WHAT IS BIPHOBIA?
Biphobia is the dislike, intolerance, hatred, or fear of bisexual, pansexual, and polysexual people—anyone who has relationships with more than one gender and/or sex. Biphobia is often expressed through homonegative words and behaviours and, at its worst, through physical violence.
How is biphobia different from homophobia?
Homophobia, the dislike, intolerance, hatred, or fear of gay and lesbian people, includes bisexual, pansexual, and polysexual folks as, in many ways, homophobia targets anyone that is perceived as “non-heterosexual,” not simply those who identify as gay or lesbian. Biphobia, then, is specific to bisexuals, pansexuals, and polysexuals because it is intolerance and hatred that is focused towards one subgroup of the gender and sexually diverse community, and can come from both the heterosexual and the queer communities. For example, one can be biphobic without being homophobic: “Oh, you’re bisexual? You can’t commit to a relationship with anyone.”
As stated, biphobia often comes from within the queer community itself. Stigma and myths circulate that bisexual, pansexual, and polysexual people can’t make up their minds if they are gay or straight. There is also the myth that bi, pan, and poly folks are lying about who they are. This can lead to feelings of isolation and depression. As well, such stigma leads to many folks to avoid disclosing their orientation in order to avoid judgement and alienation from peers and strangers.
Biphobia also exists within the heterosexual community. The attitude exists that if you identify as bi/pan/poly, then you are a tease, a player, or someone who is unable to make a commitment. There is also the misconception that if you are bi/pan/poly, you will be more open to having group sexual encounters and multi-partner relationships. For example, “You’re pansexual? Can we have a three-way with another girl?”
A few myths about Bisexuals, Pansexuals, and Polysexuals
The following are only a few of the many myths circulating about bisexual, pansexual, and polysexual people. Perhaps you’ll recognize some of these examples or you’ll be able to better recognize and debunk others that you’ve heard or have believed yourself.
- They are confused about their sexuality. FALSE. Bisexuals, pansexuals, and polysexuals are not confused; it takes just as much soul searching to figure out you are bi/pan/poly as it does to figure out that you are gay or lesbian. In many ways, coming to terms with being bi/pan/poly can be more difficult that coming to terms with being straight or gay as society privileges black and white, one or the other thinking. Saying or believing that anyone who is bi/pan/poly hasn’t thought about or thought through their sexuality and who they are reveals ignorance about the complexity, fluidity, and diversity of sexuality and sexual experiences.
- They can’t be faithful. FALSE. Bisexual, pansexual, and polysexual persons have long term committed relationships with their partners all the time! Monogamy is a relationship choice many of these folks make. Further, infidelity and cheating happens in all types of relationships, regardless of sexual orientation. It’s not a bi/pan/poly issue.
- They are more likely to have STIs. FALSE. Bisexuals, pansexuals, and polysexuals are not more likely than anyone else to contract an STI. The fact is that if you are sexually active, then you have a chance of contracting an STI—regardless of who you’re sleeping with. With this in mind, it is best practice to use protection with your partner(s) and to get tested regularly.
- They can blend into the straight community, so why don’t they just do that. As a bisexual, pansexual, or polysexual person, you may find you are more often attracted to a personality rather than to a biological part; therefore, you may be in a relationship that passes as straight at one point in your life and then be in a relationship that comes across as gay or lesbian at another point. There is no way to know until the relationship is formed what it will look like, but this myth can be very damaging to the self-esteem and well-being of bi, pan, and poly people. Who you date (your sexual behaviour) does not change who you are (your sexual orientation).
How can we combat biphobia?
Refuse to be a part of it! If you see or hear someone making biphobic remarks or behaving in a biphobic manner, refuse to participate in the conversation or behaviour, and correct them! If you see someone being assaulted, call the police. Biphobia, like homophobia, is combated primarily in everyday situations through communication and education. Challenge the myths about bisexuals, pansexuals, and polysexuals; don’t accept someone’s biphobia as fact. Moreover, being an ally to bisexual, pansexual, and polysexual people is the greatest way to combat biphobia!