How not to be Biphobic

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As I write this, the spellcheck on my document is telling me the word ‘biphobic’ does not exist. Despite how much this irritates and angers me, the feeling is nothing new. Biphobia is the LGBT+ problem you probably haven’t heard of. Or, if you have, only heard it mentioned fleetingly in articles floating down your dash or in passing conversations. Contrary to (apparently) popular belief, the ‘B’ in LGBT+ is there for a reason. We exist. We are here. Hello! And no, it does not stand for ‘badass’… Well, maybe it does. But a lot of us tend to prefer ‘bisexual’ (though ‘badass’ is still acceptable). So, how much do we really know about bisexuality? About biphobia? From the experiences of myself and fellow bisexuals, apparently not a lot.

When we hear the word ‘homophobia’ we react accordingly, knowing (hopefully) that anything defined as such is offensive, insensitive, and downright wrong. So why is biphobia not afforded the same reaction? Simply because, for the most part, people don’t know what is defined as biphobic. I’ve heard people try to lump biphobia in with homophobia, as if the latter is some sort of umbrella term for all LGBT+ prejudices, but it’s simply not the case. Bisexuality is an entirely different identity with an entirely different set of problems and discrimination’s facing it. Biphobia is a word that exists for this exact reason. And we need to stop ignoring it. And the victims of it.

How Not to be Biphobic, Part One: Stop Pretending We Don’t Exist.

For those of you struggling with definition, bisexuality is the attraction to both male and female. See, that wasn’t so painful was it? In spite of making up over half of the LGBT+ collective (52%), we don’t get a lot of publicity or sympathy. Perhaps we could forgive people for not understanding our identity because of the lack of facts in mainstream media, but then we must ask why those facts are not present. Why we are we not given the same attentions as homosexuality? Why are we thought of as lesser? And it isn’t something that just comes from those outside of the LGBT+, in fact many bisexuals report that they have faced more discrimination from those within it, featuring the ever-popular but nonetheless mind-numbing idea that we have to ‘pick a side’. Bisexuality is not an identity that is ‘half-gay and half-straight’, we are not half of anything, we are wholly bisexual, and that identity is real and valid. So do stop trying to tell us otherwise.

Part Two: Stop Saying We Are Confused.

Refer back to ‘bi now, gay later.’ Or see, ‘It’s a phase’ or ‘you’re just closeted’. To any bisexuals reading this, I can feel your blood boiling from here. And trust me, mine is too.

For some people, yes, their bisexuality was a phase that lead them to their identity as gay, lesbian, or another part of the LGBT+. But like all things, one individual does not speak for the whole. Regardless of whether it’s a stepping stone or permanent home, bisexuality is to be as respected as any other identity. Not all of us are ‘just passing through’, and the constant – and at times, explicit – implication that we are is not only offensive but damaging. Imagine if someone told you that the house you lived in, had made a home in, supported and been supported by, was being repossessed. That’s how it feels to have someone else define your sexuality for you. So just don’t say it!

Part Three: We Are Not ‘Greedy’.

The notion of bisexuals as ‘greedy’ is widespread and infectious, and poisonous to boot. Just because we feel attraction to more than one gender does not mean that we want more sex than other people. The idea of ‘greedy bisexuals’ has to stop. Now. It often perpetuates the idea that bisexuals are more interested in sex and less capable of romance than other sexualities, but by far the main offender is that we are less capable of fidelity. A bisexual partner is not more likely to cheat on you than a partner who is attracted to one gender. Your sexuality does not determine your moral compass. 

Part Four: It’s Different for Both Men & Women.

When stereotypes of bisexual men and women come to mind, most will think of the overtly sexual woman who obviously will have a threesome with you, and of the man who is obviously gay but just hasn’t realised it yet or is in the closet. Get rid of these ideas. They are worn out and tiresome and awe-inspiring in their ignorance. Though these may be the case for some individuals, it goes back to the fact that one person does not define the whole. In todays society we are constantly breaking down barriers, definitions, traditions. The social constructs of gender are being taken apart piece by piece, stereotypes dismantled and tossed in the trash where they belong. So why is it still taking so long to do the same with sexualities? And why is bisexuality being held at the back of the queue in this revolution of identities? We’ve accepted and respect that a gay man is not obliged to be flamboyant or ‘camp’. We’ve accepted that a lesbian is not stereotypically ‘butch’ or masculine. So when is it the bisexuals’ turn?

Part Five: Don’t Stand For It.

Sometimes easier said than done, and for a hundred and one reasons. Discomfort in your identity around family, not wanting to upset friends, fear of creating tension at work. No matter the obstacle, the fact remains: Biphobia is discrimination. Whether you yourself are bisexual or you have bisexuals close to you in your life, do not stand for biphobia. Do not let people make idle jokes about how ‘they’ll be gay in a year’. Don’t let your friends jokingly tell you to just ‘admit’ to being gay. Don’t let people remain ignorant. Don’t just ‘not say something’ in the hopes that someone else will, because who knows how many people they could offend and upset between now and then. If bisexuality is to ever get the respect (and biphobia the dissent) it deserves, then we can’t wait for someone else to do it for us.

Part Six: Education Is Everybody’s Friend.

According to a report by MAP (Movement Advancement Project) bisexuals are six times more likely to be closeted than gay men or lesbians, 60% of bisexuals in the study also experienced biphobic jokes or comments in work, and are often found to have higher rates of discrimination, vulnerability to poverty, and mental illness than their gay and lesbian counterparts. There is also a distinct lack of publicity and support for bisexuals, as well as bisexual spaces (You ever heard of a bi bar? Nope, me neither.) And yet despite this information being readily available on the web, so little is done to advertise it. With no one effectively fighting in our corner it’s very much up to bisexuals to manufacture and distribute reports and educational materials about our identities and issues, but everyone can do a little bit to inform themselves and chip away at the ignorance we’ve passively accumulated as a society. Every little helps. Education and attention for bisexuality are the best ways to tackle biphobia. Too often in the LGBT+ people are cruel because they don’t understand. So with any luck, the more they do understand the less people will find themselves bullied for something as simple as embracing who they are.

We are the 52%. We are real, we are valid, we are here. And we aren’t going away or shutting up any time soon. We hope you’re with us.

(MAP’s report on Bisexual Issues can be found for download here. If you are bisexual and are looking for supportive community spaces then try sites such as BiNet or Bi.org)

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