Photo C/O Cecilie Johnsen

CW: Biphobia, transphobia

Friends, Romans and countrymen, lend me your ears. For too long I’ve had to put up with the same bullshit. This little bi is here to set the record straight. Biphobia and bisexual erasure are a daily reality for bisexual and pansexual people alike. Even amongst the LGBTQ2SIA+ community, biphobia runs rampant. While I have noticed an improvement in recent years, there are still a number of myths about bi folks that remain. Let’s bust them.

Myth I: Bisexuality is transphobic 

There is a common misconception that bisexuality is transphobic because it refers to attraction to only cisgender men and women. There are a number of reasons that this is wrong, but to begin with, trans and non-binary people can be bi.

“But Lauren, bi means two,” you say. “So you must only like men and women.”

Listen buddy, you’re being pedantic. Yes, technically the bi in bisexuality is meant to indicate an attraction to two genders. However, bisexuality was first recognized back when the idea of being transgender or non-binary was mostly rejected by Western society. At the time (and still, sometimes, today) society only recognized two genders. Our understanding of gender has evolved over time, and so has the definition of what it means to be bi.

It’s easy to say that bisexual folks are attracted to cis men and women, whereas pansexual folks are attracted to everything in between. It puts us into neat and tidy boxes. It’s easy to do that, but oh boy is it ever wrong. In my experience, the only difference between bi and pan is whatever label feels more comfortable to you. Personally, I just feel more comfortable with bi. 

My sexuality isn’t limited to the definition of bisexuality, but it feels necessary for me to have that label in order to exist in a society that is defined by labels. My romantic and sexual orientation is messy and complex and trying to fit it into a neat and tidy box is like Cinderella’s stepsisters trying to fit their feet into the glass slippers. Just because it’s easier for you to say I’m only attracted to men and women doesn’t mean it’s true.


MYTH II: Bisexuals are confused

On one side of the biphobia coin is the idea that all bi folks are one step away from coming out as gay or lesbian. Yes, it’s true that some people will use bisexuality as a way to experiment with their sexuality and branch out. Hey, coming out sucks, and I absolutely understand people who want to get comfortable first. That doesn’t mean all bi and pan people are just deluding themselves, it just means that some people may not be comfortable coming out without a transition period. 

The other side of this coin is the idea that bisexuals are actually just straight and are either confused or looking for attention. For a long time, I thought that I was just confused. I’ll be honest, I actually went back into the closet because I was convinced that other people were bi, but I was attracted to men so I guess I must be straight. I doubted my own damn sexuality, which is nonsense and ridiculous. No one should be made to feel that way.


Myth III: Bisexuals are promiscuous

Disclaimer before we get into this: I am NOT saying that it’s a bad thing to have sex. Have sex with as many or as few people as you want, I support you wholeheartedly! The thing that I do take issue with is people thinking that someone’s sexuality means that they want to sleep with you.Bisexuality is an identity, not an invitation. 

Have you ever tried navigating a dating app as a bi person? There are three main camps of people you’ll run into. First, unicorn hunters. As a rule, this is a heterosexual couple looking for a threesome. As I’ve mentioned, it’s gross to assume that someone’s sexuality means they want to have sex with you. Buddy, it is not my fault that you can’t please your girlfriend on your own. Buy a vibrator and leave me out of it.

The second group is biphobic people that think that bi folks aren’t queer. I am so tired of the “you must be this gay to ride” trope. It’s a relationship, not a rollercoaster. I can’t believe I need to say this, but bi people aren’t inherently more likely to cheat on you than anyone else. Just because we’re attracted to more than one gender doesn’t mean we can’t commit to one person.

The third and final group is decent human beings who actually want to date you, bless their hearts.


Myth IV: Bisexuals in relationships have chosen a side”

There is an assumption that bi people in committed relationships have “decided” that they are gay or they are straight. This is so unspeakably invalidating. It makes me feel like I’m right back in the closet again. Not everyone is out here looking for a polyamorous relationship (although if you are, more power to you), some people just want to settle down with one person. That shouldn’t and doesn’t invalidate their identity. Your relationship status doesn’t define your sexuality.


Sometimes I feel like people have forgotten what the B stands for in  LGBTQ2SIA+. It’s not bananas, folks. A part of common human decency is to respect the way that people identify. I don’t need to justify my sexuality to anyone, and I shouldn’t have to. Neither should you. Thanks for coming to my Ted Talk.


