Biphobia in the GLBT community from a bi man's point of view

I’m an out bi man. I’m often mistaken on blogs for a gay man, because I talk about LGBT rights issues from the standpoint of someone who’s affected by them, and I have a man’s name. The idea that I might be something else is not considered. The ‘B’ and ‘T’ in LGBT is often silent or taken for granted, and from my perspective as a bisexual, we often get discriminated with in the midst of what’s supposed to be our community.

Bisexuals are threatening, both to heterosexuals and homosexuals. Sarah In Chicago writes that some biphobia in the LGBT community might come from a fear that bisexuals will be used as evidence that gay people can ‘change’. Mythago makes the comment that the lesbian communities’ biphobia is responsible for so many bi women winding up with men.

I personally have experienced curses and insults from within fellow marchers at a pride parade, calling me a slut, a fake fag, and a ‘try-sexual’. We also frequently got ignored or shunted to the side in public debates, and some times in events. I’ve been told that bi people don’t really exist, that it’s just a fad, that I’m really one orientation or another, and that I absolutley must make up my mind one day if I’m straight or gay because my partner will leave me if I don’t.

I’ve also had to deal with the inevitable bisexual/polyamory link. There’s the fear that bisexuals might push for polyamorous marriages to be legal, and that would hurt the same sex marriage movement I’m not sure if that’s biphoba or polyphobia. I know I’m guilty of it whatever it is. I’ve avoided speaking up for multipartner relationships in order to keep the conversation on track about same sex marriages. I always feel a bit like I’m betraying something when I do that, especially considering I’m polyamorous.

As bad as this makes it sound, it’s not all that bad. It’s subtle and small, like if I go into a gay coffee shop with a female and snuggle in, I get sneered at, if I go in with a man, no one notices, but if I go in with a woman, I’ve gotten asked to ‘stop the display’ when we weren’t doing anything I hadn’t done with one gender or the other. PDAs with both genders at the same time get an even worse reception :-)

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141 Responses to Biphobia in the GLBT community from a bi man's point of view

  1. 101
    piny says:

    Has everyone here been doing so? Most of the bisexuals commenting autobiographically have been describing varied levels of attraction to one gender or another, different aspects and different relationships.

    Many of the statements about bisexuals made here have been generalizations about bisexuals in partnerships–that is, they describe the tendency of bisexuals as a group to shift towards one gender of partners, or not. In those terms and on that level, it isn’t oversimplifying to compare bisexuals to people who sleep only with the same sex and people who sleep only with the opposite sex. It also isn’t oversimplifying to treat bisexuals as a group as “half and half,” because the gender of their partners probably averages out that way.

    And yeah, it is a little weird to be debating this stuff in binary terms. Most of the putatively bisexual people I know can’t be simplified that way, myself included. But we’re talking about biphobia in various forms: exclusion from one binary-defined group or another.

  2. 102
    mythago says:

    It also isn’t oversimplifying to treat bisexuals as a group as “half and half,”? because the gender of their partners probably averages out that way.

    How do we know this?

  3. 103
    piny says:

    You’re right. We don’t know differently, at least.

  4. 104
    alphabitch says:

    Jam: That’s it exactly! I do love a good black & tan, but I also like guiness quite a lot (though I prefer bass ale to harp lager). I used to be a vegetarian, but I find I like cheeseburgers once in a while too. I guess part of it, for me, is a reluctance to reside permanently anywhere (literally too: I’ve never had the same address for more than two years, either) — but on the other hand I am rooted and grounded and stable (and need I add stubborn?) to a fault. Is this why I’m bisexual? Is this because I’m bisexual? I don’t really care, to be honest. I do feel like it’s a different thing, though, than being “stuck in the middle.” As I’ve said previously: I’ve made up my mind, and I like both.

  5. 105
    Janine says:

    to self: don’t drink so much sake and then post a comment.

    to piny

    We know that there are pressures on gay people and trans people to closet themselves. Why would there not be pressure on bisexual people to similarly closet themselves?

    what i’m trying to get across is the notion that the real pressure on bisexuals isn’t about “closeting” it’s about “choosing.” my inebriated point was about lack of respect for bisexual identity. the lesbian community demands that i “choose” because they don’t see my identity as valid. (damn, sober and still not articulating this well, but hope you’re getting it.)

    amanda’s post was about bisexuals choosing, (didn’t say she was telling us to,)

    to amanda

    Is it possible that bisexuals that make long term homosexual relationships are more willing to hang up their identity as bi and claim to be gay than the other way around?

    it was “the willingness to hang up their identity” that got me going. (you know sake was a samurai drink.) i apologize for the righteous tone, it was gettin’ good to me at the end there. ::shaking my head::

    i’m frustrated by how little i’ve seen the lesbians on these comments actually deal with their prejudice. they’ve admitted they’ve got it but there seems to be an unwillingness to dig any further. maybe this isn’t the place for that kind of self reflection and i was wrong to hope for it. but, sake or no, i shouldn’t have taken my frustrations out on you. sorry ’bout that.

