Bi, Bi, Biphobia with Karen

Bisexual+ Awareness Week seeks to accelerate acceptance of the bi+ (bisexual, pansexual, fluid, no label, queer, etc.) community. #BiWeek draws attention to the experiences, while also celebrating the resiliency of, the bisexual+ community. Karen writes about biphobia, the harm this can have, and summarises beautifully in three simple rules!

Content note for mention of biphobic slurs and hate speech, and without detail, sexual assault, rape, domestic violence

Breeders, fence sitters, diseased, sluts, nymphos, confused, mentally ill, greedy, promiscuous, closeted, cowards, straight passing, deceptive, liars, unfaithful, untrustworthy

Ugly words for ugly beliefs, but ones which the bi community encounters from both straight and gay people, simply for being attracted to more than one gender.

In a world where we are constantly told “love is love” and that gay or straight it doesn’t matter, being neither gay, or straight often means having to hide who you are, or face prejudice, stigma and discrimination.

Gallop define biphobia as a – prejudicial attitude toward bisexual people based on negative stereotypes.

These negative stereotypes often center around two main themes firstly that bi people are not really who they say they, that bi men are really gay, and bi women really straight.

This idea of being untrustworthy and deceptive leads into the second main stereotype, that bi people are promiscuous, and will inevitably be unfaithful.

The twisted logic seems to be that because bi people have the potential to be attracted to more than one gender, then they must want to leap into bed with everyone they meet!

Imagine if we said the same of gay or straight people – that because they had the potential to be attracted to a certain gender, then they necessarily want to have sex with every one of that gender! 

“The stereotype of the deceptive, hypersexualised, promiscuous bi person not only causes emotional hurt, but it also leads to physical harms.”

37% of bi men have been victims of domestic violence

50 % of bi women have been victims of rape

I am a psychotherapist, I know the power of language, and the impact of othering. When the narrative is that someone is lying about who they are, or that they are always available for sex, it becmes easier to convice ourselves that they deserve illtreatment, that they brought it upon themselves. Research shows that the stereotypes around bi people creates an environment that violence towards bi people festers in.

Given the prejudice that exists it’s no surprise that bi people are less likely to be out, either to family or to employers, less likely to consider LGBT spaces to be inclusive of them, and less likely to be out to their health care professionals. This has a direct impact on mental health

40% of bisexual people have considered or attempted suicide, compared to just over a quarter of gay men and lesbians.

While biphobia still exists, we need Bi Visibility day, but we also need allies to call out prejudice, to tackle biphobia 365 days of the year, so we can change some of the shocking statistics mentioned here. So what can you do? Remember someone is bi regardless of the relationship they are in, relationships arent gay, or straight, or bi,  people are. Using people-centred language helps tackle the idea bi people are deceptive, or really gay or straight. If someone bi has a partner of a certain gender, don’t erase their bisexuality or ask if this means they are straight/gay now. 

Bi is who you are not who you date

Call out biphobia wherever you hear it, it’s not banter or fun, or a joke, its hate speech, allies can change the environment, which means more bi people will be able to be out at home, work, college, school, and in LGBT spaces.

Bi People are not punchlines.

Leave assumptions behind. Just because someone looks like they are with the same gender, or different gender partner, doesn’t mean they are gay or straight – they could be bi! Making space for bi people means they can access the community support which we know makes a huge difference to mental health and wellbeing.

Bi people belong at the heart of the LGBT community 

Three simple steps I would invite you all to pledge to take today, and everyday, until we can wave goodbye to biphobia. 

If you would like more information or support;

Karen (they/them) is a therapist offering online counselling and uses the beautiful landscape around them in the Tyne Valley for their walking therapy practice. They have specialist training and experience of working with gender, sexuality and relationship diverse communities and have a Post Graduate Diploma in Gender, Sexuality and Relationship Diverse Therapy awarded Pink Therapy. After studying philosophy at the LSE Karen worked in SE Asia for a number of years, as a teacher and trainer before returning to the UK. Karen is especially proud of being an Academic Archers Research Fellow where they Queered Shula. They recently contributed to the book Non-Binary Lives, an Anthology of Intersecting Identities, and lead training across the UK and online for counsellors and others to improve access and inclusion for all.