Bye Bye, Biphobia
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I realized that I was bisexual in June 2020 and confessed this sin nonchalantly to my friends over a serving of garlic knots and chicken nuggets at our local pizzeria. It was such a simple coming-out that I could barely call it one. I’d imagine that a proper coming-out consisted of a big, grand display, a bold declaration of my own self-discovery, and an action that required thought and realization, instead of a brief comment made on the outdoor patio of Toskana Pizza. Yet with a simple, “Oh yeah, I’m bi, by the way,” I’d easily cemented a previously hidden part of myself into the world, and it was a new feeling.
Looking back, it made sense that I told my friends so casually: I’d been dropping hints for months. I said I’d date women the same way I’d date men. I had the same crushes on both men and women. Bisexuality had felt so naturally ingrained; appreciating people of all genders felt normal. I’d debated the difference between simply thinking women were pretty and genuine attraction for months. Yet when I truly contemplated the idea of bisexuality, I found that the label stuck. I wonder if this discovery period was the result of stereotypes that surround bisexuality online, so much so that I had doubted such a core part of my identity. After all, I’d dated men in the past and found myself wondering if that made my own sexuality less valid.
This questioning is not uncommon, as bisexuals often share similar experiences of confusion due to untrue ideas surrounding bisexuality. It’s seen as invalid across many fields because it’s neither “gay enough” nor “straight enough,” because it plays into kinks such as group sex, and because it allows bi people to have “more options” and therefore supposedly be more likely to cheat. These notably problematic and harmful ideas are biphobia in its most immediate form and are expressed by heterosexual and homosexual people alike.
Despite the B in LGBTQ+ standing for bisexual, there is an inherent denial of bisexual validity. For many people, the way bisexuality treads the line is unfathomable, because they believe bisexual people have to fit into the label of either gay or straight. Bisexual people feel excluded from both groups, since they do not fit clearly into either field; for instance, titles like “gold star lesbian” (an idealization of lesbian women who have never had relationships with men) intentionally excludes bisexual women from being welcomed within the queer community. Bisexual people are frequently considered either gay or straight depending on the gender of their partners, invalidating their sexuality completely.
Furthermore, biphobia manifests in other forms, especially stereotypes and stigmatization. There is a persistent trend of hypersexualization, particularly among bisexual women, who are often harassed, fetishized, and regarded as existing only to fulfill kinks such as threesomes. Approximately half of bisexual women have experiences with rape, and almost three-quarters have experienced sexual assault.
The hypersexualization further manifests itself in the fact that bisexual women and men alike are regularly seen as “more promiscuous,” since they are interested in a larger group of people. However, this view is incorrect: bisexual people are not more likely to cheat than heterosexual or homosexual people, and this promiscious stereotype fetishizes bisexuality.
Biphobia leads to a higher level of depression and anxiety in bisexual people than in people who identify as heterosexual or homosexual. A major cause of this difference is the prominent feeling of isolation that comes with being denied a place within the queer community. Bisexuals typically display higher likelihoods of experiencing identity invalidation, because they often feel unwelcome, ignored, or invalid within both queer and heterosexual circles.
There is possibility for change. Biphobia can be counteracted by creating a more open environment for bisexual people, not just within the straight community, but also within queer spaces. Not treating bisexual individuals as merely “confused” or “in a phase” is a good place to start, and not assuming that a bisexual person has finally “picked a side” because of a relationship is a thought process that should be normalized. Bisexual individuals, especially those who are women, should not be immediately assumed to exist solely to fulfill kinks, and it should be recognized that bisexuals won’t just leave their partners to “experiment.”
I spent several months hesitating when it came to my own sexuality: I suppose internalized biphobia had in part led to that uncertainty. I am someone who prioritizes loyalty and who is monogamous. The consistent reminder of how society views bisexuality made it all the more clear to me how much I didn’t resonate with stereotypes. It was often difficult to find welcoming circles to question my sexuality without feeling as if I had to pick a side. But truthfully, I am bisexual—through and through—and calling out my own internalized biphobia has allowed me to embrace that wholly. Bisexuality isn’t just a step to realizing you’re fully straight or fully gay. It’s a valid sexuality that demands equal respect.