What Does It Mean to Be Biphobic?
Biphobia is the idea that monosexuality is superior.
Biphobia is more than just an internal belief, it is a widespread belief that results in violence against people who are bisexual.
Biphobia can be understood by understanding what bisexuality means.
“By far the most popular definition of bisexuality comes from Robyn Ochs,” says bisexual activist Shiri Eisner, author of “Bi: Notes For A Revolution.”
To summarize: People who are bisexual have the potential for romantic and/or sexual attraction to people of more than one gender, not necessarily at the same time, not necessarily in the same way, and not necessarily to the same degree.
Biphobia could be experienced by anyone who identifies with this definition.
But so could anyone who bigots think is bisexual — or not monoosexual — due to how they dress, who they sleep with, who they have dated, or who they spend time with.
“The only way to know if someone is gay is if they tell you. You can’t tell someone’s identity based on their fashion choices, sexual history, or dating tendencies.”
Also: No sexuality has a specific look. However, systemic misogyny (oppression against women), heterosexism (oppression against people who are not heterosexual), and transphobia (hatred for trans and nonbinary individuals) has led people to believe otherwise.
For people who are bisexual, the term biphobia can be a validating way to name the injustices, inequities, and acts of violence, both big and small, that happen in their day-to-day life specifically because they are bisexual.
Biphobia vs. bimisia
Some people prefer the term bimisia to biphobia.
Why? The meaning of the wordphobia is that it means fear of. Some people think this shirks responsibility from those who are actually doing the violence.
The blame for hatred and aversion is solely on the hater.
Biphobia is one of the terms that describes oppression someone faces because of their sexuality.
There is also:
- Polyphobia is a fear.
- The word queerphobia is used.
Biphobia can be similar to panphobia, polyphobia, and queerphobia, with people being discriminated against because they are attracted to more than one gender.
“Homophobia can present differently. It’s usually when a person expresses their attraction to someone of a similar gender.”
To understand how biphobia and homophobia can affect bisexual people, we need to look at two examples, one featuring a made-up bisexual woman and the other a man.
“If a waiter sees a woman and another on a date, and they don’t get a good reception, they are experiencing homophobia.”
If her friend spills the deets when she calls, the friend will say something like, “Casey! Make a decision! Biphobia is when you are into boys or girls and you are back to women.
Biphobia vs. panphobia
There is a lot of overlap between Biphobia and Panphobia. There is one way that panphobia plays out that is not the same as biphobia.
While the definition of bisexual does (and has!) included non-binary people, the misconception that bisexuality is inherently transphobic can cause bi folks to face the specific violence of being told that they’re transphobic (even when they’re not).
“There’s this idea that bisexuality perpetuates the gender binary, and bi people are only attracted to men and women,” says Zachary Zane, sex expert, journalist, and founder of BoySlut. “That isn’t the case one bit! Bisexuality is inclusive of all genders.”
You could use a broader term for monosexism.
Eisner says that bisexuality is an aspect of the broad system of monosexism.
Monosexism is the hatred and hostility anyone who has the potential to be romantically and sexually attracted to more than one gender faces as a result of their sexuality.
It covers the prejudice against bisexual, pansexual, polysexual, omnisexual, and queer people.
She says that monosexism can lead to biphobia, including bisexual erasure, discrimination against bisexual people, and behavior towards people who they are attracted to.
Some bisexual activists prefer the term bimisia to biphobia, while others prefer monosexism to either term.
Why? The term monosexism shows that the prejudice against bi people is systemic.
Eisner says that one of the main ways biphobia shows up is through bi-erasure.
Bi-erasure is the false belief that bisexuality is not real. It is believed that anyone who claims to experience attraction to more than one gender is lying.
Biphobia is often a symptom of bi-erasure, and most of its expressions in daily life are intangible.
Biphobia can be seen in the form of explicit exclusion, and can also be seen in the form of explicit dismissal.
The below comments and questions are indicative of biphobia.
- You are not bisexual because you only dated men.
