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Erasing Bisexuality: Another Kind Of Homophobia

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Whether intentional or not, this erasure of bisexuality — the “rounding up” to straight that the friends and family members of bisexuals in committed, opposite-sex relationships engage in is a form of homophobia. One that assumes bisexuals can “become” straight (or were “really straight” all along), and that this is superior and desirable. That previous relationships, feelings and attractions are somehow lesser because the object of one’s affections was the same sex.

Of course, it goes both ways. Men, in particular, who end long-term opposite-sex relationships and find themselves in a same-sex partnership are assumed to have been in the closet the whole time. It’s true that this is a real phenomenon in the gay and lesbian community, particularly for older men and women who did not feel they could come out in their teens or twenties, and people from religious backgrounds. This is becoming less common as queer youth are being encouraged to come out earlier. But it’s not representative of the majority of people who identify as bi.

Having dated a number of bi men, and being married to one now, I think I can authoritatively state that men who identify publicly as bisexual aren’t usually in the closet and secretly gay — unless all the ones I’ve met have been really good at pretending to be attracted to women. But this stereotype is another face of the homophobia society aims at us, this idea that having a same-sex relationship leaves you “tainted” or somehow changes you as a person. There’s the idea that a same-sex relationship means you can never have a successful or loving relationship with an opposite-sex partner in the future. The idea that one same-sex attraction, encounter, or relationship makes you gay. Forever. And that it’s a bad thing.

Yes, these two attitudes are mutually exclusive and contradictory. But often people will express both of the attitudes, depending on the situation or the gender presentation of the parties involved.

Some in the queer community complain bisexuals have the privilege of “passing” as straight. It’s understandable why. It’s true that being in an opposite-sex relationship can make life a little easier, provided that you both conform enough to heterosexual gender norms and social expectations that people will actually assume you’re straight and not both in denial.

Not every bisexual can pass as straight. I’m pretty sure that unless people know I’m married to a man, they assume I’m a lesbian. They might continue to believe it even after meeting my husband, because, let’s face it, most straight girls don’t shave their heads and wear suits to their weddings. The assumptions either way aren’t necessarily the problem, but the refusal to believe I love my husband and have loved girlfriends just as much in the past, even after I come out, is. It’s demeaning. It’s dehumanizing. And it’s homophobic.

I do think that it’s important that bisexuals come out to family and friends — and occasionally remind them that bisexuals do, in fact, exist. I know I have it easy compared to many other queer women who can’t marry the person they love., but I am deeply invested in gay rights and marriage equality as a member of the LBGT community. If I’d met someone different, I wouldn’t be married right now — at least, not here in Colorado.

I don’t want people to finish reading this post and feel it was 1,000 words complaining how hard bisexuals have it compared to gays, lesbians, and trans people — because oppression is not a competition.

If there’s one idea I want readers to leave with, it’s this: homophobia hurts everyone. Some of us it hurts in different ways. Let’s try to focus on eradicating it in all of its forms, even the less obvious ones.

Related Stories:

Erasing Bisexual Invisibility

Anna Paquin Hits Back at ‘Ignorant’ Biphobia

Dad Gets Born This Way Tattoo To Support Bisexual Son

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Photo credit: Caitlin Childs via Flickr

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8:11AM PDT on Sep 18, 2012

Thank you for writing this article- it's greatly appreciated.

6:15AM PDT on Aug 4, 2012

I came out at 17 and suffered through all the BS a gay person would and tried to find refuge in the gay community. Then I fell in love with a lesbian and was ostracized by the gay community. To this day by saying "I am bisexual" means that I could be harassed at school or work - by both gays and straight people. My hope this all changes.

6:38PM PDT on May 21, 2012

great article and an amazing idea to end bisexual and homosexual misconceptions. But, there will always be someone who doesn't want to know. People tend to like following a set form of rules. We don't talk about them and rarely do we acknowledge these rules at all. Yet one of the rules is that you are born as either a man or a woman and whichever one you are has to be attracted to the opposite gender. I know that you heard this in church with Adam and Eve, saw it in cartoons with only Mommy and Daddy characters, even in school where the teacher would ask you to draw a " Mommy" and a "Daddy" picture. I myself have seen people who are so set on these rules that it doesn't really matter to them if the way you act and the people you choose to hang out with or date reflects on who you are and what makes you happy. To them, all they see is someone "confused" who doesn't really seem to understand the rules and who needs "help." Maybe one day the rules will be rewritten or better yet just vanish. Perhaps all bisexuals, homosexuals, gays, lesbians, "freaks", weirdos, everyone who dares to see past these rules can be accepted and loved. Until then never stop fighting against them. Never break under those icy uncaring glares they give you. Stand up straight and tall and fight on.

5:47PM PDT on May 21, 2012

Thank you for this post, I found it enlightening.

5:39PM PDT on May 21, 2012

one must always address myths with facts

4:22PM PDT on May 21, 2012

Bi-sexuals have it best. THEY can love ANYONE.

...and you know, love knows no sex (or has a particular sexual orientation). If it did, we could not love our pets...

3:38PM PDT on May 21, 2012

Thanks Julie.

2:14PM PDT on May 21, 2012

thank you for this post---I think we all need more information about bi-sexual people.

1:21PM PDT on May 21, 2012

I'm tired of hearing, reading, and watching the whole thing. No ones breaking any governmental rules or bombing any countries so, PLEASE lets be accountable for our own lives!! Let's MOVE ON ALREADY!!!!!!!!!! There are more important things in the world than whose eating sushi or whose choosing beef!!

10:51PM PDT on May 18, 2012

Thank you to the author of this piece.
It so clearly says much of what I have thought, felt, and/or experienced.

Lesbians have cut me more deeply than any others out there. I never know if it's insecurity or prejudice.

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Well overdue, better if it was 10p, or even higher.

I have no words for how ignorant - not to mention arrogantly elitist - she sounds.

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