Biphobia

Bisexuals. The most misunderstood, ostracized, and, inexplicably, hated of all the sexual orientations. As gay and lesbian rights are strengthened and their relationships normalized, biphobia increases. There are a lot of reasons for this, I think, and the specific reason depends on the group the biphobia is coming from, and believe me, it’s coming from all directions. In this post, I hope to describe some of the types of and motivations behind various instances of biphobia, as well as how to recognize it when you see it.

Bisexuals get the short end of the stick in pretty much every sexual grouping in terms of being judged or invalidated from the outside. In the context of our culture, most of us aren’t “allowed” to be bi at all. Think of the first bi person you ever met, or heard about, or read about, or saw on TV. What was this person like? I’d bet you ninety-nine cents that that person was female, white, and traditionally attractive. Society tells us that the only people who are “allowed” to be bi are pretty girls. Ugly girls are seen as not “truly bi,” but desperate. Boys are held to the most rigorous standards of the sexual binary. Trans and non-binary people are thought of by the greater society as exclusively gay, no questions asked.

So, let’s imagine for a moment that you are hypothetically this traditionally attractive girl. Congratulations, you can be bi! You’re bi, and enjoy getting your groove on with any human that you’ve got the feeling for. You’ve been out and proud for five years. Out of nowhere, you learn that your societal bi-pass has been revoked. WTF? Society views bisexuality as a “phase.” I’m sure you’ve heard that before. Bi girls, who society welcomes as beacons of “true bi” and “hotness,” are expected to go back to being straight after they’ve had their fun. A good popular culture example of this is Katy Perry’s breakout hit “I Kissed a Girl.” In the song, the narrator (who may or may not be Katy Perry, who knows—and, quite frankly, who cares?) kisses a girl—and likes it—even though she has a boyfriend. The song is clearly coded to convey that kissing a girl and being bi-curious is cool if you’re pretty, but you better beg your boyfriend’s forgiveness afterward and continue on that train to straighthood.

For bi boys, things can be even worse. Bisexual girls are validated in that their feelings are acceptable, if only temporarily. Bisexual boys are seen as jokes, as weak, lesser men because there is a perception that they are somehow refusing to come to grips with their “true” sexuality. Bisexual boys are, in the minds of our culture, gay boys who are too afraid to really come out. Sex in the City has made light of bisexual men by saying “bisexuality is a layover on the way to gay town.” Bisexual boys are routinely told that they cannot be attracted to members of both sexes, and that if they have even the smallest inkling of an attraction to other males, they’re gay.

Another incredibly damaging stereotype is that all bi people, want, more than anything, to engage in group sex. Look at all mixed-gender, mainstream, group sex porn. Ninety-eight percent of the time, there are two traditionally attractive girls and one dapper lad. Oftentimes, the male actor will sit back and watch the girls go at each other. It’s only okay to be bi if you’re doing it for the straight people, right? However, this phenomenon of misperception is not exclusive to straight dudes. I’ve seen many, many straight women who ask bisexual males to engage in threesomes with her and her husband/boyfriend/partner. This is no more acceptable than the other way around. I will never understand why straight people find it acceptable to view bisexual people as sentient sex toys, but they do.

If you’re bi, and you came out as bi in middle school, high school, or even college, you’ve fallen victim to this next misperception/foray into biphobia: the idea that bi people are easy. The stereotype goes that if you’re bisexual, you must really be desperate for a bone that you’ll take anybody. God forbid you try to turn down Mr. Downing His Eleventh Beer Fuckboy over there, he’ll respond, almost as if scripted, that he “thought you were bi.” Bisexuals do, by strictly a body count, have more options than monosexuals when it comes to selecting a sexual partner. Why, oh, why would that possibly make people think we can’t get any? That doesn’t make any logical sense.

There are two other derivations of the bi = easy fallacy. One is that bisexuals are greedy and unfaithful. The other is that bisexuals are kinkier than your average bear—well, um, person. The infidelity fallacy is probably the most universally dangerous one that bi people face. Sure, it can be annoying that straight boys think you want to have threesomes, but an intimate partner who believes you’re cheating with someone of another gender can get you killed. I really don’t know where this flawed logic came from, maybe it’s some kind of misunderstanding about the difference between polysexuals and polyamorists? It could be related to the idea that all bisexuals are down for group sex, which, in the larger society, is viewed as shaky morality at best. Either way, it exists, and it is dangerous. Just like in all of the facets of the monosexual community, there are some bisexuals who enjoy casual relationships, committed monogamous relationships, and polyamorous relationships. Not all of us want to date everyone or sleep with everyone. If we tell you we’re committed to you, believe us.

