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Bisexual Erasure – What it is, and how it can affect your mental health

Jun 16, 2023

Trigger warning: Biphobia and bi-erasure mentions, including harmful and false comments as well as statements taken from sources.

Bisexual is defined as “romantic or sexual attraction towards more than one gender.” (Source)Bisexuality might seem like a modern concept, but really, it’s not. It’s been around for a long time, in many cultures, from the Ancient Greeks to Native Americans. Throughout history though, whilst bisexuality has existed, so has bisexual erasure.

What is Bisexual Erasure?

Bisexuals make up over 52% of the LGBTQ+ community (Source) however sadly despite this their experiences are often silenced by the public, media and even the queer community (Source). Bisexual+ people will often talk about feeling stuck, being “too gay” for the straights, and “too straight” for the LGBTQ+ community.

As a result, we get bisexual erasure. According to The Bisexuality Invisibility Report (Source), bisexual erasure “refers to a lack of acknowledgement and ignoring of the clear evidence that bisexuals exist.”

Over the years, especially in the early 2000s, the word ‘gay’ became synonymous with the things that most young boys are taught (by society) to fear: weakness, sensitivity, failure, lack of physicality. These harmful stereotypes made not just gay men fearful of their sexuality, it also affected bisexual men too. When a boy (especially one who everyone ‘assumed’ was gay previously) came out as bisexual+, some people would assume he was in fact gay, but not ready to admit it. A relatively well-known example of this was when YouTuber Dan Howell came out as gay and described this experience in detail.

Young bisexual women are (sometimes or might be) labelled as “attention seekers” if they kissed another girl and immediately deemed more promiscuous as well (Source).

How do you define Biphobia?

Biphobia is “the fear or dislike of someone who identifies as bi based on prejudice or negative attitudes, beliefs or views about bi people. This can also include denying somebody’s bi identity or refusing to accept it. Biphobia may be targeted at people who are, or who are perceived to be, bi.” (Source).

Here are some examples of how biphobia presents itself:

  • Mislabelling bisexual+ celebrities as lesbian, gay or heterosexual.
  • Assuming that if a bisexual+ person is with a person presenting as a different sex that they’re straight, or if they’re with someone presenting as the same gender, that they’re gay.
  • Denying that bisexuality exists as a legitimate orientation, such as saying “It’s just a phase.” Or saying that bisexuals are ‘experimenting’ before coming out as gay or straight.

The Mental Health Consequences of Bisexual Erasure

Biphobia and biphobic comments are a form of stigma, and it’s well documented that any form of stigma is bad for mental health. According to the Mental Health Foundation, “Mental health problems such as depression, self-harm, alcohol and drug abuse and suicidal thoughts can affect anyone, but they’re more common among people who are LGBTQ+. Being part of the LGBTQ+ community doesn’t cause these problems. But some things LGBTIQ+ people go through can affect their mental health, such as discrimination, homophobia or transphobia, social isolation, rejection, and difficult experiences of coming out. A 2017 study published in The Journal of Sex Research showed that bisexual+ people have higher rates of anxiety and depression than heterosexual, lesbian, or gay people. The researchers determined that bisexual invisibility and erasure was one of the key potential reasons for this.

If bisexual erasure is itself erased, the isolation that many bisexual+ people feel could be reduced, lowering rates of mental health issues like depression.

The Mental Health Foundation also notes, “It’s important to note that embracing being LGBTQ+ can have a positive impact on someone’s wellbeing too. It might mean they have more confidence, a sense of belonging to a community, feelings of relief and self-acceptance, and better relationships with friends and family.”

How to Support Bisexual+ People and Combat Biphobia

One of the best things you can do to support bisexual people is to believe them. As discussed in this blog, bisexual+ people exist and all bi identities are valid.

Here are some other things you can do to support bisexual+ people:

  • Make no assumptions about someone’s identity based on their current or previous partner(s). Take their lead on the language they use to identify themselves.
  • Uplift and support marginalised bi people. Bisexual people who are also BAME (Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic), trans and POC (people of colour), are doubly underrepresented, erased and discriminated against.
  • Use inclusive language. You can easily erase bisexual+ people when using terms like ‘gay’ as a general term.
  • Support bi organisations and campaigns, such as BiPhoria, Pride UK and Stonewall.
  • Encourage your workplace, university or school to be inclusive.
  • Support your bi+ friends, affirm their lives and relationships.
  • Celebrate bisexual people! Amplify bi+ people’s stories, engage with their content and give space for their experiences.

Bi+ people deserve the same respect, support, and visibility other members of the Lesbian and Gay community receive. Their identities are valid, and as these common myths are deconstructed, their life experiences will get the visibility they deserve.

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