Bi Erasure and Biphobia Within the LGBT+ Community

Updated on June 12, 2018
JenniferWilber profile image

Jennifer Wilber works as an ESL instructor, substitute teacher, and freelance writer. She holds a B.A. in Creative Writing and English.

Pride Parade by GoToVan (cropped)
Pride Parade by GoToVan (cropped) | Source

Introduction

Pride Month is here again, and there are celebrations and events in cities all over the world where members of the LGBT+ community and their allies can come together to celebrate diversity and acceptance. Pride celebrations are important for a sense of community and self-worth for millions of people in the LGBT+ community who have been persecuted for their identities throughout history.

It is also important that we don’t lose sight of the importance of acceptance of all parts of the LGBT+ community. Even with greater acceptance of the LGBT+ community by society as a whole, there are still issues of people within this community treating certain parts of the LGBT+ family poorly.

Though over half of people in the LGBT+ community identify themselves as bi, bi individuals still frequently experience discrimination and erasure from LG people.

All people deserve respect and acceptance, no matter their orientation.
All people deserve respect and acceptance, no matter their orientation. | Source

Bi Erasure and Biphobia

Bi erasure and biphobia are often overlooked issues within the LGBT+ community. Negative stereotypes about bisexual people persist, which cause gay and lesbian individuals to distrust bi-identified individuals, or to assume bisexuality doesn’t actually exist.

Though LGBT+ representation in the media has been improving in recent years, it is still rare to see positive portrayals of bi characters on television. Characters are usually assumed to be either gay or straight, depending on which characters they are interested in romantically. Even if a character is portrayed as being attracted to both male and female characters, they rarely identify as bi, instead claiming to “not need labels.” One popular example of this is Piper on Orange is the New Black, who has been involved with both men and women, but has never identified as bi. Other characters wonder if she is really straight, or if she is now a lesbian. Other times, characters are implied to be bi as a character flaw. Bi characters are typically villains, promiscuous characters, or untrustworthy.

Even when the LGBT+ acronym is used, bisexuals are often left out of discussions of LGBT+ issues. Within LGBT discourse, the “B” is often glossed over or overlooked completely (Voss, 2014). Bi speakers are often excluded from at LGBT+ events and conferences. Bi individuals tend to be less active in LGBT+ organizations because of the stigmatization of their identity (Obradors-Campos, 2011). Many gay- and lesbian-identified individuals are distrustful of those who identify as bi because of the stereotypes that are still prevalent about the bi community. Bi women are seen as more “promiscuous” than their monosexual counterparts and are often accused of being unable to make up their mind, or of eventually leaving lesbian partners for straight men. There may be political pressure to conform to an either/or sexual orientation. For example, some women identify as lesbians for political reasons and refuse to accept women who identify as bisexual (Baxter-Williams, 2017). Bi men are often thought to be gay, but in denial.

Despite stereotypes of bi men and women of being more “promiscuous” than their gay or straight peers, bi people often report having more difficulty in meeting new romantic partners due to social isolation. This complaint is especially common amongst bi women, though bi men are also affected (Weinberg, 1994).

Bi women who are or have been in long-term relationships with straight men are often shunned when seeking support from LGBT+ community, as they are assumed to be straight, or attempting to pass as straight. Many people within the LGBT+ community assume that a bi person in a straight-appearing relationship is no longer “queer” enough.

Bi Erasure

The tendency to ignore bisexuality, or to pretend that it doesn't exist.

Biphobia

The aversion to bisexuality and bisexual people.

The gender of someone's partner doesn't change their orientation. People can identify as bi even if they are in a monogamous relationship with a man or a woman.
The gender of someone's partner doesn't change their orientation. People can identify as bi even if they are in a monogamous relationship with a man or a woman. | Source

How Bi Erasure and Biphobia Negatively Affect Bi Individuals

Bi erasure and biphobia have many negative affects on the wellbeing of bi individuals. Bi men and women statistically have poorer mental health, as well as physical health. Bi people tend to feel more socially isolated than other members of the LGBT+ community and straight people.

