By Sydney O’Shaughnessy, Christie Citranglo and Sarah Chaneles
“I once had an experience where a man who identified as gay, who was one of my peers in the classroom and was sitting right next to me … [said] ‘bisexuels don’t exist,’” said Melani Lopez, a senior at Ithaca College who identifies as bisexual. “And to have someone who identifies as LGBTQ+ say that about someone who identifies as bisexual … made me feel very small. And that’s probably the most frustrating thing: having other queer people kind of not give you agency.”
Officially established in 2001, the Center for LGBT Education, Outreach and Services at Ithaca College serves as a safe space for LGBT students and straight allies, according to its website. Two years prior to its founding, the center began as a committee to explore the need for a resource center on campus. Students, faculty and staff expressed an interest in LGBT outreach services, and the Center for LGBT Education, Outreach and Services became an official support center. According to Luca Maurer, LGBT Education, Outreach and Services Program Director, the center has several goals it plans to address, including single-stall, gender-neutral restrooms.
“All the things that our office does are designed to support diversity and inclusion and the full participation of LGBTQ students as part of our campus community,” Maurer said. “And there’s always more work to do.”
Several bisexual members in the LGBT community worldwide have been victims of what is called bisexual erasure. The erasure deals with the legitimacy of bisexuality being questioned or denied outright. Asexuals, individuals who are not interested in sexual relationships, experience erasure as well.
Shelby Buche, a junior at the college who identifies as bisexual, has experienced erasure on Ithaca’s campus.
“I think that the most important thing that even I have to remember is that any environment on campus is not safe by default,” Buche said. “Me being someone who’s very comfortable with myself and very public in my social life about my sexuality, I am very hesitant to come out in a classroom because I don’t know how that’s going to be taken.”
On the sexuality spectrum, bisexuals are the least-likely to come out to their loved ones. Erasure in society becomes easier to perpetuate with 84 percent of bisexuals having opposite-sex partners and 9 percent dating someone of the same sex. Lopez said portrayals of bisexual characters in mainstream media often focus primarily on sex. Bisexuals are feared by straight individuals both in and outside of media, and aseuxals are forgotten in general.
“Especially with straight men … I’m sorry but if you’re a woman coming out as bisexual, you’re automatically oversexualized,” Lopez said. “Then again, if you’re a male coming out as bisexual, you are feared by straight men because of homophobic reactions.”
Ithaca College offers bisexual and asexual students with counseling, clubs and other resources, building safe spaces for them. On campus, four different LGBT organizations exist: Created Equal, Athlete Ally, Prism and Spectrum, with Spectrum focusing on bisexuality.
“I am heartened to say that on this campus, I do see lesbian and gay students who have somewhat of an understanding of this,” Maurer said. “I don’t think the majority of the LGBT community as a whole holds these views. … I sometimes hear lesbian and gay students come in with their friends or their peers and say, ‘I’m here to support my bi friend. They experience bi erasure, and how can I help them as an ally?’”