By Heather, an advocate. This is part two of a two-part series. This post is for partners, friends and parents of bi+ folks. Read the first post for bi+ folks here!
There are a lot of harmful myths out there about bisexual people and bisexuality. If you love someone who identifies as bisexual, (or pan- or polysexual, hetero- or homoflexible, or Queer & non-monosexual), here are a few examples of the hurtful things they’ve probably heard at some point:
- It’s just a phase. You’re just experimenting.
- You’re just ashamed/scared/embarrassed to say you’re gay or lesbian.
- You’ll cheat on whoever you’re with.
- You’re just greedy.
- You’re always down for a threesome.
- You’ll spread disease because you’re promiscuous.
- Bisexuality is transphobic because it enforces a gender binary.
- Bisexuality isn’t real & bisexuals don’t really exist.
A full 2% of men identified themselves as bisexual on a survey from the Centers for Disease Control published in 2016. This means that there are at least three million bi guys in the United States alone—a number roughly equivalent to the population of Iowa. (On the same survey, 5.5% of women self-identified as bisexual, which comes out to roughly the same number of people as live in New Jersey.) The probability that an entire state’s worth of people would lie about being attracted to more than one gender is about as close to zero as you can get. But even the CDC isn’t accurate at measuring just how many people are bisexual.
Unfortunately, bisexual people hear all of those hurtful myths from the straight community and from the Queer community, too. Some lesbians refuse to date women who aren’t “gold star lesbians,” and bisexual men are marginalized by men and women for their sexual appetites. So, coming out as bisexual, even in spaces that are supposed to be LGBTQ-friendly, isn’t always safe. If your partner, friend or child is experiencing biphobia, it’s important to support them and encourage them to find community with people who can relate to their experience. They don’t need or expect you to fully understand what they’re going through, but loving them and reminding them of their worth can make a huge difference. And if you’re the one who has said any of those hurtful things to your partner, we need to talk.
There are plenty of examples of bisexuality being denied in the media (even when characters on our favorite shows have love interests of different genders, the bi label is rarely spoken aloud!). But bi-erasure also happens frequently at the personal level. When most people assume what someone’s sexual orientation is based on who they’re dating, bisexuals who are out may be compelled to come out again and again for fear of having their identity made invisible by their choice of partner. Unfortunately, this combination of biphobia and bi-erasure means that bisexuals of all genders may have worse health outcomes than straight, gay or lesbian people of all genders by comparison. This paper from the San Francisco Human Rights Commission has some great recommendations (and a handy glossary if you’re just getting started) for supporting your bisexual loved ones.
Has your child just come out to you as bisexual? This letter from the Bisexual Resource Center is worth a read! You can also reach out to us here at loveisrespect if you have concerns about a friend or a loved one’s relationship. If you have other concerns about supporting a Queer child, the LGBT National Talkline is available at 1-888-843-4564. If you feel like you and/or your child could use some ongoing support, GoodTherapy is a great place to find someone near you. Other resources for parents are available here, and you might consider joining a Parents Anonymous group. Want to get even more involved? You can find your local PFLAG here.