Debunking Myths About Bisexuality
Originally Published: June 16, 2014
Revised: June 16, 2014
When you think about sexuality, do you usually think boy plus girl? Nowadays there are more people who also think boy plus boy or girl plus girl when it comes to sexuality. Today there is increased visibility of gay and lesbian people, and more people are comfortable with people of various sexual orientations. However, just because lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and questioning (LGBTQ) people are more visible doesn’t mean the public is entirely informed about what it means when we say “LGBTQ.”
Most notably, bisexual people are often overlooked, which leads to bi-invisibility or the rejection of the legitimacy of bisexuality. Bisexual people are also subject to prejudices, stereotyping or biphobia—the fear or hatred of bisexual people. These forms of bisexual oppression stem from misconceptions about bisexuality. Read on as I address some stereotypes and debunk some myths about bisexual people:
Myths about bisexual people create all kinds of prejudices and stereotypes and set up bisexual people to be dismissed and denied.
Myth #1: Bisexual people are gay people who are just afraid to come out and admit they’re gay.
The premise behind this myth is that bisexuality isn’t real and is only a cover for gay and lesbian people. Consequently, those who believe in this stereotype believe that every bisexual person who is dating a member of another gender is lying to him- or herself and to his or her partner.
Samantha from New Jersey experienced feeling invisible with her parents. She explains, “I’m a 16-year-old bisexual girl. Both of my parents don’t believe in bisexuality. They think you’re either gay or you’re straight.”
Samantha struggled with how to come out to her parents. How do you come out as bisexual to people who don’t believe bisexuality is real? This denial of bisexuality makes many bisexual people stay in the closet. Bisexual people aren’t all secretly gay or lesbian, and they’re not heterosexual either. They are attracted to both guys and girls.
Myth #2: Bisexual people are just confused or “going through a phase.”
It is unfair to assume a person who identifies as being bisexual is confused or “going through a phase.” These beliefs about bisexuality reject bisexuality, promote bi-invisibility (or this idea that bisexual people just don’t exist) and assume that bisexual people are indecisive.
When I speak with 18-year-old Aurora of New Jersey about this, she says, “If I’m so confused about my sexuality, why would I even state that I was bisexual. It doesn’t, in any way, make my life easier. If anything it puts me on this border that people have created for sexuality. But sexuality, like gender, isn’t some defined, stable duality.”
A misconception about sexual orientation is that it is black and white—either/or—and can only be defined by two labels: gay or heterosexual. But bisexuality allows for some fluidity and the fact that some people can be physically and emotionally attracted to both guys and girls.
Myth #3: Bisexual people have it easier than gay people.
Among the various reasons why this myth is absurd is because it implies a competition between gay and bisexual people for who has it worse. Neither group is winning anything by being the biggest victim of homo- or biphobia. It is worth acknowledging however that bisexual people have a certain kind of hatred aimed at them.
“Bi people don’t have it easier than gay people. But at least being gay is recognized as being extant, even by most homophobes. If someone’s against bisexuality, they generally don’t believe in it,” says Sam, 16, of Chicago.
Many people don’t realize that bisexual people are also affected by stigma in more than one way. Bisexual people are affected by the hateful treatment gay people receive from homophobic people, and they are also subject to additional stigma from some people, including gay people, who may believe the myth that bisexuality doesn’t exist or that bi people are gay people who are too afraid to come out. Denying the existence of a sexual orientation discredits an entire group of people. All of this negativity can cause bisexual people to feel ashamed of their sexual identity.
Myth #4: Bisexual people have a lot of sex and only want to have three ways.
The media contributes to the hypersexualized or super sexual image many people have of bisexual people. In movies, bisexual characters are often portrayed as these very sexually active people who participate in sex with two people at once. This perpetuates an untrue stereotype that is harmful to bisexuals.
“Just because I am attracted to members of both sexes does not mean I lust over everyone, just like heterosexual people do not lust over every single member of the opposite sex,” says 18-year-old Sandra of New Jersey.
This stereotype is used to shame bisexual people, especially bisexual women, because the assumption is that bisexual people are having lots of sex. And there is a lot of slut-shaming of bisexual girls, who people assume are super sexual. Just because bisexual people have a wider range of people who they are potentially sexually attracted to doesn’t mean that they are going to pursue people sexually more often than people who are heterosexual or gay.
Myth #5: Bisexual people can’t be in committed, monogamous relationships.
“I don’t understand how being attracted to both males and females automatically means that I can’t be in a committed relationship with either gender. Being straight doesn’t mean you’ll automatically be monogamous,” explains Aurora.
Just because a bisexual person can be romantically attracted to a guy or girl doesn’t mean he or she is more likely to cheat. A person’s ability to be monogamous has nothing to do with her or her sexual orientation. This stereotype that bisexual people cannot be monogamous prevents some people from starting relationships with a bisexual person.
Myths about bisexual people create all kinds of prejudices and stereotypes and set up bisexual people to be dismissed and denied. Biphobia and bi-invisibility are hurtful, but addressing some of these myths is the first step in creating a world where bisexual people are acknowledged as more than the letter in LGBTQ that we don’t really talk much about.
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