Today I spoke with Portugese Irina Batalha about bisexsuality, since I had this interview in English I will write this post in English as well. I met Irina in Portugal at the QueerLisboa filmfestival where she worked. Because it was a gayfilmfestival and I was surrounded by (mostly) gays, I kind of assumed everybody including Irina was gay. When I got to know her better I found out this was not the case. We had some interesting conversations and she is the person introduced me to the Kingsey Scale which I used in several of my blogs.
I open our interview by asking my most obvious question; ‘What is bisexuality?’
‘Well on the first place, it’s a label you can use to define yourself. It means, on its most basic meaning, that you can be attracted to both men and women.’
What I am more curious about is the difference between bisexuality in the Netherlands and Portugal. Since she can’t compare the Netherlands and Portugal because she has never lived in the Netherlands I ask her what she thinks of the acceptation of bisexuality in Portugal. ‘As a woman, I’ve been at a privileged position. In Portugal I think the problem is not your “gayness”, but the “sluttyness” part of being bisexual. Most people assume it’s a phase and the assume I get to go to bed with a lot of people. The only time I felt a little discrimination was when I dated guys. When they understood it was not a phase, they took more distance. But I didn’t experiance much discrimination on the street because most people don’t assume I’m bisexual at all. It’s within the gay community that I find a little more discrimination, for being fake or undecided, or “experimenting.” There are also some differences between male bisexuality and female bisexuality, because I think they are viewed differently and differently accepted.’
At least Portugal is gay-friendly enough to have such a big public for a Queer filmfestival. But more important for me and my blog is the bisexual focus of the film festival. Was there even some specific attention to bisexuality at the film festival? According to Irina there wasn’t. ‘I think your movie was one of the few to focus on it. But I really think that as the only queer festival in Portugal it has always had this problem, that it is very focused on male homosexuality.’ I recognize this, and I can imagine why this is a fact. Irina confirms my presumption by answering the following: ‘The first reason is that there are not as much films about female homosexuality and bisexuality as there are of men. This has to do with feminism I think. White men, even being gay, tend to feel more entitled to speak up for their rights. to have a representation on the public space. And women tend to downplay the representation a little bit.’
Again let me narrow this down to the bisexuality subject. That leaves me with the question why the film festival is not focused on bisexual films as well, while there are so many bisexuals. ‘As for bisexuality it happens that you have the advantages of the straightness in you, and you can hide the disadvantages of homosexuality. Most people don’t feel the need to come out, let alone do activism or films. I think bisexuality might be one of the most under represented sexual orientations, compared to the number of people that actually are bisexual, because in a way you are part of the queer movement, and in a way you’re not. It depends on how you, individually deal with it. Most people don’t identify with the movement, don’t come out, shrug it off. If want to live the “straight lifestyle” with all the advantages it brings, to belong to a “majority” instead of a “minority, it’s easy to hide your bisexuality.”‘ So, that’s why Irina thinks there isn’t as much representation of bisexuality in films.’
In the beginning of the interview Irina said something about the differences between male bisexuality and female bisexualit. I would like to have some more explanation for this. ‘Bisexual men, I think are viewed with a little more prejudice than bisexual women but on the other hand they are taken more seriously. And when a guy comes out as bisexual, people tend to think he’s actually gay, trying to hide something. With women it’s the other way around, if they come out as bi, people tend to think she’s mostly straight and just experimenting. They think that it might be just a phase.’
Irina wants to end with saying she believes in more of a scale of bisexuality than of being bi or not. ‘Every sexuality is different. These therms are only labels you use to describe yourself to people. Sexuality is more complex than a name. Its interchangeable, volatile, and a work in progress just like your identity’
I couldn’t agree more with Irina on this subject and will be looking forward to see her and all the other nice people i’ve met next year in Lisboa when I will visit the film festival as a ‘visitor’.