LUCAS CHEBIB

There has never been a time when I cannot remember experiencing biphobia. In school, I grew used to hearing biphobic language from my straight peers, however, I had always felt safe among my queer friends. They provided a space where my sexuality was celebrated rather than denigrated, and I came to understand queerness in a social sense as being safe and inclusive, taking the same expectations with me to Cambridge. When I arrived at university, my conceptions of the LGBT community were challenged.

My post-18 experiences of the LGBT community have been often alienating, invalidating and erasing. The spaces I’d learned to feel comfortable in were spouting the same biphobic sentiments I’d heard from straight people – and the shock was all the more potent because it was here, I felt, that I should feel safe and included. Existing outside a binary of hetero- and homosexuality meant that I often felt stuck between a rock and a hard place. I experienced discrimination in the form of microaggressions and overt prejudice from straight people, only to be welcomed in queer spaces with ‘good-humoured’ biphobic comments.  This was deeply upsetting and confusing.

“The spaces and events which were meant to be inclusive were failing bisexuals, and no one seemed to notice” 

Gay men have often responded to the news of my bisexuality with degrading comments about the bodies of women, and insinuations that I am less queer because of my heterosexual relationships past and present. These comments are not only misogynistic and disregarding of bisexual people, but they are bioessentialist and transphobic, defining masculinity and relationships between men on genital experience, and thus exemplifying how strongly biphobia is interlinked with an enforced gender binary. The experiences of my bisexual women friends are much the same: bioessentialist terms like ‘gold-star lesbian’ – a woman who has only slept with women – invalidate the queerness of bisexual women and make them feel polluted or lesser for having slept with men. The spaces and events which were meant to be inclusive were failing bisexuals, and no one seemed to notice.

The biphobia experienced in the LGBT community is especially damning as it is coupled with a nauseating invalidation – insinuating that the experiences of bisexual people are not equal to that of homosexuals. We must dispel the myth that bisexual people benefit from heterosexual privilege. While bisexual people can – and it’s sad that we often feel we have to – ‘pass as straight’ while in heterosexual relationships, any out and confidently bisexual person suffers the same at the hands of homophobia as lesbians or gay men.

“The guys who shout ‘faggot’ at you in the street won’t stop to ask if you also like girls, and frankly, they don’t care”

No homophobe will look at a bisexual man differently because he sleeps with women. The guys who shout ‘faggot’ at you in the street won’t stop to ask if you also like girls, and frankly, they don’t care. It is the threat of same-sex love, as real in bisexuals as in homosexuals, that is targeted and vilified. In fact, it’s often worse for bisexual people: the conceptions of bisexuals as unsafe, promiscuous and untrustworthy stems partly from the AIDS epidemic, where bisexual men were seen as ‘infecting’ the straight community with a disease they were keen to see isolated in queer people. The hostility of straight people toward bisexuals as ‘infiltrators’ is regrettably mirrored in the LGBT community, where we are consistently degraded and excluded for our heterosexual experiences and relationships.

Not having an effective support network as readily available to gay men and lesbians has had an impact on the mental health of bisexual people. The American Journal of Public Health reported that bisexual people were more likely than heterosexuals, gay men or lesbians to suffer from anxiety or mood disorders. The bisexual scholar Tangela Roberts explains findings such as these through the impact of ‘monosexism’: discrimination against people attracted to more than one gender. The double stigma faced by bisexual people, Roberts argues, has had tangibly negative effects on their mental health and wellbeing. The studies empirically validated the discrimination she had faced in queer spaces, which she found especially difficult: “I felt this immense sadness for the participants, for myself, and for this concept of a ‘LGBT community’ that we’ve told ourselves is functioning and supportive.”

The fact that the LGBT community owes so much to bisexuals – such as Brenda Howard, the bisexual women who organised the first Pride parade – makes these findings and experiences all the more tragic. The erasure faced by bisexuals, despite there being more bisexual identifying individuals than gay men or lesbians, and their pioneering role in the LGBT community, is urgently damaging, ignorant and unacceptable. Bisexual people should never be apologetic on behalf of their identity, and we should assert the validity of our presence in queer spaces. But make no mistake: the onus is on monosexuals in the LGBT community to educate themselves on these issues, rather than taxing their bisexual friends and colleagues with the emotional labour of inquiry. We deserve to be accepted in the queer spaces which wouldn’t exist without us

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