Biphobia is not (only) an LGBT issue

I’ve been trying to explain biphobia to straight people. For some reason, some of them seem to have reached the conclusion that biphobia is purely an LGB community issue – bisexual people are excluded or erased by lesbians and gays, and this is in no way straight people’s problem.
It is true that bisexual people encounter biphobia from parts of the lesbian and gay (and sometimes wider QUILTBAG) community. I have had plenty of people at supposedly LGB(T) events talk of “lesbians and gays”, gay people tell me they don’t get how I can be “attracted to both”, and lesbians tell me I should stop sleeping with men. Having said that, there isn’t a single square on my biphobia bingo card that straight people haven’t manged to tick off, generally before lesbians and gays.
I’d even go as far as saying that, on a case-by-case basis, biphobia from within the QUILTBAG community can hurt more – simply because we would like to be able to assume that QUILTBAG spaces are safe for us, and being faced with exclusion, erasure and prejudice there is jarring and painful. This does not, however, absolve straight people from responsibility for biphobia.
The main reason biphobia can look like it’s mostly a “lesbian and gay” issue is that in predominantly straight environments you often have to get past the homophobia to get to the more subtle and nuanced biphobia. This puts bisexuals – in all kinds of relationships – in a very awkward position indeed. A bi person in a same-sex relationship may feel that they’re lucky to be “tolerated” as gay and therefore feel uncomfortable about rocking the boat further by coming out as bi. Equally, a bisexual in a different-sex relationship has the choice of either passing as straight (often the safest option) or challenging homophobic remarks and exposing themselves to homophobia and biphobia. This double trap often makes bisexuals the first buffer between heterosexism and homophobia on one side, and the QUILTBAG community on the other. It’s this combination of heterosexism and monosexism that hits bisexuals especially hard.
So if you’re a straight person who considers themselves an LGBT or QUILTBAG ally, do remember that there is more than just the L and the G to the community you’re trying to be an ally to. Don’t assume that the gender of someone’s current partner tells you anything about their sexuality. Don’t assume that bisexuals fighting for visibility and recognition is just infighting within the group that has nothing to do with you. Do not ask people why they are flaunting their sexuality, or tell them which of their experiences do or do not give them the right to define their own sexual orientation.
Do make sure you use inclusive language. “Lesbians and gays” is generally bad unless you really very specifically mean “lesbians and gays”. LGBT is better. In many contexts QUILTBAG is even better. Do recognise that different parts of the community sometimes face different different challenges; and try not to throw one part of the group under the bus in order to be an ally to another.

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