Being an Ally to the Bisexual Community
What Is Bisexuality?
Bisexuality is the potential to feel attracted (sexually, romantically, emotionally) to and/or engage in sensual or sexual relationships with men and women. A bisexual person may not be equally attracted to men and women, and the degree of attraction may vary over time. Bisexuality operates on a binary - men and women - whereas pansexuality or omnisexuality would be someone who is attracted to people of all (or regardless of) gender identities and expressions. These sexual orientations (bisexual, pansexual, omnisexual, as well as fluid and asexual) fall under the umbrella term, "nonmonosexual," as opposed to "monosexual" (lesbian, gay, or straight).
Bisexual individuals, like all people, have a wide variety of relationship styles. Contrary to common myth, a bisexual person does not necessarily need to be sexually involved with both a man and a woman simultaneously. Many bisexuals choose to be sexually active with one partner only, whereas others choose to have a number of partners. It is important to have the freedom to choose the type of relationship that is right for the people involved whatever their orientation.
Bisexual women and men cannot be defined by their partner or potential partner, so they are rendered invisible within an either/or framework. This invisibility is one of the most challenging aspects of a bisexual identity. Living in a society that is based and thrives on opposition, on the reassurances and "balanced" polarities of dichotomy, affects how we see the world and how we negotiate our own and other people's lives to fit "reality." Most people are unaware of their homosexual or heterosexual assumptions until a bisexual speaks up/comes out and challenges the assumption. Very often bisexuals are then dismissed, and told they are "confused" and "simply have to make up their mind and choose." For bisexual people to maintain their integrity in what can be a heterosexist and homonormative society, they must have a strong sense of self, and the courage and conviction to live their lives in defiance of what passes for "normal."
What Does Biphobia Look Like?
- Assuming that everyone you meet is either heterosexual or homosexual.
- Believing that a bisexual identity is temporary and occurs before a "real" lesbian/gay/heterosexual identity.
- Expecting a bisexual to identify as heterosexual when coupled with the "opposite" gender/sex.
- Believing that bisexual women spread AIDS/HIV and other STIs to lesbians, or believing bisexual men spread AIDS/HIV and other STIs to heterosexuals.
- Assuming a bisexual person would want to fulfill your sexual fantasies or curiosities.
- Assuming bisexuals would be willing to "pass" as anything other than bisexual.
- Feeling that bisexual people are too outspoken and pushy about their visibility and rights.
- Automatically assuming romantic couplings of two women are lesbian, or two men are gay, or a man and a woman are heterosexual.
- Expecting bisexual people to get services, information and education from heterosexual service agencies for their "heterosexual side" and then go to gay and/or lesbian service agencies for their "homosexual side"
- Believing that all bisexuals are "sluts" (which, additionally, is a term used to police sexuality, often of women)
- Thinking bisexuals only have committed relationships with "opposite" sex/gender partners.
- Looking at a bisexual person and automatically thinking of their sexuality rather than seeing them as a whole, complete person.
- Assuming that bisexuals, if given the choice, would prefer to be within an "opposite" gender/sex coupling to reap the social benefits of a "heterosexual" pairing.
- Not confronting a biphobic remark or joke (removed second part)
- Assuming bisexual means "available."
- Thinking that bisexual people will have their rights when lesbian and gay people win theirs.
- Being gay or lesbian and asking your bisexual friend about their lover only when that lover is the same sex/gender.
- Thinking that people identify as bisexual because it's "trendy."
- Suggesting that identifying as bisexual inherently upholds a gender binary. Different people think differently about their identities; possible reasons for identifying as bisexual include a reclamation of a word from its negative connotations, a remaking of the word to mean "attraction to any gender" or "attraction regardless to gender", an attraction to different femininities and masculinities, or to connect with history and literature.