  6. 106
    BritGirlSF says:

    The idea that being bi equals a 50/50 attraction ratio to men vs women does seem to be fairly prevalant. I think that the sliding scale is a much more useful and accurate way to conceptualise the reality of bi people. Interestingly, I’ve never met a bi person either male or female who doesn’t lean at least slightly to one side or the other, ie a person who is in the exact middle of the scale.
    One assumtion I’ve seen made here a few times that I’d like to challenge. If a person primarily calls themsleves straight but also has same sex relationships, are they really straight? If they call themselves queer but also have opposite sex relationships, are they really queer? I’ve met enough people who do this to realise that it’s more common than many people think. Of course people have the right to identify themselves any way they want, but I do wonder if part of the reason for this phenomenon is that bi-phobia is so common. Maybe it’s just easier for people to “choose” one identity or another rather than have to explain themselves to people all the time. Maybe if there was less bi-phobia more of these people would just call themselves bi. Why does sexual identity have to be so rigidly defined anyway?
    In fact, if you really want an answer to the whole “bi people, justify your existence” thing, maybe it’s that by our very presence we undermine the idea that everything can be reduced to competing dualities. Black/white, good/evil, believer/atheist. Why can’t we just let everyone define themselves however they want to rather than trying to make people fit into nice neat little boxes all the time? And why should anyone have to prove their right to identify as queer?
    And while I’m at at, could we please lay off Wookie Monster? Really, doesn’t the queer community have enough problems to deal with without pissing all over someone who’s actually on our side? I’m just saying…

  7. 107
    Sarah in Chicago says:

    Janine -

    Hon, I figure I’m one of the lesbians posting here you are mentioning *smile* You’re right, I’m not posting not because I don’t think I should do some processing, but rather because I am processing.

    I don’t tend to annouce stuff like this till I’ve thought it through. As I said above, I know I’ve got biphobia, but I’m working on dealing with it, just that I was unsure how. Just because I haven’t posted my incoherent ramblings of my processing (which they seriously would be at this point) doesn’t mean I’m not doing the processing.

    I’ve got no probs admitting when I don’t know something, like I did above. My silence is generally me sititng back and thinking about things (used to drive one ex gf of mine nuts) and while it can be a bad thing at times it also stops me putting my foot in my mouth with too much frequency.

    Although, damn, wish you could pop up to Chicago and share some of that sake … bugger, now I have sushi craving …

  8. 108
    Janine says:

    sarah in chicago – lol! hey, pop into nyc, sake/sushi anytime!

    i’m soooooo glad you said something. even just to say – thinking about it. maybe especially to say that, cause i was feeling that although we’ve all been talking about it, it’s still not an issue people are owning and therefore, dealing with on a personal level. you made my day.

    (one of these days i’ll learn to think before i speak more. as you can see, i’m constantly yanking foot out of one orifice or another. arm tired, orifices sore.)

    an appro po quote from my mom in response to my bewilderment at the level of blindness to rascism in this country.

    me: they just don’t get it mom.
    mom: of course they don’t get it. if they did, they’d have to do something about it.

  9. 109
    Sarah in Chicago says:

    Janine -

    oooo, I might just have to take you up on the sushi/sake offer … now I just need to get out to NYC (wah, I miss the ocean … and hills!).

    And you’re welcome … and I’m still working on the whole thinking before I speak thing too …

    But your mother is perfectly correct about racism in this country … despite being so white it’s a wonder I am not transparent, I’m not an american, and I am constantly amazed at the ability of this country to be blind to how race operates here (not that I am perfect at it either mind you). I think to a certain extent it takes looking from outside to actually see your own behaviour. Trust me, the biphobia in the lesbian community is very easy to fall into and not see as well. Often it takes stepping back a bit to do so, and sometimes you need help to do that.

  10. 110
    JR says:

    I hope I’m not intruding — I just stumbled over this discussion, and feel compelled to respond.

    I want to thank you all for what may be the most reasoned discussion of biphobia I’ve ever read — even if not all the previous commenters think every comment was “reasoned.” :)

    I’ve read every word posted so far, and while fascinated, I am sorry (but not too surprised) to find one more thought left unexpressed: What do you all make of genuine hostility expressed by bisexual women toward (true Kinsey 6) lesbians who refuse to date them?

    Don’t answer yet — allow me to explain. I’m that Kinsey 6 who thinks bisexuality as a concept is a fine idea, and who enjoys the company of anyone (straight, bi, I don’t care) — but who simply will not get involved romantically or sexually with bisexual women, based solely on my own past experience.

    In short, A) every time I have been involved with a bi woman, she has indeed gone back to men (whether or not we were still together or separated), and B) as Sarah said, it does indeed “hurt more when you get left for a guy than if you get left for a woman.”

    There is much more I could add to “my experience,” but I’ll stop there. The end result is that I don’t want a relationship with a self-identified bisexual. (And I don’t do “no-strings” sex.)

    Granted, I recognize it is entirely unfair of me not to give someone a “chance,” regardless of her sexual identity — and I do recognize this as a form of biphobia — but it’s _my_ preference. In the long run, is it any different from not dating, say, a single parent with five kids simply because you don’t dig family life?

    I also recognize that ANY rejection hurts — but I’m a bit mystified as to why my past rejection (which is as gentle as I can make it, having been on the losing end of unrequited interest myself, countless times) of bi women seems to carry some sort of extra sting. It almost feels as if, because I’m a lesbian, I am _expected_ to respond to any other woman without question. (A ridiculous notion, but I’m truly at a loss here.)

    I respect bisexuality, but I cannot relate to it at all — and relationships are hard enough when you DO understand each other.

    Am I alone in my experience as a lesbian who has faced a surprising amount of anger from bisexual women when I’ve said, “Thank you, I’m flattered, but I only date lesbians”?

    It seems to me that this is no worse than telling a straight man the same thing (i.e., “Thank you, I’m flattered, but I’m a lesbian and I don’t date men”) — or a straight woman turning me down with “Thanks, but no — I’m straight.”

