Over the years I have been subjected to many biphobic remarks.
Biphobia is not just a specific expression of homophobia for folks who are “partly” gay. Biphobia comes from the queer community and straight community alike, and in my experience, is an expression of binary and either/or thinking that is so destructive to our world in many ways. These below are not even the worst; they are just the most revealing of what the hidden prejudices are against bi people.
Some folks say that “pansexual” is the identity of choice if you are attracted to people regardless of their sex or gender, and therefore want to reject the gender binary. I address this question more below, and assert why I still define myself as bisexual rather than pansexual, while challenging the gender binary. “Queer” can either be an umbrella term for the LGBTQ+ community, or it can be a shorthand for a more radical position that challenges heteronormativity.
1. “I was bisexual once too”
Maybe for some people, their identity feels more stabile in a different category than “bisexual” and inhabiting a different label now is their prerogative. But saying something like this is very patronizing and invalidating. A lesbian identified woman actually said this to me, at the Lexington Club, about ten years ago. I’m sure people are still saying it, and it needs to stop.
I have known I was bisexual since I was 16, and I am still bisexual. Honor how I choose to identify. Full stop.
2. “But what about monogamy?”
Nothing against poly—that’s a legitimate identity, as well. But bisexuality does not mean non-monogamous. Bisexual means a lot of different things to a lot of different people, some of whom are monogs, some of whom are poly. Conflating bi and poly is just inaccurate.
3.“Doesn’t the word ‘bisexual’ reinforce the gender binary”?
This issue has had a lot of blog time. A great article to check out for a deeper exploration of this complex topic is: Words, Binary, and Biphobia: Or Why “Bi” is Binary but “FTM” is Not. For now, I’d like to take the opportunity to come out as a genderqueer bisexual, therefore detonating all your counterarguments by the mere fact of my existence.
4. “I’m afraid to date bisexuals because I think they will leave me for someone with a different body than I have.”
Don’t let your insecurity ruin a potentially awesome relationship with a rad bisexual. You know biphobia is so insidious that I myself am a loud proud bisexual and have been for years, but I am now in a relationship with another bisexual, and these fears still float around my brain! People have a whole host of biases to bisexuals due to the way bisexuals are portrayed in our culture and media, chief among them is this myth that we are unable to be satisfied sexually with one partner, or that we’re in denial about our “actual” sexuality. This is biphobia specifically and not just homophobia because it is fearful of the “both, and” reality of bisexual existence and comes from gay people and straight people, and as I mentioned…from bisexuals too! So don’t feel bad about it if you have insecurity/fear. Our culture is biphobic, so absorbing it makes sense, just as absorbing sexism or any other ism makes sense.
Even me, who has rallied against the bullshit for years—I sometimes succumb. Just be vigilant and undo your internalized biphobia. See it as an act of resistance against an ugly part of dominant culture, just as you would undo various other internalizations. That’s what I have to do, too.
5.“But who do you really prefer? Who do you think you’ll end up with?”
A gay man once asked me this, prying into various levels of my physical attraction vs. emotional affinity for “men” and “women,” ultimately trying to come away with a crystal ball answer of who I’d end up with, as if my future happiness was more uncertain than his and I needed his counsel. He asked who I was more sexually attracted to—“men” or “women.” My answer? It depends. Who am I more emotionally drawn to—“men” or “women.” My answer? It depends. The fact that my desire and emotional attachment has some complexity does not mean it is any less valid, and its layers do not spell loneliness for me or any other person with my particular kind of attractions.
6.“So I guess you’re just kind of into everyone and everything, huh?”
Ugh. The everything that moves argument. I am drawn to people’s personality more than their physical appearance, although I do lust, too. There are plenty of people I would never want to mess with because of their behavior, attitudes, beliefs, etc. I feel like my sexual and romantic preferences are pretty discriminating—I just don’t discriminate. By this I mean I discern who I want to be with by certain standards of compatibility and desire, but I also don’t rush to judgment about who I should get involved with based on their assigned birth sex or gender expression.
7.“If you’re actually into all genders, why not say pansexual or queer?”
I wrote an article “Queer vs. Bi: Why I’m Coming Back Around to Bisexual” . Briefly—pansexual and queer are probably more accurate in the strictest definitions for me, but I like to use “bisexual” because it is a word with important history, as well as currency in the straight world, which can be useful. I also think people shy away from “bi” within the LGBTQ community because of biphobia, and that just needs to stop.
[Feature Image: A photo of two people sitting on a bed. The person on the left has short hair and they are wearing glasses, a blue shirt on top of a white shirt and dark red pants. The person on the right has dark hair, glasses, an orange necklace, a grey tank top and green pants. They are smiling and their heads are leaning to the left. Source: Mushpa Y Mensa]