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The meaning and impact of bi-erasure & biphobia

Woman holding the Bisexual Rainbow Flag with the blue sky in the background

Despite recent surges in bisexual representation in pop culture, many LGBT community members still experience identity invalidation today. This invalidation can significantly negatively not just bisexual people in particular but the community as a whole.

Because bisexual people are neither gay nor straight, finding where they fit within the LGBT community can be a challenge. They often experience biphobia and bi-erasure from both straight and queer people, which we will explore in-depth in this article.

RELATED: 5 Signs That You Might Be Biphobic (And Not Even Know It)

A person hods a bisexual pride flag at a gay pride march in London

Biphobia Definition

Biphobia, sometimes referred to as monosexism, is the belief that sexual and romantic attraction to only one gender is superior. Bisexual people subject to biphobia might be discriminated against or stigmatized because of their sexual orientation.

Internalized Biphobia

Another form of biphobia is internalized biphobia. A bisexual person who experiences internalized biphobia might form negative ideas about their sexual identity or not feel “queer enough.” 

A few common symptoms of internalized biphobia include:

  • Thinking their sexual orientation is just a phase or stepping stone toward becoming fully gay or straight
  • Assuming that being bisexual means they are sexually promiscuous
  • Fearing the inability to sustain a monogamous relationship

Examples Of Biphobia

Biphobia occurs in many different forms. You might experience it in the following ways.:

Biphobia And Bi-Erasure In Media

Because most people think in binary ways, society doesn’t typically do well with ambiguity. As such, bisexual characters in film and television are hardly accurately portrayed. In shows like Glee and Riverdale, bisexual characters are depicted as overly sexual, indecisive, and troubled.

Bi-erasure in the media is also rampant. Consider Willow’s character in Buffy the Vampire Slayer. After breaking up with Spike and later developing a relationship with same-sex character Tara, Willow’s character was portrayed as exclusively homosexual – not bisexual.

These depictions invalidate the notion that gender and sexual identities can change.

Biphobia In The LGBT Community

Contrary to popular belief, biphobia isn’t just rampant within heterosexual communities – it can also occur within the LGBT community. When LGBT-identifying people feel invalidated, they may experience discomfort toward people who have a non-traditional sexual orientation or gender identity.

For instance, a bisexual person might feel uncomfortable associating with another bisexual person for fear of discovery, prejudice, or abuse.

Another form of internalized biphobia is feeling attraction toward unavailable people. A bisexual person might attempt relationships with heterosexual people as a type of “self-conversion.”

Portrait of two happy lesbians smiling at camera they taking selfie portrait while sitting outdoors

Bi-Erasure Definition

Now that you know the definition of biphobia, what is bi-erasure? Bi-erasure (sometimes referred to as bisexual invisibility) refers to the act of questioning or denying the existence of bisexual people. 

Despite a growing acceptance of gay and lesbian people, many still deny others the right to be bisexual. In practice, bi-erasure might look like this:

  • Assuming a bisexual person is just going through a phase
  • Assuming two women in a relationship are lesbian or that two men in a relationship are gay
  • Denying bisexual people access to LGBT advocacy

So, if people can accept that someone is gay or lesbian, why does bi-erasure still occur? Some might find it challenging to grasp the concept of sexuality being non-binary. Many assume that someone who is bisexual is “part gay and part straight” when, in fact, it is a distinct identity.

Harmful Bi Stereotypes

Despite an outpouring of information from global LGBT community centers, many myths and misconceptions still surround bisexual people. This includes:

Bisexual People Are Just Confused

Bisexuality isn’t just a stepping stone toward being “fully gay” or “fully straight” – it is a legitimate orientation. In addition, sexuality can be confusing for anyone, regardless of how they identify.

You Can’t Be Bisexual If You’re In A Heteromantic Relationship

Just because you are dating someone of the opposite sex doesn’t mean you stop being bisexual. As its name suggests, bisexual people can become attracted to someone of the same or opposite sex. 

Bisexual People Are More Likely To Cheat 

Many assume that bisexual people are more likely to cheat because of their “expanded pool of potential partners”. But the truth is that bisexual people are not more likely to cheat than heterosexual people.

In addition, bisexual people don’t have “double the dating pool.” You can be attracted to two genders but still have preferences toward specific types of people based on their qualities and hobbies.

Practicing Bisexuality Will Make You More Likely To Get An STD

Sexual identity doesn’t dictate how (or whether) a person practices safe sex. Regardless of your orientation, practicing safe sex is the best way to prevent illness and disease.

In the same thread, bisexual people are not hypersexual or swingers. Being attracted to two or more genders doesn’t correlate with increased promiscuity. Like anyone else, bisexual people can go through long periods without sexual activity. Alternatively, they can be as sexually active as they want!

Woman holding the Bisexual Rainbow Flag with the blue sky in the background

Impact On Mental And Physical Health

Discrimination toward bisexual people can have significant and detrimental effects on their mental and physical health. In particular, bisexual people may have trouble gaining access to inclusive healthcare services – making them more susceptible to STIs, cancer, obesity, and substance abuse.

Additionally, many bisexual people refrain from seeking medical advice because of fear of discrimination. Inadvertently, this lack of access and fear of requesting help can put bisexual people at higher risk of developing anxiety and depression.

Bisexual people might also experience heightened social stress as they are frequently exposed to discrimination, prejudice, and bullying. When exposed to biphobia and bi-erasure at a younger age, people below 18 have a higher likelihood of demonstrating youth risk behavior.

Biphobia can also make it more challenging for people to retain jobs, especially in environments that lack LGBT sensitivity training and anti-discrimination policies. This lack of support can directly impact a bisexual individual’s capability to earn a living and obtain stable housing.

How To Combat Biphobia And Bi-Erasure

Whether you are personally experiencing biphobia and bi-erasure or know someone who is, there are many ways to get support and be a better ally.

Explore Your Biases

Being a bisexual person or part of the LGBT community does not absolve you of your biases. If you have trouble accepting bisexuality as a legitimate orientation, explore the social factors that make this the case. Are you considering race, culture, and religion? If so, how does this impact the way you interact with people from the LGBT community?

Consult The Bisexual Resource Center

One of the best ways to gather information and participate in community discussions is to turn to the Bisexual Resource Center. Log in online to find a bi group in your area, and consider signing up for workshops, discussions, and classes.

Listen To Your Bisexual Friends

Are you unsure of how to respond to your bisexual friend? Have an open discussion with them. If there is something about their sexual identity that you don’t understand, the best way to avoid assumptions and misconceptions is to ask them to educate you. 

If you hear conflicting or contrasting narratives from different people, understand that bisexuals may have different experiences when it comes to exploring their sexual identity and that there is no “right” way to express how you identify. 

Two young men cartoon characters standing hugging

Final Thoughts

Representation is important, regardless of your sexual identity. Acknowledging labels validates a person’s experience and makes them more willing to ask for support. Plus, it makes them happier to be who they are.

RELATED: Mainstream Television Tackles Biphobia

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