Biphobia, from Within and Without
What is Biphobia, and how does it manifest itself? Biphobia is a hatred, dislike, prejudice, or disrespect towards people who identify as bisexual. Like homophobia, it can come from people outside of the LGBTQ community. It can similarly be internalized within people who are bisexual. Unlike homophobia, biphobia is prevalent among the rest of the LGBTQ community against the bisexual community. Biphobia commonly appears as jokes meant to degrade or disrespect the bisexual community and identity, doubts about whether people are “really” bisexual, attempts to force the person to “choose a side” (meaning date only people of one gender or the other), misconstruing people as gay or straight despite their statements about their identity, slurs, and more.
I experienced biphobia from people outside of the LGBTQ community when I came out to my parents. Immediately they asked if I was really just gay and was just trying to hide it. Since I am religious, they also immediately questioned my faith and thought that I must be planning on leaving the church. My parents were disappointed that my authentic self didn’t match who they always imagined I was. They were upset because they thought I would only be satisfied living a promiscuous life, constantly changing partners and participating in orgies. They struggled to grasp the idea that I could be attracted to men and women and remain in healthy committed relationships.
My parents regularly sent me articles over the next several months explaining that attraction to the same gender was artificial, a new fad, and dangerous. All factually incorrect. While I had initially been very comfortable and confident that I had found a label that described my experiences and feelings, under this constant barrage I was forced into a cycle of constant self-doubt. This self-doubt included new doubts toward my sexual orientation, but also my relationship with my religion, my relationship with my family, my ability to be faithful to a significant other, and more. Over time, and by establishing boundaries with my family, I eventually overcame those doubts. The self-imposed isolation and self-doubt is a pain that I wouldn’t wish on anyone. I count myself lucky for being able to resolve it without any permanent harm done to myself or my relationships.
Within the LGBTQ community I have experienced a less dramatic form of prejudice, but one that still isolates me and tries to control my identity. I have strongly felt pressure that I am not queer enough to belong, unless I date men or genderqueer people regularly. I feel pressure that if I only date people of the opposite gender, then aren’t I just really straight? If I’m not queer enough, then should I really have any authority or say about LGBTQ issues and representation? People think that I have it off easy, because I could just stay in the closet and hide forever and get married to someone of the opposite gender and just vanish. To that I ask, since when has living in the closet become a cool and lucky option? I will be judged no matter who I chose to be in a relationship in. Suddenly who I date has become a symbol of status within the community.
I don’t know when it became the business of anyone who I choose to date, but the fact is that by being bisexual I will live under constant scrutiny by people to see just how queer I am. People in the LGBTQ community will try to gate-keep and isolate me, and others, if we do not match their favorite vision of our identity. People outside of the community will be curious if I fit the stereotypes, send unsolicited invites to be part of a threesome, question if I am just trying to be cool or part of a fad, and judge how valid I am in my identity. Biphobia is controlling and invalidating. It is the attempt to force a person to match your view of who they should be, especially in a way that is convenient for you. Biphobia is the erasure of the third letter of the acronym, remembering people only as gay or straight. Biphobia is wrong. It is dangerous. It is the sexualizing and objectification of people for selfish motives.
The B is the third letter of the acronym, and I claim my right to remain in the LGBTQ community and live authentically.