When I was in middle school, I had no idea what bisexuality was. I thought that there were two sexual orientations: gay and straight. So, when I started feeling attraction toward girls in the sixth grade, I was very confused. In my imagination, I had always pictured getting married to a man (that’s heteronormativity for you), yet I couldn’t stop thinking about girls.
I struggled this way for several years before really becoming familiar with bisexuality and eventually accepting that I was not, nor had I ever been, straight. My discovery of my sexuality was a very painful and stressful process. It caused me to feel self-conscious for years and to doubt and suppress the feelings I had toward other people.
So, it has always rubbed me the wrong way when people say that bi folks “have it easy” compared to other members of the LGBT+ community. While every individual has different experiences regarding their sexual orientation or gender identity, the concept of “bi privilege” within the LGBT+ community is false and biphobic.
There is a common misconception that bi people have “straight passing privilege,” and thus face less prejudice and hatred from cisgender heterosexual people. While it is true that a bisexual person with a partner of another gender may be assumed to be straight, “straight passing” is neither a benefit nor something that affects all bi people.
“Straight passing” is only a benefit if heterosexuality is considered the norm or ideal sexual orientation. Many out bisexual people do not want to be perceived as straight, so people assuming that they are does not help them in any way. It often makes it even more difficult for bi people to explain their sexual orientation to people they have just met when they have a partner of a different gender.
Additionally, “straight passing privilege” does not affect bi people with partners of the same gender. In many cases, these individuals are perceived to be gay/lesbian because people are so unaware of bisexuality.
In addition to the myth of “straight passing privilege,” harmful misconceptions about bisexuality cause it to be an extremely stigmatized sexual orientation. For example, some believe that bi people are promiscuous or carry STDs. Because bisexuality rejects the binary of sexual orientation, many refuse to recognize it as a valid sexuality; it is often seen as a phase by queer and cishet people alike.
Most of these stereotypes are caused by misinformation and lack of education perpetuated by the lack of representation of bisexual people in the media, a phenomenon termed “bi erasure.” If a character in a book, movie, or television show to more than one gender, they often portrayed as sexually ambiguous or a person that “doesn’t use labels.”
It is so important for us members of the LGBT+ community to stick together and accept the labels and identities of queer individuals. Part of this is recognizing that biphobia exists both in and outside the community. So, instead trying to define or erase bi people, members of the community should keep an open mind and accept everyone for who they are.