This article is part of our Sex and the Steel City, our annual sex-positive issue. Click here to read more content from the special issue.

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Examining stigma on bisexuality from both ends of the sexuality spectrum

Biphobia: let’s talk about it. Loosely defined as an aversion towards bisexuality and bisexual people as individuals, biphobia is a concept that’s not too well understood, nor talked about enough. In recent years, the topic of sexuality has been a highly discussed topic, with the idea of free love becoming more and more accepted in the world today. 

The introduction of 2SLGBTQIA+ characters in books, television and film has led to an increase in representation of the community, making it a lot easier for the community to live than it has been in the past. Though some people think that the entirety of the 2SLGBTQIA+ community is fully integrated, it’s still not an equal place for all members and among one of the more misunderstood members of this community are the individuals within the “B”; Bisexuals. 

Though in recent years the population has gained a higher understanding for homosexuality, popular culture has fed into the idea that sexuality is a binary choice, essentially meaning that a person can only be attracted to one gender at once. Historically, bisexuality was dismissed as a “secondary sexuality”, implying that bisexual people were either closeted gay/lesbian individuals trying to appear “heterosexual”, or a heterosexual person “going through a phase”. 

Contrary to popular belief, biphobia can be experienced within the 2SLGBTQIA+ community just as much as within the heterosexual community. Oftentimes, bisexuals are labelled as trying to escape oppression by conforming to social expectations of sexuality and love, leaving them to be viewed as “not real” members of the 2SLGBTQIA+ community, because they are “straight-passing”.  

A substantial issue is that bisexual men are either assumed to be gay or homophobic, increasing the want to conform to being either hetero or homosexual. This is pretty substantial and is supported through research, as a 2013 report by the Pew Research Center confirmed that only 12% of bisexual American males are ‘out’.  

Along with this, bisexual women are fetishised, or said to be attention-seeking. This can be heavily seen through the experience of Megan Barton-Hansen, a bisexual competitor on Love Island. Instead of allowing her to freely explore and publicize her sexuality, internet users were quick to announce their beliefs that she was just “playing” her bisexuality and would ultimately end up with a man. 

This bi-erasure is also seen in other celebrities, namely pop icon Lady Gaga. Lady Gaga is an openly bisexual woman. She’s spoken out about her sexuality more than once and revealed that her song ‘Poker Face’ is about her own personal experience with her sexuality. But through this, her sexuality is often ignored and she’s been accused of lying more than once about it. The Grammy Awards have even named Sam Smith as “the first [2SLGBTQIA+] person to win Best Pop Vocal Album”, even though Lady Gaga has already previously won that title. 

“I may not, to some people, be considered a part of [the 2SLGBTQIA+] community, even though I like girls sometimes,” said Gaga to a group of people at 2019 World Pride in New York.

Pop singer Halsey has had similar experiences, with critics of her music video for her song ‘Strangers’ stating that the video was not queer enough. “It literally is a bisexual story . . . [Luna’s] relationship with a man doesn’t nullify her bisexuality. Not in an imaginary music video universe and not in real life either,” said Halsey on Twitter.

Bisexual representation in film and television is something that we need to discuss too. In 2018, the British Film Institute argued that bisexuals aren’t often explored in film and this is something that must be amended. Though television has had a better run with representation with characters such as Oberyn Martell (Game of Thrones), Callie Torres (Grey’s Anatomy), Frank Underwood (House of Cards), Rosa Diaz (Brooklyn Nine-Nine) and Annalise Keating (How to Get Away with Murder). There is still a lot of work to be done in ensuring that bisexuality is represented in the media and it is done without propagating any further stigma. 

It’s been found that the constant marginalization that bisexual individuals face has had negative impacts on their physical health. A 2013 Pew Research Center report found that bisexuals have higher rates of anxiety and depressive disorders than straight and gay people; are at a higher likelihood for youth risk behavior; are more likely to develop eating disorders; heart disease and take up drinking or smoking and are less likely to feel very accepted in the workplace. Biphobia and bi-erasure is real and it can lead to serious physical harm of people within this community. 

Bisexuality cannot be ignored when same-sex couples are not featured. Being with someone of the opposite gender does not make a person ‘straight’ and featuring a bisexual person in a relationship with the opposite sex does not make them any less queer. Given that a lot of people cannot come out to their families as bisexual without being told that it is simply a phase, we need to fight for ensuring that bisexuality, alongside all other sexualities and gender identities within the 2SLGBTQIA+ community, is treated with the respect and acceptance that it deserves.

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