The other side of that coin is the completely false belief that all bisexual people are the kinkiest in the world. So, we’re attracted to all genders, does that inherently mean we like actually having sex in different ways than our monosexual peers? Not necessarily. I’m sure there are many bisexuals who are into kink, but I know just as many straight, gay, and lesbian kinksters.

Even the LGBT Q community is rough on bisexuals. These societal misperceptions have polluted even the queerest of the queer, which is both tragic and unfortunate, given that the whole idea of queerness is to rage against our socially constructed and divisive oppressors. Neither monosexual group in the queer community is guiltless on this. There are many lesbians who refuse to date and condescend to bisexual women. They back up this biphobia with empty statements about not wanting to touch a body a penis has touched. Some lesbians would even find dating a virginal bi girl anathema, as the idea of said girl leaving them for a man would be too distasteful. This is ridiculous.

Gay men take a somewhat different approach in biphobia toward other men. Many seek to convince a bisexual man that he isn’t actually bisexual; that social conditioning that attraction to a male body by another man, even if it isn’t exclusive, automatically equals gayness. This is, in the long run, less damaging than the scarlet-letter effect described above, but it is nonetheless unfair and damaging.

And now, we have arrived at the pinnacle of biphobia: semantics. Yes. I know that the Greek prefix ‘bi’ means two. I know that there are more than two genders. But you know what? Words, like humans, are malleable things. The meanings we give to words change over time. You wouldn’t be calling the very tasty grilled cheese you just had ‘awesome,’ if you were maintaining its original meaning (which would be literally in awe, like you’ve just seen the actual literal face of God or something). What’s more, the vast majority of humans fall into the dyadic sexual paradigm, and that’s really what we’re talking about when we’re talking about sexuality—although, there are, of course, many exceptions to that rule. About one out of every 2,000 births, in fact. But I’m guessing the Greeks didn’t have the capacity to do that kind of statistical analysis. It’s important to understand why our words originally meant what they did so that we can more easily fight back against those who would throw their dictionaries or etymology books at us. Words change, just as society and everyone in it does. To imply that because ‘bi’ means two that bisexuals cannot be attracted to, or aren’t attracted to, or hate transgender people is all out lunacy. And this is coming from someone who’s both proudly bi and proudly trans. When I, speaking in my capacity as a bisexual person, am lambasted for my perceived transphobia, I shake my head at how much semantics can derail discourse. (I’ll be writing an entire post, coming soon, on the discourse between bi-, pan-, and polysexual as orientations).

So there you have it, some common, pervasive myths about bisexuality that confidently hop over the line into full-blown biphobia. If you see something, say something.

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3 thoughts on “Biphobia

  1. Thanks for the thoughtful post! To be honest, the only person I know who’s bi is older… so no attractive girls or ones presumed to go through a phase, sorry.

    It reminded me of something I read a while ago though, about Willow being classified as lesbian rather than bisexual being a kind of erasure?

    And I’ve been looking at Kinsey’s model (where bisexuality’s in the middle) and Storm’s model (where bisexuality is one of four quadrants)… which one of these do you prefer, or is there another view on sexuality that better suits what you experience?

    Since I identify as demisexual, the primary-secondary attraction model suits me best simply because that’s where there’s space for me.

    1. Personally, I’m partial to Kinsey’s model, although his work is extremely outdated and flawed in many respects. I prefer Kinsey’s model of sexuality because it is closest to my experience and the experience/observations I’ve gathered from others around me. The idea that sexuality is both fluid and part of a larger continuum (for those on the sexual spectrum, even Kinsey separated those who are asexual from his scale). According to Kinsey’s model, bisexuals don’t have to be attracted to all genders equally, but there is room for nuance, which I think is good.

      1. Good point, nuance is a good thing 🙂 I noticed that one of his strengths is that he presumes people change, and can be anywhere along a sliding scale.

        Thanks!

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