- Bisexual erasure is when we overlook, ignore, and perpetuate negative stereotypes about people who are attracted to more than one gender.
- Bi erasure can intertwine with racism, ableism, transphobia, and other forms of marginalization.
- Combat bi erasure by practicing self-love and building healthy boundaries.
Bi Erasure Is ConstantMost bi folks have a story of coming out and feeling invalidated. This can take the form of being told “you’re just asking for attention,” says Marissa Tolero, a bi-identified psychotherapist and yoga instructor who works with women and queer clients. When Taylor came out to some loved ones, meanwhile, she was asked whether she was bi as a result of childhood trauma, and whether bisexual men really exist. (“That’s like being like, ‘Is the sky real?’ Yes, it’s real,” she says.)
Discrimination of bisexual people is ultimately harmful to all queer people.Many bi people face the assumption that our sexualities are temporary. “People assume bisexual women are just experimenting, and they’ll ultimately realize that they’re straight. And bisexual men are on the triain to being gay,” says Nic Johnson, a Lehigh University professor who researches bi women’s experiences of sexual violence. Of course, bi folks’ attractions can be fluid, and our labels can change—but that’s not proof that our sexualities aren’t “real.” Similarly, bi folks are often judged according to the gender of their current partner, rather than their self-identified orientation. “A lot of people assume that once you’re married, you’ve ‘picked a side’,” says Cora Eckert, a bi, nonbinary woman theater professional who moderates a Facebook group for bi people with long-term partners. (They use all pronouns, but opted for they/them pronouns for this piece.) “I’ve had to tell them that even though I’m married to my wife, that doesn’t make me a lesbian,” they say. Tolero experiences the opposite pressure: Because she’s in a relationship with a cisgender, heterosexual man, others often assume that she’s straight. Queer people perpetuate anti-bi stigma, too. Tolero has been told by queer friends that, because of her relationship, she’s “chosen men” and is less queer. As a result of similar kinds of invalidation, Johnson says, “I feel more accepted in queer spaces if I don’t say that I’m bi.” This discrimination is ultimately harmful to all queer people. It increases our collective anxiety around identity, and decreases our ability to build community. The result, says Tolero, is a “divide and conquer” dynamic that ultimately benefits cis men. “Those who are oppressed are encouraged to divide and turn towards each other,” says Tolero. “It’s a tactic of oppressing queer people in general.”
Bi Erasure Hurts Our HealthBi erasure enables harmful stereotypes and prevents accurate, empowering research on the bi community. Bisexual people experience higher rates of poverty than lesbian and gay people, at 30 percent. We’re also more likely to experience interpersonal violence: 61 percent of bisexual women, and 37 percent of bisexual men, have experienced sexual or intimate partner violence, as compared to 44 percent of lesbians and 26 percent of gay men. There isn’t good data on how biphobia specifically effects trans and nonbinary people, but in general, 31 percent of trans people live in poverty, and 66 percent have experienced sexual violence—a much higher rate than their cisgender counterparts.
“You don’t have to change yourself to please anyone. Embrace all of yourself.”Mainstream culture hypersexualizes bi people, especially bi women and femmes, so our coming out may also be treated as a sexual invitation. That, says Johnson, can lead to others victimizing us. Eckert has felt this hypersexualization in their daily life. “For some reason when you say bisexual, people really emphasize the word sexual in it,” they say. Meanwhile, bi people of color are forced to navigate structural racism in addition to biphobia. For Taylor, this leads to a constant sense of in-betweenness. “I feel like I’m not accepted by the straight people back home,” says Taylor. But when she moved to a majority-white, gay Los Angeles neighborhood, “I felt that I couldn’t be Black.” These intersecting oppressions contribute to bi folks’ higher rates of anxiety, depression, and substance abuse.