Biphobia Starts in the Community

Two studies that have been published recently in the Journal of Bisexuality confirm the general feeling in the bisexual community for some time: the discrimination from within the LGT community is very close to the discrimination from the straight community.

Noemi SarussiIn one study, Dr. Tangela Roberts from the University of Massachusetts questioned 745 bisexual people about experiences of discrimination that they have experienced in different social contexts. She discovered that though bisexual people suffered more cases of biphobia from heterosexuals, when the participants were asked to rate the intensity of the experience of discrimination, the results in both populations- straight and LGT – were remarkably close, and straight biphobia “won” by a few points. Roberts asked the participants to tell, among other things, if they were told that they are ”just confused” or was it hinted that there’s a higher chance of cheating on their partners because of their sexual preferences.

Sexologists, psychologists and sociologists began to refer to bisexual discrimination as ”Monosexism”- prejudice against those who are attracted to more than one gender, common among straight and gay people alike. “[It’s an] essentialist perception of sexual orientations as solely occurring between members of same or different genders. Any sexuality that blends same and different gender interactions is deemed illegitimate, occurring in a state of sexuality confusion,” said Roberts. “While doing this study, I had one of those moments where I was sitting there interpreting the data and, once I realized what the numbers were telling me, I felt this immense sadness for the participants, for myself [Roberts is bisexual], and for this concept of an ‘LGBT community’ that we’ve told ourselves is functioning and supportive.”

The second study was conducted at the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health in Toronto, where postdoctoral research fellow Corey Flanders and her co-authors came to a similar conclusion. Several of the 35 young bisexual women they interviewed about mental health for their study in the Journal of Bisexuality described feeling excluded within LGBT spaces.

“[A] couple of years ago I went to Pride and I took my boyfriend with me, because he just wanted to be supportive and come with me to this thing that’s really important to me,” one interviewee said. “[We] did a march and at the end of it I was feeling really happy and excited, and we kissed, and people started booing us.”

“[T]hat was really hurtful for me,” she added, “because it was like being rejected by my own community based on these wrong assumptions they were making about me.”
Other participants in the survey called their coming out “exhausting” because they had to repeatedly defend their bisexuality and explain it.

“On Saturday we gave a seminar on bisexuality at IGY,” says Noemi Sarussi (in the photo above), board member of the Aguda, and also a counselor at IGY and a bisexual activist. “And students also said that they feel more biphobia inside the community than from straight people.” On the results of these studies says Sarussi: “Unfortunately, the survey results do reflect the reality experienced by bisexual people, who suffer double oppression: both from members of the gay and lesbian community and from the straight community. The disrespect from the gay and lesbian community towards bisexuality as a transition stage is very common, and disregard for multi-sexuality identities exist among members of the community as well.”

“There are many gays and lesbians who define themselves as bisexual in the early stages of coming out of the closet, which is understandable – it leaves parents the ‘option’ that one day they will be straight again,” adds Sarussi. “This biphobia is even more grating, because you should expect from those who experienced repression due to sexual orientation to be sensitive to that. I hope we soon see change in the attitude towards bi/ Pan/poly sexuality, like, for example, the change in attitude toward transgender people.”