Bisexual Erasure and Biphobia: It’s a Thing.

This might be the most fun I’ve ever had writing an article. Queer studies have always been an interest of mine, and I often get so caught up in issues that affect the female population at large that I don’t spend as much time on LGBT issues as I’d like. Beyond intriguing me when I first took Queer Theory in college…oh…seven years ago (?!), bisexual erasure and biphobia are phenomenons that I’ve observed for quite some time. To clarify:

Biphobia: The fear of bisexuals; more concretely, the tendency of both gay and straight folks to attach negative stereotypes to bisexuals including but not limited to promiscuous, unfaithful, “passing” as straight, closet cases, indecisive, immature, experimental.

Bisexual erasure: The tendency of some members of the LGBT community to downplay bisexuality or deny its existence altogether, meaning that bisexuals are often invisible (and it’s damn hard to nail down statistics on their demographic).

The truly crazy thing about bisexuality is that according to one of the studies I cited in my piece (Boise State University, 2011), about 60% of a roughly 500 woman sample group of self-identified “heterosexuals” revealed that they have felt attracted to the same sex. What does it mean for the LGBT community, who represents a smaller faction of the general population, when the majority of “heterosexuals” aren’t exclusively so? And if this many people truly do not fit into a nice heterosexual box, why are they not “coming out” as more sexually fluid? Is the label “bisexual” problematic? Should this word be reclaimed, or discarded for another term without the negative connotations?

I’m, no pun, curious to see what you all think in the comments to this post, or in the comments of the article!

Why Are We So Threatened By Bisexuality? — April 28, 2014 on Role/Reboot

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8 comments

  1. I love posts/articles that address these issues. As a bisexual man (I know, I know, you said you tend to look towards issues that impact women…so, I hope it’s okay that I’m posting.), I can say that I’ve witnessed biphobia and bierasure and these were serious matters that influenced me in a negative way. By seeing and hearing these things happen, I was always afraid of coming out and always afraid of how it would hurt me, if I did come out. Now, as I’m older and understand more about being a bisexual, I am thankful that there are people like you that can address these issues head on.

    1. It’s absolutely okay that you’re posting! I didn’t mean that I didn’t want to hear from men by any means; I just noted that it’s nice for me to break out of writing on topics that predominantly or exclusively affect women for a change. πŸ™‚ To be honest, I feel that bisexual men experience more criticism than their female counterparts, because the old trope with bisexual men is that it’s simply a transition into being gay. Homosexual male sex does not necessarily = being gay, but that’s the way we often see it. :/

  2. As a bisexual, I’m not sure why there’s such a ruckus about our existence or the validity of our sexuality preference. I’ve read a lot of stuff about biphobia and bi erasure and the question that keeps coming to mind is: Why? Next is, “What is the purpose for this insanity?”

    I know that bisexuals tend to fly under the radar and for what I’d say is good reason: Not all bisexuals can deal with the social angst and all the forms it comes in so why invite trouble to your doorstep if you don’t have to? As such, it’s hard to get hard data on the behaviors and mindsets of bisexuals because who wants to step forward and volunteer a lot of very personal information? I would… but no one’s asked me. Why don’t we all come out as our gay counterparts have? Because we don’t have to… and I don’t believe that our detractors really understand this. There is no hard-set requirement that says if you’re bisexual, you have to come out and let everyone know and, besides, since we’ve seen the violence targeted at gays – and not to mention a lot of teen suicides due to bullying over their sexuality, why would anyone want to give homophobes a stick to beat them with?

    At some point, the word “bisexual” may have to be revised since there are so many heteroflexible people appearing on the radar (or is that gaydar?)… but I think that a term like “sexual fluidity” is just another semantic attempt to cover up what is, undeniably, bisexual behavior. It doesn’t matter when you do it or even why you do it, let alone what you may do – but that you do it at all is what matters… or am I the only one who seems to understand this nuance? I’ll end this mini-rant with something I’ve said on my own blog a lot: If you really want to know about bisexuals, ask one instead of assuming things.

    Nice piece of work you’ve written here.

    1. I’m so happy to hear from bisexual men on this, because I feel like they are more likely to be denied or “erased.” I think that “sexual fluidity” is an effort to escape that perfect 50/50 idea that a lot of people have about bisexuals (“Okay, you dated a girl for a year, now you have a date a guy for a year in order to be a ‘true’ bisexual!”) It’s silly, but of course you know this. πŸ™‚

      I would also like to add to your second paragraph that even if bisexuals wanted to come out, the “coming out” is to a group where many of the members don’t accept the orientation. So…you’re stuck between a rock and a hard place, essentially.

      1. Yeah, we stand a better chance of being socially erased but I don’t think it’s possible; just because you want things a certain way does mean it’s gonna happen like that. Their idea of being bi is silly – but if they were bi they’d know that we can be all over the place and at any time where our “affections” go, maybe 60% girls, 40% boys; 10% girls, 90% boys and that can change in mere seconds.

        Clearly, our detractors just don’t get it and when we tell them, they don’t believe – and that’s not our fault but they’re making it our fault. And I think they want us all to come out under the “know your enemy” school of thought; unlike gay men, we’re not easy to find – if they can’t find us, they can’t persecute us so all they can do is resort to slandering bi men.

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