Pittsburgh — Biphobia, dislike of or prejudice against bisexual people, is a problem in the queer community due to the fear of coming out to feeling like an outcast. About 3% of adults in the United States openly identify as bisexual. But, something to keep in mind is that there are many obstacles in the community.
Being bisexual almost feels like being invisible.
You’re seen as heterosexual, gay or “confused.” It’s never the label you wanted. That’s where bi-erasure comes swooping in. Earlier this year, it was reported that one in six Gen Z adults are in the LGBTQIA+ community, with 72% identifying as bisexual.
I came out as bisexual at 12, only to have almost everyone I told to tell me, “It’s just a phase.” I kept quiet about it for a while after that and came out again at 19 after going to a Pride event in Long Island, New York.
Even then, I felt like I was a fraud, like I didn’t belong. I’ve talked about how I’ve felt like I’m not feeling bisexual enough, because I’ve been in serious relationships with cisgender men only. But that doesn’t negate the fact that I’ve been in love with people of the same gender.
At one point, it got to where I lied to my closest friends about the fact that I was with women before.
In my “Introduction to Gender and Sexuality” course, the professor grouped us into sections around the class. Each group was designated to talk about hard subjects like race, money, sexuality, etc. I decided I wanted to talk about sexuality. To my dismay, every person in my group had the same feelings I did.
It was a beautiful moment, where we all felt the same, but I couldn’t help but think how unfair it was. We were all valid, yet we all felt like frauds in our own community.
Saba Harouni Lurie (LMFT), a Licensed Marriage/ Family Therapist and founder of Take Root Therapy, shared with YR Media how to spot bi-erasure.
“If you’re in a relationship that looks either gay or straight from the outside, it's challenging to not have your bisexuality recognized. Either by your partner or by friends and family. That can all impact one’s mental health, especially if you are having trouble honoring your own bisexuality.”
Bisexual people are at a higher risk of experiencing any form of intimate partner violence, compared to other sexualities, according to Psychology Today. As for physical ailments, bisexual people are more likely to develop gastrointestinal problems, arthritis, and obesity. Since bi-phobia and bi-erasure run rampant, many feel isolated and alone.
Rebecca Blanton, aka Auntie Vice, a kink/sex educator in the LGBTQ+ community, talked about how bi-erasure can affect how one feels in the community. “Bi-erasure hurts bisexual folks in a myriad of ways. Often, we don’t feel at home at LGBTQIA events if we have a different-gendered partner. We lose out of the psychological protection which comes with feeling like we have a community.”
Ashley Broadwater, a 23-year-old freelance writer, told me about how biphobia has affected her.
"Thankfully, I haven't experienced any violence related to being bisexual. However, I wish biphobia wasn't something I experienced from both the straight and queer communities. For example, my cishet loved ones who are homophobic are also biphobic, which has taken a toll on my mental health. I've experienced a lot of yelling matches and crying over how they have invalidated my sexuality, believed it to be a 'phase,' or considered it 'bad.'”
The Georgia native continued, adding, “To make matters worse, I can't always turn to the queer community. I'm in a Facebook group for lesbian women with my partner, where I've seen biphobic posts that make me feel unsafe, unwelcome, and even angry. I love being bisexual for many reasons, but I wish others treated my sexuality as though it's as valid as being straight or
gay — which it is."
Cishet means someone who is cisgender and heterosexual.
UK-based mental health advocate John Junior said his experience has been similar.
“When I first knew I was bi I was so scared to even tell anyone as I was so worried about judgment. I actually wanted the feelings and thoughts to go away as I feared rejection. I felt ashamed I was attracted to men as well as women. It leads to anxiety and self-esteem issues. That's why I couldn't express how I was feeling.” They continued, adding, “[Bi-erasure] affected me suffering alone about how I felt and battling with it on my own for many years as I was worried of judgment. I used to hide it, now I don’t and it feels great to be able to not hide it as society has changed and it’s easier to be accepted the way you are now.
Bisexual people aren’t confused, lying to themselves or anything of the sort. But we’re tired. Bi-erasure is a genuine threat, and it’s affecting many.