I’ve never really come out as bisexual to my family. When I was sixteen I remember hearing my cousin say; ‘bisexuality isn’t real. Bisexual men are just gay and bisexual women are only lesbians. You can never like both genders.’ It was a very bizarre viewpoint for my cousin to take (and my relatives to agree with) considering that we are a very progressive family. B, but it was a comment that ultimately stopped me from openly telling my family I was bisexual and was my first experience of biphobia.
The truth is I like people of multiple genders. I find all people attractive and can see myself be in a relationship with anyone. My sexuality goes beyond simply sex. When people are doubtful or question me, I explain that I have a changeable emotional and sexual attraction to people and the gender of the individual I like is not a defining factor. One would think it’s a relatively simple thing to comprehend.
Instead when I told some of my friends and acquaintances, many of them were quick to point out that I was just going through ‘a phase’. I was also told that I was trying to ‘avoid homophobia’ or ‘believed in something that was not real’. According to one of my close gay friends I was ‘straight, gay or lying’. Ultimately what I found was that many of my straight friends were accepting of homosexuality as involved an attraction to just one gender, however in their eyes it was ‘impossible’ to be attracted to more than one gender. It appeared as if homosexuality blossomed in our community but bisexuality was fading into the background of acceptance.
Once I began dating a girl, it seemed as if I had ‘settled’ on what I wanted, while others murmured that I had gone into denial. It now appeared as if whom I dated was a reflection on what sexuality I ‘chose’ – I was gay when I was seen out with another guy and straight when I hooked up with a girl. The gender of the person nearby me seemed to confirm or deny the status of my sexuality rather than my own coming out.
Facing biphobia inevitably means that I forced to explain to many people that I am indeed bisexual and not a gay man in denial or going through a phase. I also struggle to explain that all humans are not simply heterosexual or homosexual, but that there is a deeper connection that can permeate gender boundaries. I am not undecided on what gender I prefer. I am not greedy or promiscuous. I will not be ‘more likely to cheat’ because of my openness to both genders.
The bisexual community, myself included, face discrimination from both heterosexual communities and homosexual communities. Studies have found that bisexual people suffer higher rates of mental health than lesbians and gay men. This can be thought of as linked to biphobia, bisexual invisibility, low levels of support and acceptance, and the ‘double discrimination’ experienced by bisexual people, where we are rejected by heterosexual and homosexual people alike because we do not fall into the two separate categories.
Fighting biphobia isn’t easy. There are long standing attitudes within the community that you can like only one gender but not multiple genders. This type of ignorance must end. As a bisexual individual, I am proud to be part of a society that is slowly accepting homosexuality. But at the same time it is difficult to live in a society that thinks the ability to love and be attracted to a person of multiple genders does not exist. The truth is that bisexuality does exist. I exist.