Internalized Biphobia: It’s a Thing
I have a confession to make on this Bisexual Visibility Day–I’ve definitely got some internalized biphobia going on. Whenever the topic of biphobia or bisexual invisibility comes up, I totally “rah rah” along in solidarity with bisexual folks, but I also have some kneejerk reactions to bisexuality as an identity that I need to keep interrogating. When I identified as gay, I had the bad grace to think of my own bisexual history as a phase I didn’t want to think too much about, and I definitely made the error of thinking of bisexual people as “less queer.” Now that I identify as queer, I’ve made some progress in understanding bisexuality as a valid identity for other people, but I realize that I’m uncomfortable identifying with bisexuality or seeing the commonalities between bisexuality and my own identity.
“Bisexual” means different things for different people. I think there are still folks who identify as bisexual as “I like men and women,” but I know plenty of bisexuals who consider it more “I identify with those the same gender as me and also those who have a different gender from me.” There are many reasons to prefer the term bi to pan, queer, or other options, or to embrace it alongside one or more of those options. Thus, bisexual could in fact be an accurate description of my own identity. I’m attracted to both non-binary people and folks who are not non-binary. And yet, when I test the phrase “I am bisexual” on my tongue, it makes me wiggle uncomfortably–not because it would be inaccurate, but because of the implicit associations I make with bisexuality.
I think my brain still wants to treat bisexuality as meaning that someone is at least partly attached to heteronormative society, even though I know that is not at all true for a lot of bisexual people. When I first learned about bisexuality it was kind of “half gay,” and I did honestly think that it was a less queer identity than other options. For myself, I identified as bisexual at a time when I still really bought into a lot of heteropatriarchal relationship ideas, and I think for that reason I almost fear bisexuality because of its personal association with a time in my life I’m not comfortable with, and my shame at having been a rather conventional person in certain ways. But no real live bisexuals deserve my kneejerk reaction just because I have some personal baggage.
I wonder how much other queer folks who have a bad reaction to the term are wrestling with this same sort of thing, and how much we’re hurting the bisexual folks in our community when we leave these associations unquestioned. I’m writing this post because I hope that speaking up about it is the first step. To the bisexual folks in my life, all I can say is that I apologize, and I’ll try to do better. When I think about queer folks and communities, I’ll ask myself whether I’m including you, and when I think about my own history, I’ll remind myself that one person’s experience does not a valid generalization make.
Happy Bi Visibility Day to you and yours!