- You are just going through a phase! I had a slutty phase in college.
- “Okay, but how do you know you’re bisexual if you’ve only ever been with women?”
- You are a lesbian because you are married to a woman now.
- I could not date someone who was bisexual. I would be worried that they would cheat on me.
- Men can not be bisexual. That is a chick thing.
Unfortunately, it can.
Bi people may be harassed, have their bisexuality fetishized, or encounter people who refuse to date them in both straight and LGBT environments.
“Bi people in the LGBT+ community might argue that they shouldn’t be allowed to access community spaces and resources because they are monosexual.”
These jabs can be life-changing.
“The consequences of biphobia show up in the health disparities, high rates of poverty, high rates of suicidality, poor health and mental health, and in the extremely high rates of sexual violence that bi people face,” says Eisner.
Bisexual and polysexual individuals internalize the harmful things society has told them about themselves.
Bisexuals might internalize some of the harmful things.
- Bisexuality is not real.
- Bisexuality is greedy and bad.
- Bisexuals are unfaithful.
- “Bisexuals can’t be in happy relationships.”
- Bisexuals are just homosexuals who are not aware of it.
- Bisexuals are interested in attention.
The result? “It’s common for people who have internalized biphobia to stay closeted, feel like imposters, or constantly doubt their own sexuality, says Zane.
It’s also common for people to feel like they’re “bad bisexuals” if their behaviors or desires are in line with the stereotypes often associated with bisexuality, Eisner says.
A bisexual who enjoys threesomes or who yearns for a monogamous relationship, for example, might feel that they’re bad at being bisexual.
Eisner says that some people internalize social biphobia by feeling that they have no place in the world, that they have no value, or that they are not worthy of love.
Affirmative of their identity and lived experiences is what they should do first. It may sound trite, but statements like, “I believe you,” “that sounds really challenging,” and “I\’m here for you” can be incredibly loving and validation.
Encourage them to find community with other bi and polysexual individuals. Finding a bi community will help someone who is bi feel more included.
Social media can be a bad place to meet people, but it is an amazing way to connect with other bi people. He suggests using a social media platform to connect with people.
He says there are a number of pages on the internet dedicated to being bi.
If you are in a rural area, you can also use the term “bisexual meetups” because there is a bi community there.
“Be sure to support your bi friends even when they are not in the room. It means pushing back against jokes about bisexuals being unfaithful, reminding others that they can’t assume someone’s sexuality based on their current partner, and checking their dating history to see if they swiped past someone who was bisexual.”
How you address it will depend on what sphere of your life you are in.
For instance, if it’s happening at work you may choose to talk to HR, while if you’re experiencing it within your friend group you may need to have some sit-down convos or enact some boundaries.
Eisner says that you are a gift to the world.
Listening and reading stories from bisexual people about their experiences with discrimination and injustice is the best way to learn about biphobia.
Bi people can listen to and read some of the best memoirs and newsletters.
- “Greedy: Notes From A Bisexual Who Wants Too Much“by Jen Winston
- “Hunger: A Memoir of (My) Body” by Roxanne Gay
- “The Rules Do Not Apply” by Ariel Levy
- “Fairest: A Memoir” by Meredith Talusun
- “Giovanni’s Room” by James Baldwin
- The Bi-Monthly, a newsletter by Jen Winston
- BOYSLUT, a newsletter by Zachary Zane
- Selectively Slutty, a newsletter by Gabrielle Smith
- Bad in Bed, a podcast with Gabrielle Kassel and Bobby Box
- Queery, a podcast with Cameron Esposito
- We’re Having Gay Sex, a podcast with Ashley Gavin, Kate Sisk, and Gara Lonning
Gabrielle Kassel is a New York-based sex and wellness writer and CrossFit Level 1 Trainer. She’s become a morning person, tested over 200 vibrators, and eaten, drunk, and brushed with charcoal — all in the name of journalism. In her free time, she can be found reading self-help books and romance novels, bench-pressing, or pole dancing. Follow her on Instagram.