    Just curious as to what you all think.

    Thanks again for one of the most interesting, thoughtful discussions I’ve ever read on the subject.

  11. 111
    mythago says:

    JR, there’s nothing wrong with saying “that doesn’t light my fire” or “that situation doesn’t work for me”–but that’s way different than “I don’t want to date [group] because they all [stereotypical thing here].”

    I mean, look at this: every time I have been involved with a bi woman, she has indeed gone back to men. Do you mean that every bisexual woman you have dated has then said “sorry, I’m going to be straight now that I broke up with you”? Or is it that her next partner was a man, and so you assume she’s decided henceforth never to be interested in any woman?

    I don’t blame you for wanting to avoid hurt. Though I would note the old saying ‘the only common factor in all your failed relationships is you’–NOT to say that your exes’ actions were your fault, but perhaps it’s a good idea to take a hard look at the women you choose. I’m sure you (as well as I) know lesbians who go after unavailable women, or just-come-out political lesbians who aren’t sure about this whole dyke thing yet, or…or… and get their hearts stomped on AGAIN.

    In the long run, is it any different from not dating, say, a single parent with five kids simply because you don’t dig family life?

    Yes. Kids are a whole separate obligation and a huge responsibility.

    There are lesbians who are uncomfortable dating women who are not immersed in the lesbian community–they don’t want to date a woman who is not self-identified as lesbian, or at least ‘queer,’ and who doesn’t live what they perceive as an exclusively lesbian-oriented way of being. And I get that.

    What doesn’t grok is saying “…because they’re all alike.”

  12. 112
    BritGirlSF says:

    Mythago
    Amen. As a bi woman I have no problem with a woman saying that she doesn’t want to go out with me because she only dates dykes, and I never did. What bugs me is the stereotyping – that bi people are slutty, or that we need to “make up our mind”, or that we’re somehow betraying the queer community. What really annoys me are lesbians who refuse to even be around me in a social situation without lecturing me about my personal choices.
    JR, here’s a personal anecdote that you might want to think about. I’m bi, and married to a man. The summer I met him I was also seeing a woman. I ended up with the guy because he was the one I had more in common with and we fit together like we’d known each other all our lives.
    But imagine for a moment I was to break up with this guy (and a few years ago I was on the verge of doing just that). Out of all the people in my current social circle, the one who I would be most interested in dating is a woman. Not just having sex with, but actually dating. Why? Because we have lots in common and fit together really well and…
    Do you see what I’m getting at? Even if you think a woman is leaving you for a man it’s not that simple. It doesn’t mean she’s become straight. It probably just means that you two weren’t right for each other. It’s not necessarily a bad reflection on either of you. Sometimes relationships don’t work out. Why interpret it any other way?

    PS Just in case it’s not clear, I do not mean fit together in a sexual way. I just re-read that and realised how open to misinterpretation it was.

  13. 113
    Darkness_Is_Beautiful says:

    I am a bisexual Goth. Why are people constantly discriminating against the Goth subculture? You say that bisexual Goths are fake and that they are only being rebellious kids. There are Goths that are truely bisexual. Not all Goths are rebellious and we don’t all do things for shock-value. And I hate how whenever the subject of Goth is brought up, people only talk about kids. GOTHS CAN BE ANY AGE, PEOPLE!!!!!!! What the fuck do you think, that all Goths suddenly decide to get rid of their black clothing and abandon their beliefs once they “mature”?

  14. 114
    aisling says:

    I agree that sexuality crosses all boundaries and that there are true bisexuals out there. The reason I believe this is because I have numerous friends who have had loving relationships with both men and women. I identify as a lesbian. I am 100% lesbian. But because I have grown up in a heterosexual world I am open with men as friends and can’t discount the fact that I would never kiss a man again or sleep with a man. The chances are I won’t because I am a lesbian but I am not disgusted by men nor am I a man hater. Many of my best platonic friends happen to be men. However, my problem lies explicitly with the ‘new fad of fake bisexuals and lesbians.’ I can’t stand them. Sexuality is not a trend or a fashion accessory. Those of us who are truly gay/lesbian and bisexual have experienced a lot of pain and inner turmoil in our lives during and after our coming out phase. I recently came into contact with a fake bisexual and was very hurt by this individual. I work with this woman and became the target of her game. When I came out at work she instantly honed in on me. I have met a lot of intense women but this women had the most intense personality and charisma I have ever come accross. She flirted with me heavily and ended up playing me like a chess board. She new exactly what to say and what to do to break down my walls and gain my confidence. Things like…’I think I’m a lesbian’ and ‘I’m bisexual’ and ‘I’ve never talked to anyone like this before’ and ‘I am so attracted to you’…..and on and on and on. There is a lot more to the story but to make a long story short in the end she showed her true colors. She was a fake who probably just wanted to use me in a threesome with her boyfriend and just wanted to hang around with me because she thought it was trendy or cool to be gay/lesbian/bisexual. I don’t know her true intentions but I have a strong instinct they were not noble or real. It is hard enough for true gay/lesbian/bisexual people to connect and meet and have relationships without a fraud trying to mess us up even more. The sad thing about it is I truly loved her. I admired her and respected her and I never pressured her. I ended up getting hurt and will be wary of any new person I meet who says that they are bisexual.

  15. 115
    Faith says:

    Lovely, awesome article thanks for it. Too hot in LA to type but rudimentary sentences, but awesome to hear like minded people saying bullshit to biphobia.

