Slate advice columnist Emily Yoffe, better known as Dear Prudence, today responded to a bisexual reader's question about coming out by telling her to stay closeted.
A reader using the pen name "Irrelevant Closet" told the well-known writer she had just come to realize her sexuality, has already come out to a supportive husband, and wanted to know whether she should come out to family and friends. Prudence takes an unexpected route -- comparing her sexual orientation to various kinks and fetishes, and claiming that the woman's coming out as bi would be "discomfiting."
"Let's say you discovered a late breaking interest in plushophilia, or you now realized you were turned on by being a dominatrix," Prudence wrote. "This would not be news you'd be required to announce at the next Thanksgiving gathering. The rapidity with which society has accepted, even embraced, gay sexual orientation is a glorious phenomenon. But you are confusing your personal sexual exploration with a social imperative. It would be one thing if you left your marriage because you were pursuing relationships with women. That would be worth talking about -- if you wanted to -- as a way of explaining the dissolution of your marriage. But you say you are planning to not only stay with your husband, but remain monogamous. I agree with your husband that making a public announcement about something so private will not be illuminating but discomfiting."
Prudence has in the past given good advice when dealing with questions submitted by gay and lesbian readers, but clearly falls short in her knowledge of bisexuality. She conflates a sexual orientation -- something that determines your attractions -- with sexual acts or particular preferences, like being a "dominatrix" or enjoying "plushophilia," an erotic interest in stuffed animals.
Notably, Prudence doesn't draw these false equivalencies when discussing gay and lesbian people. In fact, her response seems to indicate that the reader's orientation would only be worth disclosing to family if she left her husband for a woman, recycling the oft-repeated myth that bisexuality is just a "stepping stone" on the way to being "full-blown gay."
If Prudence were to research bisexuality, she would know that bisexuals have a higher rate of mental health issues, suicide attempts, and self-harm than their homosexual peers. Studies have found that these disparities stem in part from the stress imposed by staying in the closet as well as experiencing biphobia and the erasure of bisexual's identity -- which Prudence so clearly engages in with her response.
Prudence's unfortunate response happened to be published on the one-year anniversary of Slate's LGBTQ section, Outward, and the same day The Advocatepublished a new series looking to dispel common misconceptions about bisexuality, including the myth that bisexuality is irrelevant if the partners are in a committed, monagamous relationship.