Now, more than ever, we should leave zero room in our society for biphobia
It’s valid and it deserves your respect
Her legs resting on top of mine. I’d been wondering why we hadn’t talked since the camping trip we took where we’d had sex in my tent. “I just feel like you’re too straight for me,” she said between sips of cheap wine. “I couldn’t be with someone like you who’s still into men.”
This is the sort of tired rhetoric that people who identify as bisexual, pan or queer put up with – both from within the LGBTIQA community and from outside.
I slowly started to figure out I was queer in the midst of puberty, when my two punk icons – Avril Lavigne and Pierre from Simple Plan – both made me feel like a confused and horny teenager. Fast forward through high school and I’d shoot my hand up for a dare to kiss a girl at a gathering. My attraction to women was starting to become obvious. However with little to zero education or exposure to bisexuality being a legitimate sexuality, I believed everyone when they commented I was just experimenting – or I was just a slutty straight girl.
I was questioning my sexuality in an environment where being called gay a dyke or a lesbian were scathing insults. When I slept with a woman for the first time, I bottled up so much shame. I felt slutty and disgusting. I told nobody.
I’m never too surprised when straight people (including boyfriends) dismiss or invalidate my sexuality – they say I’m experimenting, I’m more likely to cheat, I’m doing it for attention, I’ll choose one day; the list goes on. However, when I started to notice biphobia within the LGBTIQA community, it felt like a punch in the gut. I’ve had queer friends telling me my bisexuality was a “stepping stone”; that I’d eventually get over my attraction to men.
Treasurer of the Bisexual Alliance Victoria, Sally Goldner, comments that this prejudice might be explained (but not excused) by a general binary approach to life. Mixed together with a big helping of internalised biphobia.
21-year-old Australian student Angie agrees. “So many times I’ve heard people say that someone has ‘turned gay’ or that they’re straight now because they’ve got a new partner. As long as the majority of our society views sexuality as binary, that you can only be attracted to one gender at a time, then there will be discrimination against bisexuals,” she told me.
Many of my queer friends express the awkward in-between feeling of being “too queer” for non-queer spaces, but “too straight” for the queer community. Elspeth, frontwoman of Melbourne band Huntly, talked to me about the microaggressions she receives as a queer woman.
“If I tell anyone in a non-queer space that I’m dating a guy, they assume I am straight and therefore read me as “normal”, which I find gross,” she said. On the other side of the coin, she doesn’t feel confident being publicly affectionate with men in most queer spaces.
“I feel a lot of shame, guilt, uncertainty. I’m not confident in my sexuality when I’m with a guy in social spaces. I feel nervous and anxious, and I think I can put some of that down to biphobia.”
Biphobia and bi-erasure, whether internalized, within queer spaces or non-queer spaces, is embedded into society everywhere you look.
Just recently, Buzzfeed wrote an article about pop singer Halsey, accusing her of raising “complicated questions about her constructed identity” through “guy-heavy song lyrics” and acting like ‘a classic Lez Bro’. Hollywood Life recently commented tat Amber Heard’s bisexuality was the reason that her marriage to Johnny Depp was doomed from the start. A reporter on The Morning Show in Australia continued this rhetoric with warning “it’s not wise to marry a bisexual.”
US Vogue labelled Cara Delevingne’s relationships with women as “just a phase”, Anna Paquin was forced to explain to Larry King in an interview that just because she was married to a man, she was still bisexual. I could go on forever.
On the media’s representation of bisexuality, 24-year-old artist and activist Flaux said, “obviously adequate education and representation in media would assist in wider spread acceptance, but it’s ultimately disheartening to believe that people need that media influence to be decent human beings.”
Biphobia can come from the perception that queer/pan/bi people can access straight-passing privilege. That is, depending on the gender of your partner, you don’t deal with invasive questions or blatant homophobia. While this is true to an extent, this often comes at the detriment of having your sexuality and thus your identity dismissed or completely ignored.
Flaux has experienced this. “In regards to the queer community, I often feel I’m not queer enough. The majority of my partners are men and I can easily crawl into the societal safe-haven of heteronormativity.
I’ve certainly felt the need to hide my relationships with cis men from my queer circles – afraid of the judgment or dismissal of my queerness. These relationships are particularly complicated for me. I feel secretive, guilty and unsure of my queerness. Simultaneously, my “straight-passing privilege” means that I’m read as straight constantly. I feel like a bad queer. At times, people I’ve previously spoken about my sexuality consider my “bi phase” over when I’m with a man.
Biphobia has no place in society – it can have devastating consequences on the mental health of queer people.
As Flaux said to me, “society however needs to pull their heads in and learn to accept people as other human beings no matter their sexual preference, gender identity, ethnicity, ability, health, class. It’s none of your business what anyone else is up to with their own minds and bodies.”
It’s as simple as this. To people within the LGBTIQA community, it’s important that we all respect all the diverse identities within our community. Don’t invalidate bisexuals and their relationships, and please don’t hold a “queerer than thou” complex about monosexuality.
Bisexuality is real. It’s a thing.
It’s valid and it deserves your respect.