  16. 116
    Mendy says:

    I’m an out bisexual woman who is married to a man. The most offensive comment ever made to me by a friend was “You aren’t bi, you’re just greedy”. I’m not promiscous in the sense that I have lots of “no strings sex”. I don’t have anything against those who do, but it has never been my thing.

    It is extremely difficult catching flack from both the het world and the gay community. I didn’t decide to be attracted to both sexes, it is just the way I was made. I have a very good friend that is also an out bisexual and he hears the same kind of comments.

    Mythago, you are right there’s a difference in a lesbian telling me “thanks but I only date lesbians” and “I don’t date bi’s because they’re all (insert stereotype here)”.

  17. 117
    mythago says:

    aisling, the woman also said she thought she might be a lesbian…are you afraid to date a lesbian as well? I understand being gun-shy after dating a psycho, but since this woman apparently wasn’t even bisexual, is avoiding bisexuals going to protect you from others like her?

    However, my problem lies explicitly with the ‘new fad of fake bisexuals and lesbians.’

    It’s not a new fad, sadly.

  18. 118
    aisling says:

    mythago,
    no…i’m not afraid to date lesbians or real female bisexuals either. this experience did not sway me from trusting people. i guess i just have a problem with her in particular and anyone else out there that may be like her. psycho? no, she’s not psycho…i would say she’s pretty close to being a sociopath though. seems i am finding out now that she has an extensive history of trying to manipulate others into falling in love with her. she has left a long list of broken hearts behind her…men, women, straight and gay of all ages. the first night i went out with her she looked me dead in the eye and asked me if i had ever had my heart broken. i told her i had and then she said she didn’t know what it felt like because she had never had her heart broken. so, it seems that all the people she dates, flirts with or has relationships with walk away hurt but she seems to remain basically unscathed. the scary thing about it is when she’s playing her game she has the ability to make you feel like you’re the only person she has ever felt this way about…anyway, enough of my story….that’s all i have to say……and yes i know it is not a ‘new’ fad…..it just seems to be more prevalent in the last 5 years or so than before……thanks for your response……

  19. 119
    mythago says:

    Well, label or not, this woman is clearly a few buttons short of a remote control. There’s no shame in being taken in by someone that evil and manipulative.

  20. 120
    Nick Kiddle says:

    Since this thread’s surfaced, I thought I’d just say that Liliane has a couple of stories about biphobia in the collection Don’t be a Crotte.

    /fannish promotion of favourite cartoonist

  21. 121
    smoothie says:

    i’m a married man (31) who’s just coming to terms personally with his bisexuality. my wife is aware of my attraction to men, but I’ve never used the word bisexual when speaking with her. it’s not a deal breaker for her, but it’s not necessarily something she’s thrilled to discuss either.

    i recognize that i have enjoyed a great deal of privilege my entire life by being able to function in the hetero world. however, i feel trapped in my relationship. not because i want to go date men, i don’t. i’m happy in my marriage. but i don’t feel that i can discuss my sexuality frankly with my wife, and therefore, cannot completely be myself. and now, after reading this thread, i’m also aware that homosexuals will not likely accept me.

    yes, there is privilege. but i also feel very isolated.

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  23. 122
    curiougyrl says:

    This is an old thread, but I thought I’d throw down anyway since it popped up.

    I’ve known I was bisexual since early puberty, but I’ve mostly been in long-term closed relationships with men. I think this will probably continue, or I hope it does, as I really like the person I’m currently with.

    I get the whole not liking “fake bisexuals” etc, and think girl bisex to get attention from guys or vice versa is degrading to queers, women and probably men, too.

    But, my problem is that though I appear to all observers to be het and live essentially a heterosexual lifestyle, running around calling myself “straight” feels wrong (since I’m not) and strikes me as reinforcing heternormativity.

    I’d prefer it if the category “straight” didn’t exist at all.

  24. 123
    Bonnie says:

    What gets me is when a person will say about another person who IDs as bi – “Oh, just pick one already! You can’t be both!”

    Sure you can!

    And I personally do not like attaching labels of my own making to other people. If someone says, “I’m gay,” or, “I’m bi,” or whatever, that’s great!

    If some woman I know *seems* straight but makes out with other women at parties, I say well lucky her! I do not try to find a label for her. The only one I’ll use is the name she prefers to be called by.

    If a guy I know makes out with other men at parties, and says he’s bi, and other folks just can’t believe it / won’t accept it, well that their problem. To me, he’s “Greg” and that’s it. If he wants to come to my clubhouse meetings, cool, but if he does not, that’s cool, too.

    As for the thought that bis “damage” the quest for same-sex marriage in that it brings in the poly argument, I say “damage” is a quaint concept. As surely as western societies will see same-sex marriage in my lifetime (yep, already happening), we shall some day see poly marriages, too. That is cool as well. The more love the better.

    Does anyone read Heinlein? The Moon is a Harsh Mistress.

    So to sum – as an L in the LGBT community who has certainly had mad crushes on men but no action in them, I respect all 4 letters. I choose not to challenge someone’s self-definition regardless of that person’s behavior – not my business, not my concern, not my decision. I choose not to accept the bizarre notion that bis will hurt SSM concerns. And if bis, lesbians, gays, trans, straights want poly marriages, I support that too!

    Thanks.

  25. 124
    Leanne says:

    Hello, Leanne here of the aforementioned liliane comics. I got here via my stats and I can only say how much I wish I’d gotten here back in June when this was actually a live thread. I’ve read through every word of the comments now, and saved a few of them which I will likely respond to in a blog or a comic.

