Bisexual community in Venezuela waging constant battle against misinformation
By Carlos Seijas Meneses
Caracas, Feb 8 (EFE).- Arquimedes Reyes, a 27-year-old Venezuelan bisexual activist, says he has to wage a daily struggle against labels and biases that distort the reality of his orientation.
Whether on the street, in different public spaces or on social media, he regularly hears and reads comments that criticize members of his community as “confused” or “promiscuous.”
“They’re always telling me that,” he told Efe. “That’s the result of ignorance and misinformation. They’re not looking to clarify doubts about bisexual people, but rather they assume things that aren’t correct due to prejudice.”
Reyes said that from a very early age he felt attracted to both men and women and therefore never identified as either gay or heterosexual, even though members of his own family and schoolmates tried to stick one of those labels on him.
Those prejudices led him to shut himself off from the people around him, a decision that subsequently “triggered problems of self-esteem, problems of ego, which later provoked a ton of insecurities … that continue to cause a certain level of personal harm.”
People generally “have difficulty understanding or don’t accept that there’s something beyond heterosexuality and homosexuality,” he said, adding that “they’re always looking to” deny those other realities and pigeonhole people.
“People keep trying to invalidate bisexuality because if you like men, you can’t like women; if you like women, you can’t like men. And what’s more, if you have experiences with both men and women, they’re looking to see who you go out with more or who you have more experience with to tell you if you’re gay or hetero, but not bisexual,” Reyes said.
Venus Peña, 26, told Efe it was difficult for her to recognize herself as a bisexual, a word not even in her lexicon when, as a teenager, it became apparent she was attracted to both sexes.
That process of self-awareness was less smooth and straightforward, she believes, because she comes from a “closed and religious” society.
“Venezuela is a very religious country … and it was very, very tough for me, not only because of my surroundings, the culture, but also because there aren’t any bisexual” reference points in society.
That changed when she traveled to Brazil just before turning 18 and encountered a level of diversity she had never seen in her homeland and met people she could identity with instantly.
It was then that she first encountered the term “bisexuality,” which she says best describes her sexual orientation.
“That’s why sometimes I say that Venezuela didn’t give me that push” toward self-awareness, the philosophy student said.
Peña added that she has received the support of her parents and brother but that for other members of her family bisexuality “doesn’t exist.”
Reyes, for his part, says “one of the ways of combating this misinformation and ignorance is through education” and to that end he is giving workshops on comprehensive sexuality and sexual and reproductive rights.
He also has started taking his bisexual activism to the street to try to change people’s perceptions.
“One of the things I started doing was taking this banner of ‘I’m bisexual’ to public spaces, not as a way of saying ‘hey, I’m cool because I’m bisexual,’ but rather to say that ‘I exist and deserve respect,'” he said. “While keeping the conversation going, while combating those jokes, those comments … I feel like we’re bringing about change.”
Reyes’ activism also extends to social media, where he publishes “informational content” about sexual rights, stigmas and discrimination on different platforms.
And he says that when he hears jokes or other comments about bisexuality he tries to use those occasions as “an opportunity to inform” and correct misperceptions. EFE