Humor and Visibility: A Chat With the Person Behind #BisexualFacts

 

After we quickly published an article reacting to the #BisexualFacts hashtag on Twitter,  Nico D, or @verylemonade called us out on getting some of our facts wrong and for not crediting her role in helping start this humorous iteration of the hashtag. We are truly glad she did and, wanting to help set the record straight and learn more, we asked if she would be willing to do an interview about #BisexualFacts. Luckily for us, she agreed.

Ben Valentine: You mentioned that the hashtag is actually three years old; do you know how it started? Has it always been a tongue-in-cheek thing?

Nico D: It was first used 3 years ago, but only as part of an old straightforward bisexual Twitter account. Not sure how much it was really used prior to yesterday.

So in essence, it was probably used for actual facts, occasionally? Not sure but that’s what I was told. Not jokes at all. So I think the real problem is I didn’t think up something a little more unique but I think the non-wackiness of the tag is what makes the jokes even more funny if you really think about it.

BV: What moved you to re-launch this hashtag? (I see you mentioned a comedian and Tom Daley, but could you expand a bit?) Why do you think it got so much traction this time?

ND: I didn’t re-launch so much as borrow a pretty common sense hashtag and make it into a joke about bisexuals. The reason I did was because of a comedian I caught being shitty about Tom Daley with some pretty annoying jokes.

[Editor's Note: The Daily Dot has reported a bit more on the origins of the hashtag, pointing at tweets from Vanity Fair columnist Richard Lawson. Nico emailed us to confirm this, and we've included some of those tweets here.]

There was a tweet where someone [alluded] to how “all the bisexuals were going to get mad” and he responded about “What, all six of them” which is where I originally got the absurd idea for the hashtag. Like somehow there were only six real bisexuals on the planet and other myth weirdness.

I think it got traction because it was such a perfect moment, especially with Tom Daley (and Maria Bello too) coming out publicly as having mixed gender relationships and with everyone losing it over that kind of admission from celebrities, I think people really just wanted to get a good laugh out of how we often feel as queer or bisexuals, pansexuals. We often feel invisible, mythical (bisexual people are often referred to as unicorns, too!) and this was like one of those dark humor moments, I think.

BV: Expanding on this idea of invisibility, would you be comfortable unpacking that feeling more? I don’t have direct experience with it and would like to be more educated.

ND: Bisexual, pansexual and queer people [whose] sexual identities don’t fit neatly in the “gay or straight” dynamic really do get lost in the shuffle. Bisexual people are constantly laughed at as merely the “transition” before becoming “actually gay” like we’re all just half-way finished or something or forgotten entirely. People perceive someone’s sexuality based entirely on the gender of the person they are dating at the moment, hence why Tom Daley dating a man is labeled as “gay” – it is a binary that is pretty false and further erases the experiences of queer, bisexual and pansexual people. I, as a woman, can date a man and appear straight when I’m not and never have been. Same goes with dating a woman and being labeled as a lesbian.

All of this contributes to this idea that we’re not real, because our experiences and existences are rolled into other people’s or not considered at all. Or considered to be some transitory position.

BV: You tweeted earlier about choosing humor as a way to address this particular instance of bi-invisibility. What role do you see humor playing in addressing queer representation in the media? (We’ve seen this is the Barilla pasta meme, and often in the HRC Facebook meme)

ND: I think humor is one of the best ways (aside from actual serious criticism and discussion) to poke fun at ridiculous, inflammatory and oppressive ideas if you are an oppressed person. Satire came from the burning heart of oppressed classes to take the wind out of those who were in power and I think that’s still consistent now. Queer people standing up and making jokes not only gets the message out that “Hey, We’re here! And we’re in charge of our own image!” but tackles it in a way that relieves us of some of the pain we experience on a regular basis. I won’t say being a queer person myself is a walk in the park some days, but getting to crack jokes with thousands of other Twitter people made me feel less alone for a while. Laughing together always beats being sad by yourself.

BV: Do you think blogs/social media/hashtags/memes are a viable way to get the stories and voices usually left out of mainstream media finally heard? How do you think instances like #BisexualFacts will change mainstream media and culture?

ND: I truly believe blogs/social media/hashtags/memes are a viable way of getting stories and voices that are usually left out of mainstream media heard. (If media chooses to credit, that is. There’s been a growing problem of hashtags not being credited to people who started them.) I got into feminism 5 years ago after being exposed to it via Livejournal, Twitter and other forms of modern social media. Some of the best at-the-moment social justice activism is done entirely via people having conversations on Twitter or talking about their lives on blogs. People getting to relate to each other and see each other coming to these topics in an honest, personal way is much more eye-opening than [a conversation conducted] entirely academically. If many people who are oppressed in some way, or erased by traditional media narratives can get their words out in other places that don’t have gatekeeping, then that’s where you’re going to hear those voices.