Biphobia In An Abusive Relationship

By Heather, a Hotline Advocate

Help! I'm experiencing biphobia!

If you’re bisexual (or pan- or polysexual, hetero- or homoflexible, or Queer & non-monosexual) it’s possible that your sexuality has caused some concerns or confusion in your relationship. (Sadly, bisexual women are more likely than any other group to experience intimate partner violence.) We’re here to tell you that none of this is your fault! Healthy relationships are based on trust, honesty, respect and equality. Everyone, of every sexual orientation, deserves that. No matter which gender you or your partner are, your bisexuality is valid.

If you’ve experienced biphobia or monosexism from a past or current partner, Hotline advocates are available by phone and online chat to talk it out. Unfortunately, we know that most bisexual people experience some biphobia most of the time. If biphobia from outside your relationship is affecting your relationship, our advocates can talk about that, too. If you’d like ongoing support from a professional counselor, GoodTherapy is a great place to find someone near you.

Finding community, whether it’s in person or online, can literally be a lifesaver for bisexual people who may feel all alone. Building a support system of people who love you unconditionally is important. While the closet can be lonely, it can also feel safe, so the only person who ever has the right to disclose your sexual orientation is YOU. Bisexual people are the least likely sexual minority to be out to the most important people in their lives, and that’s totally okay. Coming out is complicated!

Some people dismiss bisexuality by claiming all bi women are secretly straight and all bi men are secretly gay. This is a prime example of bi-erasure. But, sexuality is fluid. Who we’re attracted to, what kinds of sex we want to engage in and when and how – all of those things can and do change throughout our lives. While someone dismissing your sexuality as “just a phase” is incredibly hurtful, it’s also painful if someone dismisses your sexuality because the label you’re using has changed since you’ve met them. There’s a lot of pressure for people to know for certain if they are gay/straight/bi/pansexual. It’s normal to explore and question your own sexuality as you see fit. We figure out and identify what our sexuality is through our experiences and different relationships. It’s okay to feel like you are a certain sexual orientation for a while, but then realize maybe that isn’t quite right for you after all. Labels are meant to be used by individuals to identify themselves and help them find community. They’re not for judging, dividing or hurting other people. You have the right to call yourself whatever feels most comfortable for you.

Biphobia can be isolating, even if your partner isn’t using it against you. But if your partner is behaving abusively – like threatening to out you, claiming you’re not a “real” bisexual, accusing you of cheating or using your sexuality against you in any way – know that you deserve better. Warning signs of an abusive relationship include jealousy, trying to isolate you from your support system, yelling or talking down to you, demanding your passwords or that you check in with them all the time and any physical or sexual contact that makes you uncomfortable. This Power & Control Wheel has other examples of red flags for abuse, too.

One thing that can help combat the pain of biphobia is to learn more about bisexuality and the bisexual community in general. Plenty of people identify as bisexual, and learning how other individuals have become comfortable in their own sexuality can help all of us learn to be authentic in our own. You can find resources by and for the bi+ community here, read all kinds of books and comics by and about bisexual people here, join a thread for bisexual women dating men here, rock out to a bi-affirming playlist here and maybe even find a support group near you for bisexuals!

Help! My loved one is experiencing biphobia in their relationship!

There are a lot of harmful myths out there about bisexual people and bisexuality. If you love someone who identifies as bisexual, (or pan- or polysexual, hetero- or homoflexible, or Queer & non-monosexual), here are a few examples of the hurtful things they’ve probably heard at some point:

A full 2% of men identified themselves as bisexual on a survey from the Centers for Disease Control published in 2016. This means that there are at least three million bi guys in the United States alone—a number roughly equivalent to the population of Iowa. (On the same survey, 5.5% of women self-identified as bisexual, which comes out to roughly the same number of people as live in New Jersey.) The probability that an entire state’s worth of people would lie about being attracted to more than one gender is about as close to zero as you can get. But even the CDC isn’t accurate at measuring just how many people are bisexual.

Unfortunately, bisexual people hear all of those hurtful myths from the straight community and from the Queer community, too. Some lesbians refuse to date women who aren’t “gold star lesbians,” and bisexual men are marginalized by men and women for their sexual appetites. So, coming out as bisexual, even in spaces that are supposed to be LGBTQ-friendly, isn’t always safe. If your partner, friend or child is experiencing biphobia, it’s important to support them and encourage them to find community with people who can relate to their experience. They don’t need or expect you to fully understand what they’re going through, but loving them and reminding them of their worth can make a huge difference.

There are plenty of examples of bisexuality being denied in the media (even when characters on our favorite shows have love interests of different genders, the bi label is rarely spoken aloud!). But bi-erasure also happens frequently at the personal level. When most people assume what someone’s sexual orientation is based on who they’re dating, bisexuals who are out may be compelled to come out again and again for fear of having their identity made invisible by their choice of partner. Unfortunately, this combination of biphobia and bi-erasure means that bisexuals of all genders may have worse health outcomes than straight, gay or lesbian people of all genders by comparison. This paper from the San Francisco Human Rights Commission has some great recommendations (and a handy glossary if you’re just getting started) for supporting your bisexual loved ones.

Has your child just come out to you as bisexual? This letter from the Bisexual Resource Center is worth a read! You can also reach out to us here at The Hotline if you have concerns about your child’s relationship. If you have other concerns about supporting a Queer child, the LGBT National Talkline is available at 1-888-843-4564. If you feel like you and/or your child could use some ongoing support, GoodTherapy is a great place to find someone near you. Other resources for parents are available here, and you might consider joining a Parents Anonymous group. Want to get even more involved? You can find your local PFLAG here.