Biphobia: It's What's For Dinner

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Title: Biphobia: It's What's For Dinner
Creator: chasingtides
Date(s): March 27, 2009
Medium: Online
Topic: Biphobia
External Links: LiveJournal Archived version
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Biphobia: It's What's for Dinner is a 2009 meta essay by chasingtides on the subject of biphobia. It received more than 70 comments on LiveJournal and inspired several other meta posts, including Monosexuals, this one's for you, Biphobia and Fandom, and Bisexuality, Visibility, and Fanfic Labels, or, Being the Blue M&M.

Some Topics Discussed

  • Biphobic stereotypes
  • Bisexual invisibility
  • Portraying bisexuality in fanfiction

The Essay

There's plenty of information on biphobia out there. There's plenty of it out in the world.

In her essay, Robyn Ochs writes, "Thus, bisexuals create discomfort and anxiety in others simply by the fact of our existence. We are pressured to remain silent, as our silence allows the dominant culture to exaggerate the differences between heterosexual and homosexual and to ignore the fact that human sexuality exists on a continuum. It is much less threatening to the dominant heterosexual culture to perpetuate the illusion that homosexuals are “that category, way over there,” very different from heterosexuals. If “they” are extremely different, heterosexuals do not have to confront the possibility of acknowledging same-sex attractions within themselves and possibly becoming “like them.” There is considerable anxiety in being forced to acknowledge that the “other” is not as different from you as you would like to pretend."

I recommend reading her whole essay, especially if you're unaware of this issue. I identify alternately as pansexual and anthrosexual and am currently working my way through Bi Any Other Name: Bisexual People Speak Out (edited by Loraine Hutchins and Lani Kaahumanu).

For online resources, I recommend Texas A&M's Biphobia Guide, this discussion of biphobia in the lesbian community [warning for a fair amount of biphobia in the comments], Biphobia on Scribd, and this extensive read entitled GL vs BT, taken from the Journal of Bisexuality.

There is biphobia in the world. People who aren't monosexual experience it regularly - often daily if we watch television or read books. We grow up in a culture where we are invisible except in the negative. Bisexual women are often the slutty ones who play both sides of the field. Bisexual men spread AIDS.

There are few heroes for us. When, for example, I say that Oscar Wilde exhibited bisexual behavior and the reaction is, "What the hell are you talking about, chasingtides, the man was gay," that is erasure. Not only is it erasure, but it denies us our heritage.

When I was fourteen, I realised, startled and suddenly afraid, that I liked girls. I knew I liked boys - I had had quite the crush on a boy in my junior high. However, out of the clear blue on my first day of high school, I realised that I was definitely attracted to females as well. However, I struggled with this for years. It wasn't that I wasn't attracted to men and women; I was. It was that I knew there was a word for that - bisexual - but I also knew, quite clearly, that I wasn't bisexual. I am monogamous. I have a low sex drive. I am honestly attracted to people of all genders and want to pursue single romantic relationships with them. Clearly, I was not bisexual. There was no decent person, not in my extensive reading and not in my genre television watching, who was bisexual.

In those years, I well could have done with the knowledge that these were biphobic stereotypes and it would have been a good thing if I had been, in main stream media, exposed to non-phobic figures. (I was not involved in queer culture because while I was clearly not a bisexual like that, I was also obviously not gay or lesbian.) I could use having some less-than-monosexual figures in my life today, for that matter.

Biphobia is integrated into our culture, in the mainstream West and into the culture of the queer community. This means that, likely, you might say or do something that's biphobic. Hell, I always have to check my biphobic thoughts as self-destructive; I hardly expect the rest of the world to be magically biphobia free.

When you write the slash fic where either or both of the male characters have canonical female love interests, think of the possibility that your character might be not-monosexual, rather than a closeted gay character. When someone points out that a person or a character exhibits bisexual behavior - for example, Lord Byron or Ianto Jones - think before you jump on that person. When you are in a place of fannish discussion, think before you espouse biphobic stereotypes.

However, I will say this: ignorance of this issue is not an excuse. If I said something racist and said, "But I didn't know better," what I said would still be racist. If I said something homophobic and said, "But I didn't know any better," what I said would still be homophobic. The same applies to biphobia. It is not the purpose of bisexuals and other non-monosexuals to educate and help you. We aren't educators; we are people, living lives. Telling us we should not be angry is also, in my less than humble opinion, inappropriate. This is prejudice and discrimination that we face in our daily lives; we have every right to be angry about it.

(And no, I'm not putting this under a cut. It's long, but it needs to be read.)

