Posts Tagged biphobia

A few words on biphobia, from the experts

I say “the experts”, there’s only one person cited here but still. I saw this floating around tumblr today and thought it was worth sharing.

“A primary manifestation of biphobia is the denial of the very existence of bisexual people, attributable to the fact that many cultures think in binary categories, with each category having its mutually exclusive opposite. This is powerfully evident in the areas of sex and gender. Male and female, and heterosexuality and homosexuality are seen as “opposite categories.” Those whose sexual orientation defies simple labeling or those whose sex or gender is ambiguous may make us profoundly uncomfortable. Thus, bisexuals create discomfort and anxiety in others simply by the fact of our existence. We are pressured to remain silent, as our silence allows the dominant culture to exaggerate the differences between heterosexual and homosexual and to ignore the fact that human sexuality exists on a continuum. It is much less threatening to the dominant heterosexual culture to perpetuate the illusion that homosexuals are “that category, way over there,” very different from heterosexuals. If “they” are extremely different, heterosexuals do not have to confront the possibility of acknowledging same-sex attractions within themselves and possibly becoming “like them.” There is considerable anxiety in being forced to acknowledge that the “other” is not as different from you as you would like to pretend.”
Robyn Ochs: Biphobia

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Biphobia Revisited (first hand)

It’s 6 a.m. I wanted to wait until tomorrow to post this but since I can’t sleep anyway I might as well post it now. Tonight I went to a club night organised by, and therefore also heavily attended by, some people I have classes with. All in all quite a good night, really, danced like crazy (I’m a terrible dancer but I have a great time when dancing badly), and really enjoyed myself. Until.

At the end of the night as the lights went up, a guy who I’ve had classes with since 2007, almost five years ago, started talking to me. As far as I know this is the first time he’s ever spoken directly to me, and certainly the first one-on-one conversation we’ve ever had, and it went like this:

He: “We’re trying to get you to make out with a girl. To prove that you’re actually bi.”
I: “Sorry? I have to prove my sexuality to you now?”
He: “Don’t be a dick, come on, don’t be a dick. ‘Cause you know, I’m quite openly gay…”
I: “Yeah, I know” (Everyone knows).
He: “Really? Oh… well. Anyway. I just find it really hard to believe that you’re not actually just gay”

At that point I think I walked away before the red cloud descended. Thank fuck, there was a close friend of mine at the same event who also happens to be pansexual, so I told her about it (and her inventive response was to shout his name across the dancefloor and then make out with me when he looked over, which backfired spectacularly when he tried to kiss her too).

I’ve written a little about biphobia before and how it seems to be more widespread within the LG-T community than in heterosexual society (Biphobia from other LG-T people just baffles me. They know better than most what it’s like to have your sexuality be an issue for you, for it not to be the norm, and the problems it can bring people. I suppose a minority need another minority to focus their issues on, perhaps? “Well we might be weird but at least we’re not as weird as those filthy bisexuals. They’re probably just confused or in denial anyway”), though I have to say this is the first time I’ve experienced something quite so insulting first hand. Come to think of it, what would he have said if I weren’t single? That I must be gay because I have a boyfriend? That I’m lying to myself and others by having a girlfriend? I don’t know what goes through these peoples’ heads. To have someone who is, essentially, a stranger, out of the blue start questioning you about your sexual preferences when they know full well how you identify, and for them to demand “proof” of that, is so infuriating I don’t even have the words to describe it. But let me just be clear.

I am, in a broad sense of the word, bisexual. I am attracted to, and have sexual and romantic encounters with, people of more than one biological sex. If someone’s attractive, they’re attractive, regardless of genitalia or the supposedly defining letter under “sex” on their passport. I’ve known I’m bisexual since my first year at high school, around the age of twelve; came out to friends when I was about 14 and family at 16. At university I’ve never pretended to be anything but bisexual, to anyone, for any reason; there’s no point in lying about your sexual preferences to someone. But you know what, it’s probably just a phase. After all, bisexuals don’t really exist. Compare this to someone, like this guy, who have been out for all of about two years – but he’s gay, so of course that couldn’t be just a phase. (I’m not trying to belittle his own coming out at all. Different things work for different people, and it’s not an easy thing for everyone (anyone?) to do).

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[I’ll say at the start, this is a huge topic for me that I could probably go on about at length for a long time, so don’t be surprised if this becomes a few separate posts]

No, I’m not talking about bad food combining. As I said in an earlier post, I identify fairly openly as bisexual and more privately as polysexual; whichever way you dice it, I’m not a monosexual (in this post I’ll be using the word ‘bisexual’ to cover any sort of non-monosexuality, not because I think this is a good way to deal with it but because it’s the term most people are familiar with). This carries with it its own baggage which often isn’t directly addressed, certainly not in the “hetero” world but surprisingly to some, often not in the LGBT(QQA etc.) world either. I’m not really sure why this is; I think it’s assumed that in covering homophobia, biphobia is automatically covered as well, and if you’re in chameleon mode (i.e.: a bisexual person in an opposite-sex relationship) then you automatically have hetero privilege.

To an extent this might be true, especially in the case of homophobia coming from the straight community, but biphobia, especially within the LGBT(QQA etc) world has its own unique flavour, in my experience, which isn’t spoken about. It ranges from the subtle (“you people are just greedy/on the fence/desperate/don’t want to admit you’re just gay/lesbian” or even a simple “I don’t get it”) to the not so subtle (one bi friend of mine was recently told that “if you’re a girl and you’re dating a guy, you shouldn’t be allowed on the LGBT society committee”) to the downright offensive. Not that all of the above isn’t offensive. You know what I’m getting at.

I was having a coffee with my friend Tigger today – her boyfriend is bi – and she mentioned that her boyfriend had kissed one of her best male friends over the Christmas period, but that it didn’t bother her as much as it would if he had kissed one of her female friends. She recognises that this is illogical and a little bit hypocritical, which I suppose is a step in the right direction. But for me it highlights this sort of duality we have in our minds over sexuality; it is often viewed as binary even though it’s not, and non –binary sexuality (i.e. bisexuality) is actually much more integrated and accepted than non-binary gender. A female ex of mine used to tell me that because I was dating her, she thought of me as straight and that was it (and Tigger apparently thinks of her boyfriend in the same way, even though she knows he’s bi); and a male ex of mine used to refer to me as gay even though he knew full well I didn’t identify that way. It offends me when someone who should know better does stuff like that (it works both ways too – I’m just as offended if someone assumes I’m straight, though that rarely happens).

That said, in my own mind I’ve never been in a straight or a gay relationship. I’ve been in opposite-sex relationships and same-sex relationships, but that’s not the same thing; I never can be in a straight or a gay relationship because I’m neither straight nor gay, it’s as simple as that.

If you’re non-mono yourself or you’re intrigued by this topic, or are dating a bi person, you can do a lot worse than to read the book “The Bisexual’s Guide To The Universe”; it’s  light-hearted but comprehensive look at bisexuality from many angles, written by a bisexual man and a bisexual woman, and there’s really something for everyone in there.

Poorly-structured rant over for now, but this is a topic I’ll be coming back to again, probably soon!

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