When we say something is biphobic, what do we mean? Many people are familiar with homophobia, but is there a specific different 'biphobia'? And do bisexuals face homophobia too?
Teenagers calling things they don't like "gay". Musicians writing lyrics urging the killing of "faggots". People using sexuality as a slur in the press. We're all increasingly familiar with what is meant by 'homophobia'.
The lobby group Stonewall defines homophobia as:
What many people don't expect, and the above definition does set out, is that bisexual people suffer from homophobia too. The idea that identifying as bisexual is a way to avoid homophobia, or easier/safer than coming out as gay is a myth.
The people who hate us don't distinguish between us. In fact it's entirely possible to be discriminated against and bullied for being gay without actually being LGBT at all - it's about the perception (here's an example - Stephen English) that the bullies have of us. We're "wrong", "unnatural", "filthy". These people often don't distinguish between homosexuality and bisexuality - it's "not-heterosexual" and therefore to be feared, hated, distrusted. As a blanket term, some people prefer "heterosexism", and instead of biphobia "monosexism", but these aren't in common useage - perhaps because 'homophobia' is so widely known but also because they aren't as clear: 'monosexism' sounds like a version of sexism (maybe for people who believe there's only one gender?) whereas 'biphobia' is clearer that it relates to bi people.
In homophobic environments, whether schools or offices or households, bisexual people are scared to come out, because they'll be seen as "them" and "other".
There's an International Day Against Homophobia every May 17th.
But as bisexuals we face biphobia too, both from people that are homophobic and from ones who aren't. It's possible to be biphobic without being homophobic, as sayings like "you're either straight, gay or lying" make clear.
Our Bisexual FAQ tackles the most common myths about bisexuality, each of them is a biphobic statement. And people who subscribe to these are discriminating against bisexuals.
If, for example, bisexuals are unable to make up their minds, or commit to being 'straight' or 'gay', how can we be sure they're certain about other things? If saying we are bisexual is seen as a denial, what else are we lying about?
This is why these seemingly innoccuous statements like "People just say they're bi to appear cool" are harmful - they don't just upset us when we hear them but they damage other people's attitudes to us on other topics. People who perceive us as being confused, or in denial or lying about our sexuality think we're the sort of people who get confused, get into denial or are comfortable with lying. Should they ask a bisexual to commit to a project, they can't even commit to a sexuality! Should they ask us how we feel about another topic, when we can't even get our heads straight on our own sexuality!
Biphobic attitudes from gay and lesbian people have made many bisexuals unwilling to come out to them, preferring to remain 'under the radar' and pass as lesbian or gay in just the same way that other people pass as 'straight'.
A lot of this website deals with spotting biphobia, but these two pages are the best place to read up on it:
Bisexual erasure is rampant. We're gay when we have same-sex partners, straight when we have different-sex ones. (Yet, oddly, neither gay nor straight people become asexual when single). As soon as a previously thought-of as "straight" celebrity has come out as bi and they're then seen with someone of the same-sex, it's described as a "gay fling" or they've got a "lesbian crush".
We've always been a part of the LGBT scene (the first ever Gay Pride festival anywhere was the idea of a US bisexual activist - Brenda Howard) but the assumption that everyone there is homosexual, and the attitudes towards bisexuals, keep our achievements silenced and pushed down. As recently as 2010, London's LGBT Pride didn't fund a bisexual working group, and listed among their event goals "fighting homophobia and transphobia" (but not biphobia, or lesbophobia).
When we talk about fighting biphobia, it's important to realise that we need to fight homophobia too. It's no good hearing someone being homophobic and then asking them not to include you because you're "only bisexual".
We here at the Bisexual Index believe one of the main causes of prejudice is ignorance. It's important to realise that a lot of prejudice isn't conscious, it's the result of long-standing attitudes that people may not have ever dismantled and examined.
The easiest enemy to hate and fear is the enemy you never meet, like the monster under the bed. We think the best way to make the transition from "them" to "us" is to come out as bisexual. We've got a page dedicated to that if you want some advice - Coming Out as Bisexual.
Celebrities and television drama caricatures of LGBT people are easy to ridicule and feel unfamiliar to the people mocking or hating them. But when "Them" includes work-colleagues, other people at school or church, the shopkeeper, the next-door-neighbour, or even Aunty Beryl then suddenly we are a little bit less alien and removed. Suddenly we're not "Them", but a bigger and more diverse "Us".
We should also stand up to negativity. We're not undecided - we've decided on bisexual. We're not confused, except by their prejudice. "Gay sex" isn't dirty, or a sin, or spreading diseases, and nor are bisexuals spreading diseases between the perceived gay and straight communities - it's actions that spread HIV, not identities.
What if you're not bisexual? Then you can still spread the word, correct biphobic myths, and support bisexuals. Help create a positive mood, support people when they come out and don't treat them like weirdoes. (Constantly asking your bisexual work colleague for details of their wild weekends, for example. We have the same lives as everyone else! It's all X-Factor and knitting...)
Biphobia and homophobia together make our society into one where bisexual people don't want to come out, even to other LGBT folk. We need to stand up to it, we need to disprove the myths, we need to start recognising bisexuals.
If you find yourself the victim of harassment at work or school, please tell other people. At work you should tell your manager, union representative or HR department (who may have a contact specifically for equal opportunities issues). Stonewall has a good summary of the Employment Equality (Sexual Orientation) Regulations 2003 which we recommend reading if you find yourself being bullied or harassed at work. ACAS has some really good advice and information too.
At school we recommend talking to a teacher, but also to your parents and your friends if you're out to them - get support and don't allow the behaviour to be silently encouraged. You might also consider Schools Out which is a national charity.
In your family, tell your friends. Find a member of your family you can trust, and tell them.
You can also try local advice lines, citizen's advice bureaus, and local LGBT support groups. Maybe you have a local Bi Group you can turn to?
There's support out there when you need it. Please don't suffer in silence.
Bisexuals - We're Just Like You, Only More Bisexual!