Queer Corner: What Do You Mean Biphobia?

Eugene Riordan

Coming Out Day is this coming Sunday, and even for a day that’s supposed to be inclusive of all of the members of the queer community, oftentimes some groups get left out. Of the four groups represented by the acronym LGBT, lesbians and gays are the most often understood and represented. It’s not an entirely hard concept to conceptualize: these people are attracted to people of their own gender (just like how you might be attracted to people of the opposite gender). Transgender issues are a little more complicated, but are a part of a community that is getting more recognition and visibility (though there is still a lot of work that needs to be done). The fourth term, bisexuality, is often marginalized and overlooked, both from within the queer community and without.

It’s interesting that the term biphobia isn’t discussed like the term homophobia (oh great, another phobia that I have to keep track of). Popular media uses bisexuals like Tila Tequila to try to be progressive, but ends up making bisexual people look like uncontrollable sluts. From both the straight and queer communities, bisexual people are thought of as being confused, promiscuous, unable to “choose a side,” nonexistent and confusing. People aren’t sure how to relate to their community, which ends up making the bisexual community feel alone in its own little bubble. This is biphobia in its essence, and affects bisexual people every day.

Bisexuality is a real sexuality, though it is often not understood because we look at sexuality in a polarized world: one has to be gay or straight. Many people have proposed a more fluid or spectrum approach to sexuality (think Freud), which would make sexuality kind of like our political party system: there are radical hetero and homosexuals at either end, along with the bisexuals lying somewhere in-between those two poles. This doesn’t even take into account all of those other identities: how confusing! But that’s a talk for another day.

It is true that some people first come out as being bisexual, and then down the road come out fully as being gay or lesbian. This is done because queer people believe that others will accept them better if they are bisexual (thinking that they’re still half straight), but usually this looks bad for the bisexual community, and people start thinking that bisexuals are just waiting to choose a side. I can assure you that someone that identifies as bisexual will not pick a side later on in life, but will have to accept and embrace their identity, just like the rest of us.

Many bisexual people feel that their partner determines which community they can belong: rejected by the queer community for having an opposite-gender relationship, and pushed back into the queer community for having a same-gendered one. One of the concerns that people have is if they are in a relationship with someone who is bisexual, that person will leave them for the opposite gender. The thing to realize is that bisexual people have relationship standards like everyone else, and if you’re afraid that your partner is going to leave you, regardless of sexual orientation, you should probably talk it out. The idea that bisexuals are promiscuous stems from people not understanding how their sexuality works, and that they have no standards or attractions.

Bisexuals usually don’t like males and females equally; rather, they use the term “preference” to identify to which gender they’re most attracted. Like how you might like brunettes over blondes, or people who are shorter over taller, gender is one more way that bisexuals use to determine to whom they are attracted. They aren’t half gay and half straight. On Colgate’s campus, many bisexuals who are in relationships fear disclosing their entire identity to their partner because they’re afraid their partner might become paranoid and weirded out. On this campus, bisexuals also feel disconnected to the LGBTQ community, feeling that they aren’t included in the campus activities.

We’re working as a community to become more inclusive, and personally, instead of saying, “Oh, here come the gays,” I’m using “queers” instead to be more inclusive. If you know someone who is bisexual, don’t just assume that they sleep around (though some people, regardless of gender or orientation, do enjoy lots of sex) and feel free to ask them about their identity and their preferences and ideas. Oftentimes, you will learn the most about different sexualities by asking diverse people about theirs. First-hand experiences are always the best. By knowing how to confront stereotypes of different identities, we’ll begin creating an inclusive, diverse and welcoming community. Plus, now you might understand Lady Gaga’s songs better (hint: she’s one of those bisexuals too!).

Contact Eugene Riordan at [email protected]