As I Google for a succinct definition of “internalized biphobia,” I already see contradictions. It can only be experienced by bisexual people, it can include straight people. It’s about fear and self-hate, it’s about misunderstandings and systematic effects on individuals. If a baby gay were to research about internalized biphobia, they wouldn’t find one true answer, because the topic is so complicated. Personally, I’ve experienced it and witnessed this myself quite a few times as a bisexual person (count how many times I say “bisexual” or “biphobic” in this article.) I had a severe misunderstanding on what being bisexual meant, because I grew up within a Catholic household with little to no exposure to the “gay” world until I was thirteen. I had no way of understanding my own emotions toward women, and it didn’t feel the same as my attraction to men. It took the form as the typical “Do I want her or do I want to be her?” Considering I only discovered my sexuality at sixteen, I thought it was the latter for most of my life. Even when I found out, I had doubts (cue internalized biphobia noise.) Internalized biphobia is the mentality of anyone who houses deep-seeded negative opinions (based on misconceptions) about bisexuals. These are people who may truly believe that they don’t mind bisexuals’ existence, or have bisexual friends, but who have been influenced by society’s views on bisexuals so that they believe the typical nonsense too. The “deep-seeded” aspect is important—you might not even realize you’re being biphobic, which differentiates this from straight-up explicit biphobia. You’re not aware how deep your opinions are based on lies until a bisexual person gets hit with a somewhat “innocent” comment that has horrible connotations with it. “If I dated a bi man,” my cousin said to me after I came out to her, “I’d be paranoid about him cheating on me.” Here I was, full of Catholic guilt, terrified she’d snitch on me, but she didn’t particularly freak out. She didn’t try to lecture me, or tell me I was going to Hell, or convince me I was wrong. She didn’t even say I couldn’t be trusted. It was by all means the ideal reaction. And then she hit me with that little opinion. Bi people couldn’t be trusted in relationships, like a straight man isn’t equally able to cheat. These thoughts aren’t logical, they’re twisted—bi people have more options! You have to worry about men now! Societal hate had infiltrated her thoughts and I ended up being at the end of it. Was this internalized biphobia or outright biphobia? I have a hard time distinguishing the difference because it requires the benefit of the doubt. You have to believe the other person is not being malicious, or does not understand why what they’re saying is harmful. Internalized biphobia is much easier to identify within yourself. On the outside, I see it most often as complicity, and on the inside, self-doubt and self-hatred. I was hesitant to label myself as bisexual for a long time. I was under the impression that I needed to have sex with a woman to truly confirm and validate my sexuality. I felt like a fraud, because it felt like I’d spent my whole life only attracted to men, and then, suddenly, a single special woman. My experience didn’t feel bisexual enough, gay enough, to be true. Maybe it was just a phase, or I was just straight with extra steps. I actually have the paragraph I sent to my (bisexual) best friend during my crisis, and I feel so sad looking at it now: So I don’t know how to feel rn. I’ve recently discovered that I may not be as completely straight as I anticipated. But idk?? Like, rn, I feel like the definition “heteroflexible” suits me. Bc like 98% of the time I feel straight, but this morning I was on Snapchat and… idk. I was on this girl’s story, and I felt fluttering in my stomach, like the beginning of a crush. And I’m like…I don’t know how to feel. I’m pretty certain his response to this was “wtf,” which I fully understand. All I see here is an unsure girl who was finally feeling the extent of her repressed emotions, and didn’t even feel like she deserved a proper label. It’s horribly embarrassing when I look back on it, but it shows the kind of mentality that bi people are in when we confront the crossover between “straight” and “gay.” We are criticized if we fall into a “straight-passing” relationship, or if we marry. It’s like we’re being forced to revoke our LGBTQ+ card because we “picked a side.” Internal biphobia isn’t, and never has been, logical. It’s based on the idea that as long as you don’t hate them, if you don’t want them to die, then you’re not biphobic! It preys on insecurities, like most “propaganda” does: Bisexuals will cheat on you. Bisexuals aren’t as gay as you. Bisexuals are lying to you. It’s a campaign based on manipulation, like most things society doesn’t want you to look at it. If you hold these thoughts in your brain—maybe they’re very quiet, so far in the back you just barely hear it—then untrain yourself. Doubting bisexuals based on flawed ideals doesn’t end well for anybody. Contact your local bisexual; I’m sure they’ll have plenty to say.
Art by Amber Duan