So, what is biphobia? This is a question I field fairly often, not that surprising that I’m the current Vice President of the Bi-Alliance Victoria committee, especially when we participate in media outreach, and arguing about the validity of bisexuality on the interwebs. So definitions, there are some handy ones recently put together by a UK study, and a US study – which has just been approved by the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Advisory Committee (LGBTAC), an officially chartered body of the City and County of San Francisco.
This is the first time a governmental body in the United States has approved and released a report of this kind on the indiscernibility of bisexuals and bisexuality in social and civic life. (from here)
So biphobia, defined in the US Study as follows:
Bisexual invisibility is one of many manifestations of biphobia. Others include:
- Assuming that everyone you meet is either heterosexual or homosexual.
- Supporting and understanding a bisexual identity for young people because you identified “that way” before you came to your “real” lesbian/gay/heterosexual identity.
- Automatically assuming romantic couplings of two women are lesbian, or two men are gay, or a man and a woman are heterosexual.
- Expecting a bisexual to identify as gay or lesbian when coupled with the “same” sex/gender.
- Expecting a bisexual to identify as heterosexual when coupled with the “opposite”sex/gender.
- Believing that bisexual men spread HIV/AIDS to heterosexuals.
- Believing that bisexual women spread HIV/AIDS to lesbians.
- Thinking bisexual people haven’t made up their minds.
- Refusing to accept someone’s self-identification as bisexual if the person hasn’t had sex with both men and women.
- Expecting bisexual people to get services, information, and education from heterosexual service agencies for their “heterosexual side” and then go to gay and/or lesbian service agencies for their “homosexual side.”
- Feeling bisexuals just want to have their cake and eat it too.
- Assuming a bisexual person would want to fulfill your sexual fantasies or curiosities.
- Thinking bisexuals only have committed relationships with “opposite” sex/gender partners.
- Being gay or lesbian and asking your bisexual friends about their lovers or whom they are dating only when that person is the “same” sex/gender.
- Assuming that bisexuals, if given the choice, would prefer to be in an “opposite” gender/sex coupling to reap the social benefits of a so-called “heterosexual” pairing.
- Assuming bisexuals would be willing to “pass” as anything other than bisexual.
- Believing bisexuals are confused about their sexuality.
- Feeling that you can’t trust a bisexual because they aren’t really gay or lesbian, or aren’t really heterosexual.
- Refusing to use the word bisexual in the media when reporting on people attracted to more than one gender, instead substituting made-up terms such as “gay-ish.”
- Using the terms “phase” or “stage” or “confused” or “fence-sitter” or “bisexual” or “AC/DC” or “switch-hitter” as slurs or in an accusatory way.
- Assuming bisexuals are incapable of monogamy.
- Feeling that bisexual people are too outspoken and pushy about their visibility and rights.
- Looking at a bisexual person and automatically thinking of her/his sexuality rather than seeing her/him as a whole, complete person.
- Not confronting a biphobic remark or joke for fear of being identified as bisexual.
- Assuming bisexual means “available.”
- Thinking that bisexual people will have their rights when lesbian and gay people win theirs.
- Expecting bisexual activists and organizers to minimize bisexual issues (such as HIV/AIDS, violence, basic civil rights, military service, same-sex marriage, child custody, adoption, etc.) and to prioritize the visibility of so-called “lesbian and/or gay” issues.
- Avoiding mentioning to friends that you are involved with a bisexual or working with a bisexual group because you are afraid they will think you are a bisexual.
The UK report defines biphobia as (and I’ve formatted it for WordPress so you don’t have to):
- Questioning the existence of bisexuality or of certain groups (e.g. bisexual men, bisexual people of colour).
- Believing that bisexual people should ‘make their mind up’ or ‘stop sitting on the fence’.
- Seeing bisexual people as ‘confused’ about their sexuality.
- Assuming that people will either be heterosexual or lesbian/gay.
- Referring to ‘homophobia’ rather than ‘homophobia and biphobia’ when speaking of negative attitudes, behaviours and structures in relation to LGB people.
- Referring to ‘same gender’ relationships as ‘lesbian relationships’ or ‘gay relationships’ and ‘other gender relationships’ as ‘heterosexual relationships’, as this misses the fact that such relationships may include one or more bisexual people. This applies to words like ‘couples’ and ‘parents’ as well as ‘relationships’.
- Assuming people’s sexuality on the basis of their current partnership (straight if they are with someone of an ‘other gender’ and lesbian/gay if with someone of the ‘same gender’).
- Assuming that attraction to more than one gender, or identifying as bisexual, is a phase on the way to a heterosexual or lesbian/gay identity.
- Questioning a person’s bisexuality unless they have had sex with more than one gender (heterosexuality is rarely similarly questioned before somebody has had sex with someone of an ‘other gender’).
