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.

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