People who are open about their bisexuality are often met by responses including: they are delusional, are in denial of their true homosexuality and just haven’t had the guts to fully come out as yet, are promiscuous as they are never satisfied with a relationship with one gender, and bisexual males are largely responsible for spreading HIV throughout the Western world. It is clear that there is a need for a word to describe discrimination and disregard for bisexuals, so “Biphobia” is possibly the most accurate.
The truth is that bisexuality is a valid and real orientation for many people. They are attracted to and capable of having sex and a successful relationship with either a male or female. There is a large amount of clinical and research data that confirms that bisexuality definitely exists as an orientation and this also includes some transgendered people. Evidence from historical and cross-cultural research also clearly indicates that bisexuality has existed throughout history in diverse cultures around the world.
The gay community accuses many heterosexuals of discriminating against gays and lesbians including not recognising relationships and seeing a homosexual orientation as invalid. Unfortunately, the gay community is also often guilty of doing the same to many bisexual people.
The West still generally divides people into two categories of sexual orientation: heterosexual and homosexual. Within this narrow framework, a bisexual person is considered to be a hybrid mixture of both a homosexual and heterosexual. Because these orientations are seen as separate, bisexual people are often considered as being in constant conflict between two opposing sides.
Unfortunately, many bisexual people are often seen to be dud relationship candidates as people think that at any particular time they need intimate contact with both a male and a female to be truly satisfied. This leads to the perception that bisexuals are never be fulfilled and doomed to a life of frustration or promiscuity. A bisexual person is therefore considered to be either satisfying their “homosexual” or “heterosexual” sides when in a relationship with a person of a particular gender. Essentially, it is like saying that a person who is attracted to brown skinned and white skinned people would need to have lovers of both skin colours in order to be truly satisfied. It almost goes without saying that a person can be satisfied with either a brown or white skinned person without feeling a deep sense of not being fulfilled when in a relationship with only one of these.
The reality is that people with a bisexual orientation are not split into heterosexual and homosexual parts. Bisexuality is an orientation that allows a person the freedom to feel deeply fulfilled in a relationship of either gender. Unfortunately however, given people’s perceptions of bisexuality, it can often be very difficult to sustain a bisexual identity when in a relationship of either gender.
Another myth about bisexuality is that it is just a phase (sound familiar?) or temporary form of sexuality between living a straight lifestyle and coming out as a gay or lesbian person, which is their “true selves.” This means that as soon as a bisexual person has a relationship with either gender, they are no longer seen as bisexual, they are then perceived as either coming out as being gay or “returning to heterosexuality”. This creates pressure from both the gay and straight community for bisexual people to deny their identity and define themselves as being gay or straight. This is similar to asking a gay or lesbian person to give up their identity just because a parent or uncle says that you are just going through a phase.
There are also some people who have falsely labelled themselves as bisexual as part of a transition to feeling more comfortable with a gay or lesbian identity. In time, these individuals eventually tell others that they said they were bisexual because they were scared to come out as gay or lesbian due to their fears. Once facing the fears, they are able to be more honest with themselves and other people. Whilst many people have done this, it in no way means that bisexual people are in this same boat.
Unfortunately bisexuality is rarely discussed in a rational and informed way, so bisexual people can often absorb these stereotypes and start to believe them. This can lead to depression, anxiety, shame, fear and guilt, as they will often feel isolated and have a sense that they don’t belong to either the gay community or straight society. People with a bisexual orientation also often feel like they are a fraud if they are involved in the gay scene or groups, or the heterosexual scene. This is often fuelled by people’s uninformed and hurtful stereotyped comments.
Being a minority within a minority group who doesn’t believe that you are being honest can be very distressing and negatively impact your self-esteem. The feeling of isolation can be worsened by gay, lesbian and straight people who are often not interested in having a relationship with a bisexual person fearing that they will jump ship when an attractive person of another gender comes their way. This often denies a gay, lesbian or straight person the opportunity of having a relationship with a bisexual person who could be ideally suited to them. The reality is that many bisexual people have successful and healthy long-term monogamous relationships with people of either sex. Some choose to have a more open relationship, which is the same as any couple negotiating the same thing.
If you are bisexual and are experiencing distress, shame, guilt or confusion, our psychologists are available and qualified to support you.