Nicole Kristal recently met a woman she liked on a dating website, but the woman broke it off when she learned Kristal is bisexual.
“I felt horrible,” Kristal told NBC Out. “Whenever lesbians say ‘Oh, it’s too bad that I’m attracted to you, because you’re bisexual’ it just shows how much more work we have to do and how much stigma there still is.”
The 39-year-old television script coordinator from Los Angeles said she has been a target of biphobia since she was a college student at the University of Oregon more than 20 years ago. One of her first experiences was at a gay bar in Portland, where a woman — noting Kristal’s long hair — barked: “We don’t want your kind here.”
“I said, ‘Well, I’m bisexual,’ and she said, ‘Well then we really don’t want your kind here.’”
Attitudes about bisexuals have not changed much since Kristal’s college years, she said, adding that many people view bisexuality as a transitional identity not to be taken seriously. To prove them wrong, Kristal founded the #Stillbisexual video campaign in 2015.
“I thought I’ll make a video about how I’ve been bisexual since I came out, and I’ve stayed bisexual for 20 years, and I’m going to be bisexual for the rest of my life,” Kristal said. She got some friends to also make videos. As the campaign took off on social media, more and more bisexuals submitted their stories.
Kristal said the campaign teaches people that bisexuals are not confused or in denial.
“I want them [bisexuals] to realize early on that their identity is valid,” she said. “Most of all, I want them to have the same opportunities for love that anyone else does.”
She knew the campaign had made its mark when bisexual actresses Sara Ramirez and Evan Rachel Wood started following it on Twitter. It was also featured at the White House Bisexual Community Policy Briefing in 2015.
Kristal said making her own video was empowering.
“It was great — it made me feel super vulnerable,” she said, “because I admitted things in there that I thought gave me shame — that were embarrassing.”
According to GLAAD, bisexuals experience “alarming rates of invisibility, societal rejection, violence, discrimination, and poor physical and mental health—often at rates higher than their lesbian and gay peers.”
“I think because everywhere we go we’re treated as outsiders,” Kristal said, noting that part of the problem is that bisexuals don’t have their own spaces.
“What happens is bisexuals come out to straight people who don’t really understand it and don’t take it seriously and think it’s going to go away, or they go to a gay bar and they come out to people there and they’re told that their identity is not valid,” Kristal said.
Kristal, who came out when she was 18, said assumptions about bisexuals were no different in the liberal San Francisco Bay Area where she grew up. “Everyone kind of waited for it to change, and it never really did."
She said these misconceptions make dating a frustrating experience for bisexuals. For example, she said her lesbian partners have often feared she will cheat on them with men.
“I feel like I have to kind of not talk about my past relationships with men. I have to make sure I don’t feed into that person’s insecurities,” she explained.
Men are more open minded about dating her, she said, but may fetishize her or see her as “slutty.”
“They don’t necessarily want to marry the bisexual,” Kristal said. “They see us more as someone to kind of temporarily fool around with.”
Kristal said bisexual men face bias, too, but it typically comes from heterosexual women “who just think it’s icky.”
Before Kristal founded the #Stillbisexual campaign, she co-authored the “Bisexual’s Guide to the Universe” in 2006—a book about how to increase your “Bi-Q.” She joked that bisexuals are treated like “the red-headed step child” of the LGBTQ community and said that needs to change.
“You’ve got to look at yourself if you’re part of the queer community and you have a negative opinion about bisexuals and you say, ‘Well, my choosing not to date bisexuals is a preference, it’s not prejudice,’” Kristal said.
“I just challenge you to rethink that—if you were to say that about someone who was a person of color … How would that sound to you? And just give us a chance. We’re so appreciative when people accept us, it’s unbelievable.”
OutFront is a weekly NBC Out series profiling LGBTQ people who are making a positive difference in the community.