    I do like that it ended on a note of “bi’s aren’t either or, they are both”: one who eats meat and veg isn’t either a confused carnivore or a fake vegetarian, but most likely omnivore by nature. And even an omnivore who choses to eat vegetarian when with a vegetarian partner (it certainly happens if you want them to eat your homecooking) is still an omnivore. We think nothing of liking rock and classical music, why not like men and women.

    The wierd thing is these arbitrary categories of “she is with men” or “she is with women”. If we were in another culture, it might be “she is with a catholic, she is with a protestant, she has left her religion, she has come back into the fold, she is married to a protestant but still is a practicing catholic” etc. Or how about when the term “n**ger-lover” was around? When race was so huge, you were labelled if you stepped outside your race, most esp if you trangressed by not choosing the privileged white group and dated black. If you dated white after that, or married white, were you suddenly “back to white”, as if you betrayed the black people you had dated? And how about if your previous most important partner were black… would you be a compatible partner for the greater “I’d never date a black ewww” white people?

    I am bisexual. I have had longer partnered relationships with women than with men. At various points, lesbians, and my women exes, could say, as one commenter above does, “she went back to men”. Well, all the men could also say “she went back to women”. Because somehow we count it as if they were not individuals you shared a sense of humour with, or life goals, but as members of some monolithic group. How bout “she went back to academics”?

    Personally, most men, despite this societal privilege (which as one commenter thankfully pointed out is often oppression for women… people expect him to talk not you, him to be the big wageearner, think your interests are “women’s issues”) are not attractive to me for their sexism. In my personal life, I just find this intolerable at most times, as a feminist. And then add the large chunk who are religious (I am not), who want a nice sweet rather conservative wife (not not not), and I end up not feeling very “privileged” to be with them. Access to his life insurance starts to pale next to being stifled by an “average guy”.

    But when I am with a man, I also want someone who is queer positive, who is not going to put my friends down, who will validate my lesbian music choices, fight for my political interests as a queer, etc.

    So, where is this huge “oh she’ll leave me for a man” thing. I got into the lesbian community cuz I found it had strong, independent women like myself. I was a person, not a “girl”, I was equal. I am more likely to cleave to the dyke community as I get the privilege of being majority status, vs the large straight community where any woman is minority. If I go out with a man, it is because I am personally compatible with him, and he makes me hot.

    And if I go out with a woman, it is because I am personally compatible with him and she makes me hot.

    And there are so few of either in the world, it is depressing when they are further reduced by biphobia. I don’t leave people for “men” or for “women”, I leave because it didn’t work out. And if you mistrust me out of fear, it will not work out.

    Another thing (yeah, I’m longwinded, but also have just read 122 comments), I DO end up dating more or whichever depending on the availability. If I am hanging with mostly dykes, and going to dyke bars and parties and bbqs in dyke’s houses, I am likely to meet and become intimate with a woman. Very few eligible men present. If I hang with the general public, I am more likely to meet straight women, straight men, a few gay men, a few dykes and even fewer bis and trans. And it is more likely that I will meet and become intimate with a guy who fulfils my criteria of compatibility, than a dyke. If there are three dykes I meet in the park, and one is a christian churchgoer, one won’t date bisexuals and the last is a republican, or just doesn’t like my smile, and I end up dating a man instead (out of the several hundred straight ones in the park), I haven’t gone back to men, or prefer men. The stats are just not there to facilitate meeting like. (note, that biphobia in the lesbian community DOES further push bi women into the greater community, where they will less likely meet another compatible woman… and even if they do happen to meet, they may never know it, as in a dyke community, you can pretty much assume that the girl smiling and twinkling at you is a dyke, whereas in the greater community, neither of you might be willing to chance admitting attraction to the other)

    One thing no one has mentioned, after a bad breakup with someone I loved and adored, I am MORE LIKELY to date the opposite gender to them next, as it seems less like a betrayal, like a replacement. It is easier to not cry all night about girl x when you are confronted by a male body and personailty, and it is easier to forget boy y if you’re holding hands with a cute girl in a lesbian bar.

    Finally, myself I am more likely to assert being bisexual in a straight group, as I am less likely to want to be taken for “one of them”. To have my ‘differentness” not be invisible. I think this is analogous to someone mixed who is more likely to see themselves as black in a white setting, but not make a big deal about their white parentage if in a black setting. I know quite a few of “ex-bi”s who identify as lesbians now that they have settled down with women. They don’t feel a need to validate their “het past behaviour”. I feel angry and invisible if my “lesbian past behaviour” is assumed to be nonexistent or not taken seriously as it was lived. So I think there IS some validity to what someone said, that bis may “hang up their label” more easily in the samesex community. One normally feels the need to emphasize that which is not assumed, not the privileged standard, esp when not in the subgroup. And one normally does NOT want to emphasise the privileged standard when one is living in the subgroup. As, we can see here, it can put your membership there in question, when it is your actual safe haven.

    Anyways, thanks for a great post, and all the great discussion. And hey, I have a few comics on my site about LUGs and biphobia etc, not just in my Crotte collection. cheers

  26. 125
    Brandon says:

    What gets me is when a person will say about another person who IDs as bi – “Oh, just pick one already! You can’t be both!”

    Sure you can!

