What is biphobia? Contrary to what some people might assume, it has nothing to do with having a fear of bicycles, binoculars, or even bifocals. If you’ve read this fortnightly column before and know what the B in LGBT stands for, you’ll know it’s to do with bisexual people.
There are a lot of misconceptions about bisexuals and bisexuality floating around in the world. Bisexuals are greedy. They always cheat. They love orgies. While any of these might be true for a select few, they certainly aren’t true in general.
Biphobia is the fear, hatred or distrust of bisexuals, often manifested by the spread of these untruths as fact. As a result, a lot of people aren’t aware that biphobia exists, and there are some who will even vehemently deny that it does. Although I often wish that they were right, ignoring an issue never fixes it.
The vast majority of the time that I’ve mentioned to people that I’m bi, I’ve heard a biphobic remark within the next few sentences. Most people don’t even realise when they’re being biphobic, and will protest when it’s pointed out to them.
For example, when I first told a friend from one of my tutorials that I was bi, the first thing they asked me was if I’d had a threesome. When I said no, and that I didn’t intend on it, they told me that I wasn’t really bisexual.
That’s not the only time I’ve been told that, but it’s still a shock to hear it. What makes it worse is that, upon correcting him and saying that his definition of bisexual was wrong, he insisted that he knew better, as “I’ve seen them on TV, and that’s what they always say.”
This image of bisexuals is probably the most common, and it goes hand in hand with the myth that everyone who is bi is just greedy. I know for a fact that I’m not the only bi person who is sick of hearing that word by now.
Apparently, being bi “widens your catch,” so bisexuals are just trying to get with as many people as possible? I know, it doesn’t make sense to me either. I mean, aren’t you more likely to see someone trying to hook up with lots of people in Coppers than in the George?
Bisexuals are often seen as promiscuous, or almost guaranteed to cheat on a partner. Why should the fact that we can like different genders mean that we must therefore cheat? In the Broadway musical Rent, the only bisexual character, Maureen, is often referred to as having cheated. This is only ever said by the bitter ex-boyfriend and the jealous, possessive current girlfriend. Could it be that they’re insecure about their ability to keep someone as talented as Idina Menzel?
A friend of mine recently started calling me a “half-gay.” While it may be close to the truth, it does make it seem as if I’m straddling the fence between straight and gay, almost indecisively. Plenty of friends of mine have experienced something similar and have even been told, as I have, that we have to “pick a side.”
Apparently it’s physically impossible for anyone to like people of more than one gender. This has got to be the most ridiculous thing ever. Should all my friends have to be the same gender? Do I have to pick between driving and cycling? Can I only like either biscuit or cake? Yes, at any one instant, I might prefer one over another, but why do I have to be limited to liking just one forever?
Worse again is when bisexuals are assumed not to be bi when they’re in a relationship. Even on “the scene”, this is quite bad. On the straight scene, you’re assumed to be straight. On the gay scene, you’re gay. Unfortunately for many, there is no significant bisexual scene or social group in Ireland, unlike in some other countries such as Britain, where BiCon, an annual convention for bisexual people, is a major event.
Worryingly enough, biphobia has even cropped up in Glee, a TV show known for combating homophobia. In a recent episode, one of the characters is told that she never had a real lesbian relationship, as all her previous girlfriends were “only bi,” implying that being a lesbian is somehow better than being bi.
For fans of the older seasons, try to recall when Kurt said, “Bisexual is a term that gay guys in high school use when they want hold hands with girls and feel normal.” That could have been ok, except for the fact that nobody has ever called him out on it in the show.
Even the new Netflix series Orange is the New Black has a bisexual main character who is constantly referred to as being either straight or a lesbian. Considering how many issues are dealt with in that show, it is rather disappointing that this is never explicitly discussed.
Although it is quite rare, something irritates me even more is the biphobia from inside the LGBTQ+ community itself. The point of there being a community is that we support each other, right? There are people who don’t identify as either male or female, breaking the gender binary, and some of them feel that people who use the term bisexual reinforce that gender binary.
Clearly those people have never seen the Bisexual Pride flag. This flag has a pink strip for homosexual attraction, a blue strip for heterosexual attraction and a third, purple, strip in the middle to signify attraction to people of non-binary gender identity.
Hopefully this piece has helped some of you understand what bisexual people can be offended by, and what bi is not. For those of you who were expecting this article to be full of terrible puns on the word bisexual, you should all bi ashamed of yourselves.