We talk all the time about how homophobia pervades societal understanding and treatment of gay and lesbian people. The late activist and author Audre Lorde defined homophobia as “the belief in the inherent superiority of one pattern of loving, and thereby the right to dominance and the fear of feelings of love for a member of one’s own sex, and the hatred of those feelings in others.” In considering this definition, it’s no wonder that persecution of gay and lesbian people is incredibly problematic and leads to the systemic oppression of the entire queer community. However, just as LGBTQ is a blanketing acronym, homophobia in and of itself isn’t enough to describe the ill treatment that some members of the LGBTQ community receive more than others.
Biphobia is something that has a very real presence within the gay community, and embodies an attitude that is widely overlooked. Folks who identify as bisexual often receive persecution from heterosexuals who deem their identity “a passing phase,” or simply illegitimate. What’s even more alarming is the prevailing trend within the LGBTQ community of gays and lesbians marginalizing bisexuals. Biphobia is not a mindset belonging exclusively to heterosexuals; it’s a form of discrimination that members of the queer community enact on bisexual-identified people also.
What are some of the worst implications of biphobia? Activist, scholar, and bisexual Robyn Ochs writes that “Gay- and lesbian-identified individuals frequently view us as either confused or interlopers possessing a degree of privilege not available to them, and many heterosexuals see us as amoral, hedonistic spreaders of disease and disrupters of families,” touching on how lesbians and gays, as well as heterosexuals, perceive bisexual people. Because heterosexual people have societal privilege, some believe that gays and lesbians further persecute the already marginalized bisexuals in their LGBTQ community as a means of establishing their superiority.
Bisexual author Amy Andre possesses the same attitude as Ochs, developed by harrowing personal experience. She explains that the bisexual identity is constantly perceived as illegitimate, and that she has received equal ill treatment from the gay community and heterosexuals. According to Andre, “Homophobia typically says, ‘The way you love is not equal to the way I love,’ but biphobia says, ‘You don’t love. I don’t/can’t/won’t believe in the possibility of the way you love,’” dissecting the difference between homophobia and the way that bisexuals are perceived.
Ochs’ and Andre’s examples outline the root of biphobia: the belief that bisexuals are confused, or fake, or wrong about their own deeply personal sexual identity. Understanding the roots of biphobia will be a critical tool in achieving universal equality for all sexual orientations.
Visit Robyn Ochs’ bisexual resource page to learn more.