Hi, Bi Guy: Dealing with Internalized Biphobia

Sometimes, bisexual⁠ people will face biphobia⁠ . Often, it’s external, and might come in the form of bi-erasure, for example, like the suggestion that that bisexual people are all actually just straight or gay⁠ and should”‘pick a side.” Biphobia may be directed at them by other people in person or online, or can be in the form of comments made by people they know or people online that aren’t directed at them personally. We can experience biphobia through the media, too.

But biphobia can be internal, too. Some bi people will experience biphobia that comes from their own heads. We can all have – and often do have at least some – internalized biphobia, which involves having negative thoughts or ideas about our own bisexuality. If you’re bisexual, you might have dealt with or presently be dealing with internalized biphobia. The good news is that there are ways to manage and cope with it, which I’ll outline here.

What is internalized biphobia?

Internalized biphobia, sometimes called internalized monosexism, involves having negative thoughts or ideas about bisexuality when you are yourself bisexual, whether you’re out⁠ or not, and even when you don’t really claim your own bisexuality.

Internalized biphobia is similar to internalized homophobia⁠ . Sometimes, bi people will experience both internalized biphobia and homophobia, as they can overlap a lot.

Where does internalized biphobia come from?

Internalized biphobia mostly comes from our lived experiences of externalized biphobia, some of which may have happened when we were so young, it got into our heads before we even knew what it was, or had any sense yet of our own sexuality.

There are, unfortunately, still lots of pervasive myths around bisexuality. Some relate to all bisexual people, while others relate more or exclusively to bi men. Many myths relating to homosexuality also cross over – bisexual men may also be stereotyped as more feminine⁠ , for example. Among the myths many people still believe are that bisexual people are “actually gay” or should “choose a side” or that bi people are greedy. There are also ideas like that bi people are more promiscuous, less likely to be monogamous⁠ , or more likely to cheat on their partners.

For some people, internalized biphobia might stem from things their parents or other family members said when they first came out as bi, or throwaway comments they heard people make about bisexual people when they were growing up.

For me, a lot of my internalized biphobia came from the way I related my sexuality to the concept of masculinity I had in my head. Never particularly stereotypically masculine⁠ , I was often asked if I was gay growing up for daring to deviate even slightly from the norm. And I felt like, by being bi, I was proving people right – that I wasn’t ‘normal’.  It took me a while to work out exactly why I didn’t feel comfortable being bisexual, and it was almost a relief when I realized – and as time went on, I began to care less about what other people thought of me.

If you’re in a similar situation, it can be beneficial to really think about why you might be feeling this way. Is your biphobia influenced by peers from school, an old sports coach, movies you’ve seen, or things you’ve read online? By working out the source of your internalized biphobia, you can go some way to getting a handle on it.

And, while biphobia is always a serious issue, I sometimes find it helpful just to laugh at it. Laugh at the ridiculous, unfounded notions that bisexual people are more promiscuous, or unable to hold down serious monogamous relationships. Sure, we aren’t going to change mindsets by laughing, but I find that sometimes the release is needed.

If you come to realize that your internalized biphobia is influenced by relatives – perhaps who’ve expressed biphobic sentiments before – it can help to tell yourself that they have their own biases, and aren’t bisexual themselves. Once you can identify the sources of your internalized biphobia, you have the chance to really tackle them.

The impact of internalized biphobia

Internalized biphobia can have an impact on mental health. If someone is struggling to deal with internalized biphobia, in their fear or shame, they might find themselves less likely to access LGBTQ⁠ + mental health services, or even just be open about their sexuality, so they don’t get mental health care that could benefit them.

Bisexual people are more likely to report that they’re living with mental health conditions to begin with, in comparison to people who are attracted to one gender⁠ . While research suggests that men who identify as bisexual and men who identify as gay have mental health conditions at similar rates, men who have romantic⁠ or sexual⁠ relationships with partners spanning multiple genders report higher instances of mental health conditions than men who only have them with male partners. Bisexual people may also be more likely to consider suicide than people only attracted to one gender. Of course, this can’t all be pinned on internalized biphobia, necessarily, but it can definitely make life more difficult if you’re struggling with it on top⁠ of other things that may be going on.

Internalized biphobia can also make it more difficult for you to get into relationships or connect with people who are the same gender as you. There’s even a chance that someone’s internalized biphobia could spill over externally, hurting other bisexual people in their lives.

How can you cope with and challenge internalized biphobia?

The first thing to remember is not to be too hard on yourself. Dealing with your own internalized biphobia can be tough, and this is surely easier said than done. The sad fact is that we’re bombarded with biphobia externally all the time. It’s not surprising that this can lead to us internalizing some of this messaging.

Remind yourself that your bisexual identity⁠ is valid. To be bisexual, there’s no rulebook that says your previous sexual partners, or people you’ve dated, need to have an equal split of all genders. I’ve never had a boyfriend, and I’ve always found myself attracted to women and femmes more than men and more masculine-presenting people, yet I’m still bisexual. Having an equal number of sexual partners across the genders or an equal number of boyfriends and girlfriends doesn’t make you ‘more’ bi, just as listening to Phoebe Bridgers or having a nose ring aren’t prerequisites for being bi.

Depending on who’s aware of your sexuality, and how comfortable you feel doing so, you might decide to speak to someone you trust about how you feel, whether that’s parents, your partner⁠ , or friends – you might feel more comfortable speaking to others who are queer⁠ too. There’s plenty of support available on Scarleteen, too, if you prefer.

And remember, if you are dealing with internalized biphobia, it doesn’t give you an excuse to judge or look down on other bisexual people – for example, those who might act more stereotypically bi. Often, people will first spot their own internalized biphobia when they notice their attitudes towards other bi individuals. However, because biphobia is so widespread more generally, it can be hard to see it when it comes from yourself.

But, harassment or any other kind of abuse⁠ toward other bi people isn’t excused because of wider biphobia, and being bi yourself doesn’t make it okay.

Finally, your internalized biphobia may not – and probably will not ever – go away completely. It can be difficult to unlearn negative thoughts, particularly when biphobia is embedded into society like it is. Don’t be disheartened, and give yourself a break. As the saying goes, Rome wasn’t built in a day.

If you can acknowledge your internalized biphobia and work toward addressing it, that’s a big step, and it’s half the battle. You’re well on your way.

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