    What gets me is when bisexuals highlight “both” rather than “either”. Can you be satisfied with either? If you can, how then can it honestly be a sacrifice when you’re asked to pick one? People suppress negligible things about themselves all the time for various reasons. And if you can’t be satisfied with just one, why then are you surprised when gays and lesbians are not receptive of this? I agree with Sarah’s initial sentiments – it’s definitely disconcerting when the man or woman you’re in a relationship with (or intending to be with) has the capacity to be attracted to a gender that is not the one you belong to. You want to believe that everything about you is the SOLE reason for your partners happiness. Beyond that, it should be a known fact that sexuality is very much politicized, thus it’s not always simply an issue of attraction, but of alliance. Due to heterosexism (what bisexuals ought) to be chafing at, being gay in this society has become about more than just being passionate about other same-sex members of complementary sexuality, it also means reinforcing an un-openness to heterosexual romance (an occasional sex only fling may be another matter) in oneself – a romance that is glamorized everywhere, while homosexual love is ridiculed. I tend to think that causes more of a stir than just same-sex animal lust. Having said all that, it seems to me that bisexuals, before charging “biphobia” and dissatisfaction with “discrimination” by gays and lesbians, they might want to consider whether they really understand the situation of gays and lesbians. I’m increasingly of the opinion that bisexuals should just form their own distinct community, date each other, etc.. That’ll avoid some conflicts, imo.

  27. 126
    Matthew says:

    I don’t understand how a hetero guy can pretend being bi and expect hetero attention. This seems more like a myth than a fact. I have dated more women than men. I don’t immediately advertise Bi by wearing a t-shirt. So inevitably if she did not know eventually I would have to say it. And in more than one case the woman was freaked out. In one case the woman had previous sex with women! Gay men have been similar (In one case worse) I dated 3 men longer term and one guy constantly harassed me about it, until I got sick if it and dumped him. I recently signed up for a dating site placing “Bi” knowing it would be a filter. But I also know, dispite what Woody Allen said, it will greatly reduce my chances of getting a date. The irony is of course of the many years many many of my straight friends have admitted to same sex attraction, and some have had gay sex but still called themself “straight”. They didn’t even think of it as on the downlow, they were “straight”. I understand now that Bi activism must be more intune to creating greater understanding of sexual diversity rather than creating another catagory. There is also something I must point out that I have noticed gay men from the 70′s and 80′s have felt it necessary for political reasons to create the “gay persona” ie. Nelly queen etc. A stereotype that many younger gay men do not feel the need to emulate. I wonder if in the pursuit of identity politics, and creating an identity based on sexuality that we don’t just warp ourselves rather than being truly authentic and maintain personal integrity.

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  29. 127
    Matthew says:

    I exist I am a bisexual man. And have known others like myself. I hang more in an accepting straight artist community. And actually have received harassment from gays and lesbians. Of course of the years I met many “straight” men who say “I feel the same way I just don’t want to complicate my life”. I am now part of bi group. Most of the men there have dated mainly men. I have dated mainly women. It is difficult to generalize bi people because they fall all over the spectrum. But I really get that the stigma, harassment, ridicule, stereotypes are destroying peoples lives. It seemed easier to be out and bisexual 20 years ago than it does today and I don’t know why. Has discrimination gotton worse?

  30. 128
    Denaya says:

    I know this is an old thread but this is an issue very dear to my heart so I thought I’d add my two cents.

    I’m a bisexual female. It’s an identity I struggle with and still wish I could change but I can’t. I’ve had both straight and gay tell me to choose, and I’ve tried. I’ve told myself I would only date men, and lo and behold, the next person I meet is the perfect woman for me. And visa versa. Something about how I am wired means sex and even gender isn’t as relevant to me (okay maybe pansexual would be a better label but that’s another story).

    It’s hard being bi; some lesbians want absolutely nothing to do with me because of it. Same with a lot of men. And yes, although my current partner is a man and I while acknowledge the straight privilege this yields, it doesn’t erase the painful lonely years before I came out. And yes, there was a coming out. It doesn’t erase the knowledge that the feelings I had for my female classmates were “wrong” or “bad” at the time. And unlike being gay, it didn’t come with an easy answer or even necessarily support for the LGBT community. It’s an identity most people shrug off or laugh at even though it’s the best label that fits. The way I see the world and react to it is inherently defined by my sexuality. It is me.

    And there are still challenges. Being in a perceived heterosexual relationship isolates me even more from the LGBT community. I still feel like an outsider with straight females because I am constantly worried I come on “too strong”. Being open about being bi means most of said straight females worry I will hit on them or be interested (although this is their homophobia and not my fault it doesn’t make dealing with it easier). I’ve lost friends for being bi, lost family.

    So yes, I respect the choice of lesbians who don’t want to date bisexual women. I too have been left for a man and it does hurt in a different (although I would not say worse) way than being left for another woman. But I ask in return that those same lesbians respect that my path is not easy, is not a choice, has also had much pain and still isn’t respected in a heteronormative world. Please treat me as the ally I am in a fight that is mine too. Thanks.

  31. 129
    KellyK says:

    Brandon @125, I don’t think it’s a negligible part of someone’s identity. Also, just because you *can* be satisfied by either doesn’t mean you want to be artificially restricted to one or the other. For someone who’s attracted to both, it would be like saying “Since you find blue eyes and brown eyes equally attractive, you should pick just one or the other.”

    If you’re monogamous, of course you’re going to “choose” for any given relationship at any given time.

    There’s also just something really uncomfortable about pretending to be something you’re not.