Reactions and Responses

I agree that we need to be made aware that there are multiple forms of sexuality, bisexuality among them. A little bit of awareness can go a long way towards reversing the effects of biphobia, I believe. I must admit that I have never really heard about bisexuality until I came to Bryn Mawr and met you. Imagine how many others are/were in similar situations such as mine. One should keep in mind that comments that may be construed as biphobic are a lot of times the result of a very unfortunate lack of awareness of the bisexual community.
Well, my stance on that is that the comments are biphobic - much as my thoughts as I was realising my own sexuality were biphobic - even if the people aren't necessarily.

The other to be understood is that people who are not monosexual are bombarded with biphobia and biphobic comments and actions regularly. For example, there are few dating websites that allow for anything other than "likes women" or "likes men" - essentially we have to choose whether to represent ourselves as homosexual or heterosexual. I wrote an entire meta on bisexuals in genre media and how, outside of Torchwood, most of the time I feel like I might as well not exist.

Even if you are unaware of the existence of the bisexual community, if you say things like, "People should just choose," or assuming that when a person is paired with the opposite sex that they are heterosexual and when a person is paired with the same sex that they are homosexual, that it is biphobic. It doesn't make you an inherently bad person. It means that you've absorbed the prejudices and intolerances in our culture and are expressing biphobia. This biphobia, even when it stems from ignorance and comes from a person who, after they've learned, is open to the non-monosexual community, is hurtful to those who aren't monosexual.

Edited to add: Saying biphobic things does not always make you a bad person. Many, if not most, of my monosexual friends from Bryn Mawr have said biphobic things to me. This does not mean I cannot be friends with you (though it probably means, depending on the offensiveness and apparent intent of the statement, that I might never date you). It does mean that I will be hurt that you think less of me because of my sexuality, that somehow you find my sexuality wrong/bad/offensive. I usually try, especially if you are a friend, that this is inherently untrue, though I do think that always expecting this of a non-monosexual, that is, expecting the oppressed group to always explain prejudice to the oppressing privileged group, to be a highly problematic way of thinking.[1]
This isn't a judgment statement, or a lean in one direction or another on my part, but more of a word-choice thing. Why do you say "less-than-monosexual" - specifically less, instead of more, considering that two+ is more than one?
Part of that comes from the construction of the Kinsey scale and how bisexual behaviored people are usually claimed by the gay community and then their behaviors are refused to be recognised. (My current example is this on fanficrants wherein people are jumping on me for pointing out that Oscar Wilde had sex with his wife.) On the Kinsey scale, 0 is exclusively heterosexual and 6 is exclusively homosexual. Thus, on the scale, bisexual behavior is, quite literally, more than heterosexual and less than homosexual. (The Kinsey scale is a basis of behavior, not identity so I do tend to think in terms of it, in this kind of situation.)[2]
Thank you. Thank you very much. I especially hope the part about the erasure of bisexuality in fanfiction is heard by many authors. I see it so much, and the biphobia and, often, misogyny in it make me very sad indeed.

My personal experience is... I've been unsubtly informed by heterosexual people that I'm 'greedy' or 'promiscuous' (which is... hilarious), but somehow it is always more painful to be allowed to know by friends/acquaintances who are gay/lesbian that I don't count, that I'm being 'opportunistic' and am somehow not oppressed enough.

Of course we're not oppressed enough, we can hide behind straight privilege and pass! Because that's not, oh, being in the closet or anything. Certainly it is all fun and bunnies, not something painful.[3]
The whole Thirteen storyline on House is interesting, and a not-terrible take on a bisexual woman. Or it was, until they did an episode where people kept equating bisexual with "likely to cheat". I watched thinking "oh, eventually someone's going to point out how stupid that is." But no one did.[4]
Here via metafandom.

When looking at characters for fic writing, I tend to assume some form of bisexuality. Some of that is my reaction to having seen other fans assume that a given character's sexuality has to be either/or rather than and. I get irritated with slashers who want to eliminate heterosexual attraction *and* with het fans who insist that their favorite characters couldn't possibly be attracted to a member of the same sex. (I have more sympathy for gen fans who want to keep all the sex and romance out of their stories.) The rest of my assumption is basically a why not? feeling. After all, we don't see every bit of a character's life in any canon. Most of them could be bisexual, particularly repressed bisexual, as easily as anything else.[5]
Great piece. I also hate it when slashers erase a canon opposite-sex attraction or relationship -- ignoring it I can deal with, but so many writers seem to feel compelled to actively negate it by having the character talk or think about how that attraction or relationship wasn't genuine.

I suspect this is part of why I absolutely love polyfic. I mean, I'm poly, sure, and skillfully written threesomes are hot, but in an MMF or FFM triad, there's bisexuality built right in! Score![6]
here via metafandom ...

... and I have nothing useful to add, I just wanted to say thank you very much for this post.