With the rise of LGBT+ social movements, people with minority sexual identities have developed their own “culture.” Bi people, however, often feel “trapped between two cultures,” somewhere between straight and gay (Weinberg, 1994). The need for a cultural community is important for feelings of belonging, but bisexuals often lack this sense of community within the LGBT+ community. This sense of isolation, lack of social support, and discrimination from both the LGBT+ and straight communities can lead to poorer health outcomes for bi men and women.

Studies have shown that bisexuals suffer from poorer mental health than gay, lesbian, and straight individuals (Voss, 2014). Bi individuals are at a higher risk for alcohol and substance abuse. Bi women are at the highest risk for alcohol abuse compared to heterosexual and homosexual women (New Hope Recovery Center, 2014). Bisexual are also at a higher risk for developing anxiety, depression, and other mental health issues than are heterosexuals and homosexuals (New Hope Recovery Center, 2014).

The bisexual pride flag by Peter Salanki
The bisexual pride flag by Peter Salanki | Source

What Can Be Done to End Bi Erasure and Biphobia?

LGBT+ organizations need to promote the acceptance of bisexuality through education to change biphobic attitudes within the LGBT+ community. The media also needs to become more representative of bisexual individuals. LGBT+ organizations should work to become more inclusive to bi individuals and offer the same support services to people who identify as bi. Bi men and women should also work to create their own spaces and support networks to bridge the gap while the overall LGBT+ community catches up.

Bi people need to be more active in the LGBT+ community and create their own organizations within the community. Some organizations already exist, but they tend to be less prolific and lack permanent venues (Voss, 2014). Demanding visibility is the first step in creating more dialogue between the different groups that make up the LGBT+ community.

In addition to creating more bi+ activist organizations, more scientific research into sexual orientation should be funded to help legitimize the bi identity. Kinsey’s research helped to show that sexuality is more fluid than once thought (Katz, 2009), but more modern research is needed as well.

Creating visibility through activist organizations, as well as funding additional scientific research would go a long way to remove the stigma against bi men and women within the LGBT+ community.

Bisexual people in the parade at Pride in London 2016 by Katy Blackwood
Bisexual people in the parade at Pride in London 2016 by Katy Blackwood | Source

Note:

This article was adapted from a presentation I did for a diversity class I took at SNHU during my last semester.

Sources:

Baxter-Williams, L. (2017, January 17). Giving Up Men is a Slippery Slope. Retrieved January 22, 2017, from http://www.thisisbiscuit.co.uk/5502-2/

Katz, Jonathan N. (2009). The Invention of Heterosexuality. In Ferber, A. L. The Matrix Reader: examining the dynamics of oppression and privilege (pp. 36-43). New York, NY: McGraw-Hill.

New Hope Recovery Center. (2014, January 30). Addiction, Mental Health, and Bisexuality. Retrieved January 22, 2017, from http://www.new-hope-recovery.com/center/2013/05/31/addiction-mental-health-and-bisexuality/

Obradors-Campos, M. (2011). Deconstructing Biphobia. Journal Of Bisexuality, 11(2/3), 207-226. doi:10.1080/15299716.2011.571986

Voss, G., Browne, K., & Gupta, C. (2014). Embracing the “And”: Between Queer and Bisexual Theory at Brighton BiFest. Journal Of Homosexuality, 61(11), 1605-1625. doi:10.1080/00918369.2014.944055

Weinberg, M. S., Williams, C. J., & Pryor, D. W. (1994). Dual Attraction: Understanding Bisexuality. New York: Oxford University Press.

The Bi Pride Flag
The Bi Pride Flag | Source

Questions & Answers

    © 2018 Jennifer Wilber

    Comments

      0 of 8192 characters used
      Post Comment

      No comments yet.

      working

      This website uses cookies

      As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, soapboxie.com uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

      For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at: https://soapboxie.com/privacy-policy#gdpr

      Show Details
      Necessary
      HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
      LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
      Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
      AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
      HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
      HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
      Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
      CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
      Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the googleapis.com or gstatic.com domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
      Features
      Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
      Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
      Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
      Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
      Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
      VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
      PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
      Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
      MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
      Marketing
      Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
      Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
      Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
      Statistics
      Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
      ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
      Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)