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Monday, October 17, 2022

Bisexuality and Biphobia

Biphobia is a pervasive problem within the heterosexual world as well as in the LGBTQ world.

What is Bisexuality?
Before defining biphobia, it's important to define bisexuality, which is a broad and inclusive term that can include physical attraction, romantic or sexual attraction that is not limited to one sex.

With regard to sexual orientation, bisexuality includes both heterosexual (different sex) and homosexual (same sex) attraction or behavior.  

The Bisexual Pride Flag was created by Bisexual Activist Michael Page in 1998

As most people know, homophobia is a dislike or prejudice against gay people.  

Similarly, biphobia is a prejudice or dislike of people who are bisexual.  

Depending upon how a bisexual person defines themselves, this could include:
  • An attraction to men and women
  • An attraction to the same and different genders
  • Love beyond gender
  • An attraction regardless of sex or gender
Similar to any sexual orientation, there are many ways to be bisexual and each person who identifies as bisexual will identify in the way that feels right for them.

The following are examples of just some of the many ways that bisexual people identify themselves and they are all valid:
  • Carol:  For the first 25 years of her life, Carol identified as heterosexual and she dated men.  When she turned 25, she joined a women's support group where there were heterosexual women, lesbians and bisexual women.  After socializing with these women over time, Carol realized that she felt attracted to a few of the lesbian and bisexual women in the group.  She realized she had attractions for both men and women, and she began to identify herself as bisexual.  Over time, she felt comfortable dating and having sex with both men and women.
  • Jane: From a young age, Jane knew she was attracted to both men and women.  She thought of herself as bisexual, but she only dated men throughout high school because she didn't know of any other bisexual women in her small town. But when she went away to college, she met lesbian and bisexual women and she dated them as well as men she was attracted to at the college.  After she graduated from college, she moved back to her town where there were no lesbian or bisexual women that Jane knew of and so she resumed dating men.  But she continued to identify herself as bisexual because she was aware that she was still attracted to women (as well as men) and if she ever had the opportunity to date women again, she would.
  • John: Throughout high school, John maintained a four year relationship with a woman at his school.  After they graduated, they both went to different colleges and they planned to continue in a long distance relationship.  But when John went to college, he met a few gay and bisexual men he was sexually attracted to, so he let her girlfriend know that he wanted to be free to date men, and they broke up.  Initially, John felt confused about his sexual and romantic attractions to men because he continued to be attracted to women.  But as he continued to date men, he felt more comfortable identifying himself as bisexual.  Occasionally, he still dated women at college, but he was mostly drawn to men.  He told his friends that, even though he discovered that he was more interested in men, he didn't want to negate the fact that he had genuinely loved his ex-girlfriend and he was still attracted to women.  
  • Bill: From an early age, Bill was aware that he had crushes on both girls and boys.  He never told anyone about his crushes on boys because he was afraid he would be teased or ridiculed if he came out as bisexual.  But once he moved to New York City to live on his own, he had an opportunity to explore his bisexuality with cisgender men and women as well as trans women and men.  His attractions felt comfortable to him.  Sometimes, he wondered if he should identify as pansexual, but the bisexual identification felt truer to him.
As I mentioned above, these vignettes represent only some of the ways that people identify their bisexuality.  Each person identifies their bisexuality in a way that feels right for them.

What is Biphobia?
Biphobia is prejudice, fear or hatred directed at bisexual people and includes:
  • Making jokes or comments based on old stereotypes that attempt to undermine the identification of a bisexual person, including:
    • Telling someone that their bisexuality is "just a phase" that they'll overcome at some point.
    • Telling someone they are "greedy" for wanting to be with more than one sex or gender

What is Bisexual Erasure?
Bisexual erasure is a manifestation of biphobia.  

Bisexual erasure, also known as bisexual invisibility, is a form of prejudice where the legitimacy of bisexuality is questioned or denied.

As previously mentioned, this includes telling a bisexual person that they're just "going through a phase" or that they are "just experimenting" and eventually they will be either gay or heterosexual.

Another example of bisexual erasure is when someone accuses a bisexual person of not wanting to admit they are gay.  So, in other words the person's bisexuality is not seen as being legitimate.

Another way of questioning or denying a person's bisexuality is to say that the person is "just confused."

Some people also deny a person's bisexual identity if that person has only had relationships with different sex or gender.  This is bisexual erasure because it doesn't matter if the person who identifies as bisexual has gone out with or had sex with same sex people. 

There is no "test" or need for proof to determine whether someone is bisexual. Someone can identify as bisexual even if they never act on it and it's up to them to say how they identify.

Another example of bisexual erasure is when people say, "Everyone is bisexual" (or some people say, "All women are bisexual").   But this is not true because everyone, including women, don't all identify as bisexual.  Saying that everyone is bisexual makes people who actually identify as bisexual invisible.

What is Internalized Biphobia?
Internalized biphobia occurs when bisexual people internalize the harmful and untrue things people have told them which, in addition to the prejudiced comments mentioned above, include:
  • Bisexuality is not real.
  • Bisexuals are cheaters.
  • Bisexuals can't possibly be in successful monogamous relationships.
  • Bisexuals are just attention seeking.

Resources For Bisexual People
Because there is so much biphobia, it's important for people who identify as bisexual to find community among other bisexual individuals:

The LGBTQ Center in New York City is a resource for the LGBTQ community which provides support groups, mental health services, meetings, social events and more.

    Located at
    208 West 13th Street, New York, NY 10011

    Telephone Number: (212) 620-7310

Identity House in New York City is located in the LGBT Center: 208 West 13 Street (see above).  Their services include peer counseling and come out groups.

The Bisexual Resource Center provides information and support online as well as in person Meetup groups in the Boston area.

About Me
I am a licensed New York City psychotherapist, hypnotherapist, EMDR, AEDP, EFT, Somatic Experiencing and Sex Therapist.

I work with individual adults and people in relationships.

To find out more about me, visit my website: Josephine Ferraro, LCSW - NYC Psychotherapist.

To set up a consultation, call me at (917) 742-2624 during business hours or email me.