- Pressuring bisexual people to become lesbian/gay and/or only recognising their ‘same gender’ partners.
- Providing no bisexual-specific services but expecting bisexual people to use a combination of heterosexual and lesbian/gay services.
- Claiming to speak for LGB, or LGBT people, and then failing to include ‘B’ in the name or mission statement of a group, neglecting bisexual-specific issues, and/or dropping the ‘B’ within materials.
- Allowing biphobic comments to go unchallenged when homophobic comments would be challenged.
- Assuming that bisexuality is an acceptable topic for humour in a way that lesbian/gay sexualities are not.
- Prioritising lesbian and/or gay issues over bisexual issues.
- Failing to engage with bisexual individuals or groups in relation to policy and practice.
- Asking lots of questions about a person’s bisexuality in ways which would be deemed offensive in relation to heterosexual, lesbian or gay sexuality.
- Viewing bisexual people as greedy, or wanting to ‘have their cake and eat it’.
- Seeing bisexual people as spreaders of diseases.
- Assuming that bisexual people are promiscuous or incapable of monogamy.
- Assuming that bisexual people are a threat to relationships/families.
- Believing bisexual people to be manipulative, evil or tragic.
- Thinking that bisexual people will always leave their ‘same’ or ‘other’ gender partners.
- Assuming that bisexual people can pass as heterosexual and are therefore privileged or taking the ‘easy option’.
- Denigrating the attractiveness of bisexual people.
- Viewing bisexual people only in terms of their sexual practices, for example as objects to fulfil sexual fantasies (such as threesomes).
- Assuming that bisexual people will be sexually interested in ‘anything that moves’.
Ok, so now you’ve had the run down on what biphobia is, and yes it is a very long list – but that’s ok, because I’m sure you don’t ascribe to every single one of these, and you only have to ditch the ones you may subscribe to, because living a biphobic free life is high on my agenda, and should be on yours too.
2012 was the first Melbourne Pride March that I walked in (since my first in 2007), that I did not hear one single biphobic comment, that I didn’t hear members of the crowd booing my group was we walked out and proud. The reason for this was the Bi-Alliance’s massive media campaign to combat biphobia in the LGBTIQ community. The fact that we had to work hard to educate and remind people that belittling a group was a sad thing in this day and age, especially after the fight that the gay and lesbian communities have had to be accepted by wider society. I find the amazing vitriol that is directed towards bisexuals in (often allegedly safe) queer spaces really upsetting. This tumblr perfectly illustrates the biphobia we face in queer spaces *trigger warning for biphobia*. The comments posted on samesame’s forum after another Bi-Alliance committee member posted regarding our new monthly discussion group is a local example of biphobia in the Australian queer community *again trigger warning for biphobia*
So if we’re not facing biphobia in queer spaces, we face it in the straight world. I’ve listened to stories from other bisexual community members of opposite sex potential partners finding out that they’re dating (whether first or 10th date) a bisexual, and them running screaming because:
- ARGH! Disease!
- They’ll never be satisfied and will leave for a same sex partner
- Bisexuals are icky
Unsurprisingly this really gets bisexual people down – no acceptance in the queer community and no acceptance in the straight community. Many bisexuals I know choose to not disclose their sexual orientation in order to be more successful at finding relationships, and pretty much all of them would prefer to be honest about who they are.
Then you have those who believe that if a man has any sexual contact with another man he must be gay because bisexual men don’t exist. I have a little clue here for those who believe that – bisexual men do exist. I am married to one and know several more. The men who have sex with men = gay is a very subtle form of homophobia as well as bisexual erasure.
Usually those who are saying that if a man has had any sexual contact with another man must be gay, would argue that they’re not at all homophobic and that gay men are completely cool. But to suggest that male to male sexual contact means that a man cannot identify as bisexual – because ew men sex, is to suggest that male to male sexual contact is undesirable and certainly makes said men unclean and not someone who should ever have sex with a woman ever again. It also suggests that penises are the be all and end all of sex. Once you’ve decided you like the penis, then you’re not going to choose any other option – or something. I don’t know, I’m not that good at unravelling bigoted thinking.
Us bisexuals are here, and we’re here to stay. We’ll slowly take on all the “Gay and Lesbian” organisations and demand that they change their names to be more inclusive of the entire QUILTBAG community. We’ll keep combating biphobia, bi-invsibility, bi-erasure and the negative stereotypes out there. But I need your help because we can’t do this on our own. I need you to challenge biphobic jokes, comments and beliefs when you hear or read them. The more voices that stand united on this issue, the more impact we will have. We definitely found this with our action to have a biphobic free Pride 2012, and the rest of the world awaits the same treatment.