(I get very impatient with the slash fandom tendency to proclaim their favourite characters "OMG so gay" based on the slashy subtext. Stupid binaries, it's always either/or.)[7]
Really interesting post. I'm from a fandom in which a self-identified gay man (John Paul) falls in love with his male best friend (Craig), who eventually reciprocates. But Craig never identifies as gay or bisexual, leading some to suggest he is 'JP-sexual' (he does say on a couple of occasions 'it's only you' or 'I like *a* boy').

The character, of course, is free to choose or reject whatever label he wants, but it has lead to some strong discussions in the fandom community (and in fanfic) as to whether or not Craig is bisexual. On one tv forum I frequent we had one poster say over and over that Craig had to be gay for sleeping with John Paul - that there was no way he could be attracted to both men and women. It was very frustrating trying to discuss it with him, as he simply refused to think about the other point of view. Some sites/bloggers clearly look down on Craig for choosing to live somewhere between gay and straight without ever pinpointing it (and would obviously continue to look down on him if he said he was bisexual rather than gay).

I love both characters and it makes me sad that people won't just let them be what they are (and yes, I know they are fictional!). Fortunately I would say the majority of the fandom is very openminded.

(btw this is a couple from a British soap - Hollyoaks. They've now left the show but most of their story can be seen on Youtube or at[8]
I've seen people write fic from a bisexual POV, and explicitly or implicitly dealing with bisexuality. It's not very common, and I think almost all the fics I read that even mentioned sexual orientation were HP, simply because of the enormous volume of fic produced. Slash in general often sweeps away icky RL issues, which is one of the things that differentiates it from original queer fiction, which is still dominated by coming out narratives. Fic can neatly sidestep that by mutual agreement and move on to the romance, or the sex, or the angst. Most of the time, this is a virtue.

But slash fandom also has a strong aspect of gender-centrism. Or, to use simpler terms, I think one of the reasons why canonical het relationships are often maligned in slashfic is because of the "girl cooties". Lots of slash writers and readers like their fic sanitary and cleared of all girls, at least in a romantic capacity. Femslash has a similar element. Sometimes I wonder what comes first, the character/pairing hatred or the mono-centrism.

Obviously, it's also plenty common in original fiction, especially in TV series where queer characters are exponentially less likely to flourish. It's amazing how even canons with a strong bisexual focus, like Torchwood or The Sims 2, can spawn fandoms with an endless capacity for biphobic bile.[9]
Thank you for your courage in posting this. I tend to assume my original characters are bi unless I need them not to be for the story, but I don't think media representation helps either. Torchwood is good about showing bisexuality, but it's almost unique that way. On Buffy, for instance, when Willow got together with Tara it was as if that erased her well developed former relationship with Oz and no one ever admitted that she was bisexual.
Even Willow denied it. In the conversation with Anya at the Magic Box when Anya is worried about Willow stealing Xander, Willow comments that she's not going to do that, because "hello, gay now!" As if having a relationship with a woman instantly and forever erased all her past ability to be attracted to men - and Xander in specific.
Joss Whedon is also guilty of Bisexuals Are Evil trope. He's pretty much said that vampires - once they're dead and lose their souls - are all basically bisexual. It's one of my issues with him - Willow magically turned gay when she had one relationship with a woman, but becoming a soulless bloodsucker magically makes you bisexual. That's great.[10]
I'm always surprised that there isn't more Bob and Rose fanfic. It's not the best series RTD ever wrote, but you'd have thought that with a gay male lead suddenly, unexpectedly and horrifyingly falling in love with a woman, having to confront his own biphobia as well as that of practically all of his friends (including his psychotic female friend played by Moaning Myrtle who feels completely betrayed by the fact that he's fallen for a woman who isn't her and does her best to break the couple up using most of the strategies bad-slashficcers use for getting rid of the canonical female love interest, and a couple I hope they're never thought of) would have plenty of scope for ficcish drama.[11]


  1. ^ Comment thread between skye_princess and chasingtides (Mar 28, 2009). LiveJournal.
  2. ^ Comment thread between leviticus_lied and chasingtides (Mar 28, 2009). LiveJournal.
  3. ^ Comment thread between 22and7 and ciaan (Apr 2, 2009). LiveJournal.
  4. ^ Comment by orwhoeveriam (Apr 2, 2009). LiveJournal.
  5. ^ Comment by therck (Apr 2, 2009). LiveJournal.
  6. ^ Comment by tracky_tramp (Apr 2, 2009). LiveJournal.
  7. ^ Comment by trobadora (Apr 2, 2009). LiveJournal.
  8. ^ Comment by mistri (Apr 2, 2009). LiveJournal.
  9. ^ Comment by ext_97200 (Apr 2, 2009). LiveJournal.
  10. ^ Comment thread between jessara40k, tabaquis, and chasingtides (Apr 2-3, 2009). LiveJournal.
  11. ^ Anonymous comment (Apr 3, 2009). LiveJournal.