Monday, October 22, 2012

Bisexuality Part 3 - Biphobia

Most people are familiar with the term, homophobia. It is an aversion, prejudice, hatred or irrational fear of homosexuality or homosexuals. I don't recall when I first heard the term homophobia, but I have at least known of it most of my adult life, and I have also experienced it. In the past I had an aversion and fear of others I perceived to be gay (which only ended when I pushed through this fear and got to know those I feared or misunderstood). But I have also been on the other side; I've been the one who was feared or disliked or even hated because of sex of those to whom I am attracted to.

I could do a whole post just on homophobia, as I have plenty of experience on both sides of it. But that is a post for another time. The topic of this post is a much lesser known, yet just as prevalent term, biphobia.

The definition of biphobia is similar to the definition of homophobia; it is an aversion, prejudice, hatred or irrational fear of bisexuality or bisexuals. Unlike homophobia, I do remember when I first heard the term biphobia.

I mentioned a couple of months ago in my post titled "Respectful Dialogue" that I attended a Diversity class as part of the social work program I went through in graduate school. In this class there was another man that was also bisexual. When he did his presentation on his Diversity, he spoke about biphobia and other problems that bisexuals experience in the ways that others react to them. At the time, biphobia was a rather novel idea to me. I'd heard of homophobia by this time, but I realized that biphobia was an issue I was affected by just as much (which I will get into shortly).

There are two primary ways in which biphobia is manifested: denial that it exists and the assumption of promiscuity. I discussed some of the ways in which denial of bisexuality can happen in my last post on myths and stereotypes. But to sum it up, it is the assumption that all or most bisexuals are confused, undecided, insecure, experimenting, going through a phase, or transitioning to a gay identity.

I also touched on the assumption of promiscuity in my last post, which is the assumption that all bisexuals cheat on their partners, are unhappy unless having multiple sex partners at the same time, lead double lives, and are sexually insatiable.

Unlike most phobias (such as claustrophobia, the fear of enclosed spaces), homophobia and biphobia are not considered psychological disorders. Rather, they are a form of prejudice, and they fall in the same category as xenophobia (fear or hatred of foreigners), sexism and racism.

In fact, there are a couple of other terms that go right along with them. The first is heterosexism, which is closely associated with homophobia, and places heterosexual relationships and practices as superior to those that are homosexual.

The second is monosexism. This one is closely associated with biphobia, and places relationships and practices with one sex (whether heterosexual or homosexual) as superior to relationships and practices with multiple sexes.

Except when internalized, homophobia is almost exclusively exhibited by those that are straight. Biphobia, on the other hand, is exhibited by both those that are gay or lesbian and straight. While going through one of my internships during graduate school, there was a therapist that was gay-friendly, but biphobic. He claimed that he didn't believe in bisexuality, only try-sexuality (meaning those that will try anything). His views showed both forms of biphobia.

On the other hand, I have also also been told by a friend that is gay that because I mentioned my bisexuality to often (in his opinion), that he questioned whether I was really bisexual, but rather gay and in denial about it. I have also been told by both him and others I know that are gay, that I should just accept myself as gay. These views show the denial form of biphobia.

I have experienced the assumption of promiscuity form of biphobia from gay men in another way. I have known several gay men that have been wary (if not completely opposed) to dating or having a relationship with a bisexual man because they know or have heard of a bisexual man who has cheated on his partner. Therefore, they assume that all bisexual men will either cheat or want to cheat on them.

From what I can see, most people don't see biphobia as a problem because they are either not aware of it, or they do not understand it or its impact on bisexuals. My hope is that as more people are made aware that biphobia exists and that it negatively impacts bisexuals, it will be more readily confronted and decreased, much as is happening with homophobia.

I hope that my series on bisexuality has been informative and educational. I know that just researching and writing these posts have been for me. If you want to participate more in the discussion on bisexuality, or want clarification or have a question about something I've said about it, please either post a comment or send me a message. Thank you for reading.

Monday, October 8, 2012

Bisexuality Part 2 - Myths & Stereotypes

In my last post, I discussed what bisexuality is. In this post, I will be discussing what bisexuality isn't, meaning I will be discussing the myths and stereotypes about bisexuality.

While reviewing information for this post, I came across a lot more mistaken ideas about bisexuality than I realized existed. Just when I think I've heard or read everything, I come across something new. In this post, I will discuss the most common myths and stereotypes, as well as a few of those that are less common. If there are any that you feel I have missed, feel free to add them in a comment.
  • There is no such thing as a bisexual. People are either gay or straight, with nothing in between.
I've lost track of how many times I've heard or been told this. A lot of people, especially in Western culture, like to be able to see things as either black or white; or they want to be able to put everything into neat boxes or categories. For many of these people, bisexuality just doesn't fit.

In reality, the world is not just black and white. It is all or nothing. And though they may not realize that they are doing it, those that deny the existence of bisexuality are also denying the experiences of millions of people that feel attraction to both men and women.
  • Bisexuals are confused or uncertain about their sexuality.
I've also had people that I've told that I'm bisexual tell me that I'm confused; that I was really either gay or straight, but I hadn't figured out which. I get told that I don't know what I want.

Nothing could be farther from the truth. The truth for me (as well as for most people that identify as bisexual) is that I know exactly what I'm attracted to. For me, there is no confusion; I am attracted to men and women.
  • Bisexuality is only a phase.
This myth can be more difficult to dispel than others as there are some that use the label bisexual as a transition of sorts in the process of coming out as gay. There are also others who are either gay or straight who are curious who may identify as bisexual or bi-curious while exploring sexuality.

While it is true that identifying as bisexual may be a phase for some, for the vast majority of bisexuals, it is as enduring a sexual orientation as it is for those that are gay or straight. Ever since I've recognized what sexual attractions are, I have felt them towards both men and women.
  • To be bisexual, a person must be attracted to both sexes equally.
This myth is similar to the myth that bisexuality does not exist, in that it tends to be believed by those that like to have things in neat boxes or categories.

It is true that there are bisexuals that are equally attracted to both sexes, but there are also many that have different degrees of attraction to each sex (such as myself). While some that fall in this category may choose to identify as either gay or straight, or may choose to only have relationships with one sex, not all do. For some (such as myself), identifying as gay would be denying their heterosexual attractions; and for others, identifying as straight would be denying their homosexual attractions.
  • Bisexuals are incapable of being faithful to one person in a relationship.
This is a stereotype that I've heard a lot as well. A number of people seem to be under the impression that because one is attracted to both men and women, that means they won't be satisfied unless having sexual relationships with both men and women.

People that believe this myth are often confusing bisexuality with polyamory. In reality, bisexuals are no different than gays or straights in the ability of forming lasting and faithful relationships. Bisexuals may also choose to be in open relationships, to be celibate, to be promiscuous, or to cheat on a partner, just as someone who is gay or straight may. A person's ability to be faithful in a relationship is not determined by their sexual orientation.
  • Bisexuals are more accepted by the straight/gay community.
I discussed this a little in my last post. I think what is closer to the truth is that bisexuals are often more easily able to pass as gay or straight in each respective community.

The vast majority of those in both the straight and gay communities have been accepting of me once they have found out that I am bisexual. But I have also had a number of those from each group that has been less welcoming of me, or has expressed one of the myths or stereotypes that has been discussed in this post.

Myths and stereotypes are not unique to bisexuals. Virtually every minority group that exists has its myths and stereotypes.

I am also sure that there are also other myths and stereotypes that I haven't discussed. If you know of or can think of any others, please share it in a comment to this post.

Be sure to come back in two weeks, when I will be discussing biphobia, which will be the third and final post in my series on bisexuality.