  32. 130
    KellyK says:

    I’m making my personal experience a separate post because it’s really tangential, but having commented, I wanted to mention where I personally am coming from. I’m not exactly certain what I identify as. “Mostly straight” or “kind of bi” are probably closest to the mark. I’ve only ever dated guys, I’m happily married to a guy, but I’ve also sometimes been attracted to women. Not from puberty or earlier, but starting in my later 20s. Which strikes me as very odd. Are there other people out there who thought they were one thing and then later in life realized, no, they weren’t? It makes me question whether it’s real or a phase, but I don’t think it’s a phase. More that it’s a small enough part of who I am that it kind of slid under the radar until I got past some other issues. Or that it was repressed. Or maybe sexual identity does change. Like I said, I’m not quite sure about this whole thing.

    This mostly doesn’t mean anything in terms of my daily life, except that it sometimes feels weird to be presumed straight. And yet I don’t really want to glomp onto “bi” as an identity either, because I’m not sure that quite fits, especially with the privileges I have of being presumed straight.

    So, I can definitely wrap my head around the idea that “choose one” or the assumption that you have “chosen” can be really uncomfortable.

  33. 131
    Robin says:

    This is a very interesting thread with very good commentaries!

    May I add a couple of aspects to all the facets that have already been discussed?
    One reason why some bi people tend to be reluctant or very careful with outing themselves as bi is that people either tend to see you as a slut then, or a lyer (as bisexuality “doesn’t exist”) etc., all this biphobic stuff tends to be projected on you. In straight settings, this even comes ON TOP OF the homophobic prejudices which you also get then. Or people will ask many curious intimate questions. This is not always wrong in itself, especially if they just want to check whether their biphobic prejudices are true or not, and ask if it is okay that they ask such questions. However, when the questions get too intruding or the presumptions are extremely silly or depreciating, it gets kind of nasty and is even more biphobia you get confronted to. Bisexuals somehow don’t seem to get accorded the same amount of privacy as other people, our sexuality seems to be seen as “public”. Moreover, you don’t always feel like doing the Bisexuality 101. Best way to avoid these awkward situations is to pretend you’re straight or gay/lesbian.

    Another reason why some bi people tend to not out themselves as bi, or decide depending on the situation and people they just deal with, is when they have a partner (no matter of which gender). Because it may well be that the partner’s acquaintances, friends and relatives will automatically assume that you cheat on them, will cheat on them one day, are a slut anyway or will leave them for a person of the other gender. For yourself, this is the typical “bi slut” myth aspect of biphobia. But it might be just as difficult for your partner to face the corresponding prejudices that: - they make poor partner choices,
    - are too naive to know that they are being cheated,
    - might be riddled with disease brought in by their partners,
    - only chose their partner cause they want threesomes, or
    - have not enough self-respect/guts to choose a faithful partner
    - Or they might get weird offers for threesomes with their bi partner.

    So coming out then is not just a choice that you make for yourself, but also impacts your partner. You might want to avoid coming out if it is your partner’s colleagues or so you are talking to, and let your partner decide whether it is safe for her/him if people know about your bi-ness as they deal more with these people than you. Maybe you are even more willing to remain closeted if you also have kids, for their sake, as you don’t want them to be called names by the other kids, like “son of a slut”, “AIDS kid” or something. Of course, it is less awful to stay in the closet if your partner is of the socially accepted, “complementary” gender than if you have to hide a same-sex relationship altogether. At least, you can walk hand-in-hand in the streets with your partner without being looked at with disgust. Or not. Depending of their sex.

    Another bi-specific challenge, before or during a relationship, is “the talk”, when you out yourself to your partner. In many many cases, their sexual orientation is different from yours, they are straight or gay/lesbian. Straight or gay/lesbian people are at an advantage here, as they usually needn’t do the 101 with their partners. Worst outcome is that you get immediately turned away. Hardly better is that the partner is very uncomfortable about it and fears that you’ll cheat on them, that they cannot make you happy, that you are straight/gay/lesbian in denial etc. There is also the “macho reaction” when you out yourself and for you it’s all these fears going through your head and the first (!!!) thing the partner says is that he finds it great and that he would be interested in having threesomes. It might also be that the partner first becomes unsecure of your relationship for a couple of months until they finally regain trust, or that they need time to get rid of their biphobic prejudice but finally succeed to see you as an individual again, and not as the stereotypical bisexual as imagined by society. This is particularly annoying if it is at the beginning of a relationship because it pretty much ruins the nice and happy feelings of that phase, and it is humiliating for the bi person – for no good reason.
    You are very lucky if the outcome is better than that. Which is why some bis don’t even out themselves to their partners, or on the contrary, say that they are bi before a relationship starts. At the risk of getting turned away immediately.

    Only recently I finally managed to understand why monosexuals tend to think that if the relationship breaks up and the next partner is not of their gender, that your choice for the next person was because of their gender, and that they cannot make you happy. This reasoning doesn’t make much sense for bi people, at least not for those who are close to the “middle”, as for them the gender is not an important prerequisite for a romantic relationship. Apart from the society approval aspect, maybe. These prejudices I think are not necessarily biphobia, it’s rather inflexibility of mind. It’s what happens if a monosexual reasons while seeing things from their own point of view – as for them, gender matters.

