I am for all who understand me. For the bi+ community, they mean a lot.

A meme is “an element of a culture or system of behavior passed from one individual to another by imitation or other nongenetic means,” as defined by Webster’s Dictionary. Online, we know memes to be funny little images, videos, or text that sum up a cultural moment or experience. Bi memes speak specifically to the bi+ experience.   

One meme from the account sagalgbtsupport shows a photo of a pair of jeans that read “RELAXED STRAIGHT” on the inner hem. “These jeans and I could not have less in common,” is written below in a white text box. Under the text, an edited version of the original photo shows the inside hem to read “STRESSED BISEXUAL.” “Now these are the pants for me. :D” is written underneath. Feeling stressed is a universal experience, but it’s part of the bi+ identity. A 2017 review of 52 studies found that bisexual people had higher rates of depression and anxiety than heterosexual people, and higher or equivalent rates to people who identified as gay. No one wants “perpetual stress” attached to their identity. But if it is, statistically, laughing about it and commiserating with other bisexuals online can make it more bearable. 

Another point of identity for bisexual individuals is our fashion. Flannel button-downs, cuffed jeans, and, of course, tucked-in shirts are considered staples. In this meme from an account called lgbt_got_your_back, a tweet from karen from finance reads: “months ago i saw a tweet that said ‘bi people take so long in the bathroom because they’re tucking their shirts back in’ and i think about it every single fucking time im in the bathroom tucking my shirt back in.” The comments contain several sentiments of: “So we all are just the same person?”

Bi-specific memes are also appealing because of their exclusivity. Non-bisexual people do not relate, or at least, not as well. An element of exclusivity builds community.

From the same account, another meme shows a picture of Fred from “Scooby-Doo” revealing the identity of a bad guy the gang caught. The cover over the tied-up person’s face has text on top of it that reads: “BISEXUAL.” Fred says, “Alright Bisexual, let’s see who your real identity is.” In the next picture, the text box over the now-exposed bad guy’s face reads “Still Bisexual but now annoyed.” Bi+ individuals are accustomed to having our identities questioned. We’re faking that we’re gay. Or we’re faking that we’re straight. We’re assured our spectrum of romantic feelings are just a phase. We are constantly having our imaginary masks pulled off. 

In a culture that thrives on putting people into boxes, bi+ folks are often met with confusion and frustration. Our attractions are vast and varied—there is not a one-size-fits-all experience of being bisexual. For these reasons, community is imperative. And for many bi+ individuals, online community is all that’s available.

According to Pew Research, 7% of Americans identify as gay, lesbian, or bisexual. Of all LGBTQ+ folks, 58.2% identify as bi. That’s a significant bisexual presence! But while bi+ individuals may feel as though they’re in good company in LGBTQ+ spaces, it’s not unusual for us to feel alone in our everyday lives. According to a 2019 Pew Research Center analysis, only 19% of people who identify as bisexual are out to their close friends and family, whereas 75% of gay and lesbian adults are out in their close circles. One possible reason for this may be that 82% of bisexual individuals are married to or living with a partner who is of a different gender. We are in a time when simply identifying as anything other than heterosexual is divisive—it’s no wonder so many people opt out of those potentially uncomfortable or even, in certain cases, dangerous conversations. But online, where we can set our profiles to private, and where older conservative technology-challenged family members may not thrive, we can pass our memes back and forth and be free.   

At the end of the day, we just want to feel like we’re not alone. The internet, with all its infinite horrors and oddities, can at least provide us that. 

Kelsey Goeres is a journalist, essayist, and poet based in California’s Bay Area. 

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