    Oh, and that privilege thing. Yes, depending on who you’re dating etc. you might have straight privilege up to a certain degree, or even almost completely. But you only have this if you hide a part of yourself from the others. E. g. one of the genders you are attracted to, former relationships and crushes, struggles you had or have with your queerness in society etc. Don’t ever have a slip of the tongue that might betray you, such as agreeing that actor X or Y looks hot if of the “wrong” sex. Don’t ever get caught looking at a person of the unaccepted gender, thinking “wow!”. Don’t say you go or used to go to that gay bar XY. Don’t ever correct anyone if they assume you’re gay/straight. Constantly censor your behavior, your words, be always vigilant even after a hard day’s work or after a couple of beers. And be especially careful how you react when homophobic or biphobic remarks and jokes etc. come up. Not quite sure if that’s straight privilege or rather straight passing. As when straight people “get” that you are bi and don’t think you are just a lyer, they usually don’t have any “worse than straight but better than gay” box for you but put you into the “gay box”.

    Over time, with all the biphobic bullshit I had been confronted with in both straight and even mor in the LG-we just put a B here to mimick tolerance- communities, I have become relatively “monophobic” so to speak. Or, let’s say, I try to have some safe haven where people just believe me I exist etc. So I hang around preferably with bi people or friends of them who are cool with it, and I preferably date other bi people as I need less to be afraid of how they react when I come out, and they grasp better what it means to be bi. However, some internalized biphobia still pops up sometimes – on both their and my part.

  34. 132
    Matthew says:

    One of the most painful experiences was with a bisexual female dancer. We took a liking in each other. And taught a workshop together. We talk about dating and kissed, made out, she said she did not want to have sex. I asked what was wrong she told me she was sexually molested as a child. I talked to my therapist he said that it is not the time to have a relationship with her. I agreed and told her to see a therapist. She flew back to her home city and we remained in contact. I had dated mostly women and a few men. She dated mostly men and a few girls. She then said she wanted to see me again she was feeling better. We got very excited on reuniting. But her therapist who happened to be gay said to her “if he says he is bisexual he is really gay and in the closet and you should not be involved with him.” I protested and then asked “are you a lesbian in the closet?” she said my therapist told me to “stop messing around with women and go get married.” I told her to tell her therapist he was a bigot. She said to me he laughed and said “it is pretty much proven their are no bisexual men.” She said she believed me but said perhaps he is right maybe we are to much a like. Afterwords I did date a guy again, but was extremely depressed. I was going to SLAA and another bisexual came to me to offer advice. He said I should break up with the guy I was dating. I asked why? Because you never let go of your last relationship with the dancer. I told him we never had a relationship. He said “you talked to get on the phone for three years. I insisted it wasn’t a relationship. He then said it was and you never let go. He was right. I broke up with guy. I took the letters she sent me and burned them saying, “I am sorry we can’t be together.” and began to grieve a relationship that happened but never happened. It was her choice in the end but what the therapist said hurt very deeply, and made me realize that this prejudice in the gay community is very very deep. Most bisexual guys closet themselves completely – I wonder why.

  35. 133
    Vatnos says:

    Christ, Matt, that’s depressing.

    It is terrible that the psychological community is ill-equipped to deal with bisexuals. There are therapists out there who are well-educated and open-minded, and then there are therapists like yours that try to force their own unscientific narrative on other people, and end up contributing to the epidemic of depression and suicide that teens and young adults are facing.

    Note that bisexuals (male and female) are more likely to be depressed or suicidal than gays. There isn’t a big happy, tolerant community that creates safe spaces for us. Instead, the few bisexuals who have the courage to out themselves get to enjoy being a minority within a minority, and all the extra discrimination that entails.

  36. 134
    Matthew says:

    In this case it was her therapist. My old therapist has always been extremely supportive. He was in fact shocked about the biphobia I experienced in graduate school when a gay teacher put me in a private room and tried to have me come out as gay. Luckily another teacher heard the whole thing from the next room. I then revealed my sexual dating history has been 80% with the opposite sex. It was rather traumatic because every time I said to the teacher “I am bisexual” he mocked me. I was also called “a liar, coward, and don’t deserve respect” by my boss. I have had very limited support – and just recently digested the fact that in the state of Illinois I could actually sue for the harassment of a sexual minority.

    In the situation with the teacher, the faculty empathized with me but they also protected him. If I were a gay student and he was a straight teacher and the straight teacher did something similar he would have been fired and probably would not be able to get another job.

    I have generally avoided dating gay men and straight women recently, but do go out on dates with trans guys, bisexual women, and bisexual guys. I have an FWB relationship with a bisexual woman but we have agreed to date others to find a partner we have more in common with. We have great sexual and sensual relationship but we are very very different.

    And Luckily I recently found a bisexual therapist who is bisexual and specializes for bi clients. I am hopeful in seeking out the one, I don’t need both – I just need a special loving connection with someone who has similar values.

  37. 135
    Matthew says:

    To Brandon – what’s not understood is bisexual attraction has been difficult to predict for me. I made a decision long ago if I am with a girl I am with a girl if I with a guy I am with a guy. For me I am generally attracted to femme people in body or character. I know another guy who is attracted to masculinity in body or character. Hense although he has generally pursued men he entered into four relationships with Masculine lesbians. And dispite the fact that I generally pursue women I have been attracted to femme gay men. It has less to do with genitalia and more to do with energy. I could never have predicted the people that I have met and gotten involved with.

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  41. 136
    Ryan Herrington says:

    Excellent article, mate. For years, I struggled with my sexual identity, not sure if I was bisexual or gay. Actually, I fell in love with a sweet sheila that was bisexual herself, but I could not figure were I fit in with her or me. I began to feel forced to make a decision between the two, so I identified with being gay for a time. Time has passed however, and I have finally come out and accepted myself for who I am. Despite what discrimination from any party, I am a proud bisexual man, and I’ll always fight for anyone’s right to be who they are.