Bi Erasure and Biphobia: Two Sides of the Same Coin

By Kimia Etemadi

October 14, 2016



Photo credit: Unsplash/Alexandra Gorn

It was recently Bi Visibility day, and as part of a challenge, I was one of many in our community to change my Facebook profile picture to this now-iconic purple "Bi" square symbol. I didn't receive any mean comments, but no doubt some people might have thought "Do you really have to tell us again?" Yes, yes I do. Because as bi people are still discriminated against, mocked, and made invisible. It is more important than ever to say: I'm here, I'm queer, get used to it. Biphobia and bi-erasure are very real and hurtful.

It is not just overt biphobia that harms us bi folks, but also bi-erasure. The fact that both of these still exist in 2016 is astonishing. How can it be that humanity has invented the computer, sent people into space, and made so many scientific and medical advancements, yet some people simply cannot understand that I am attracted to women and men? (I mean, as the saying goes — it ain't rocket science).

Here are some instances of bi-erasure and biphobia I have experienced recently:

I was watching my favorite British soap opera, Coronation Street, when one of the show's lesbian characters, Caz, developed an attraction for her straight friend Maria and told her about these feelings. Maria's reaction was "I'm not gay! I'm 100% straight!" As a bisexual woman, I instantly said: But you don't need to be gay to be attracted to the same sex. I am disappointed that the Coronation Street screenwriters have completely erased my sexuality despite there being gay, lesbian, and trans characters on the show. This isn’t me being pedantic? A bi youth (or indeed older person) who has not yet figured out their sexuality, like myself less than a year ago, would think: "But what if I'm not straight or gay? What am I? Am I normal?" and by giving such lines to characters, writers are emphatically erasing our sexuality and sending the message that "no, you are not normal". But let me tell you, bi folks who have not yet come to terms with who you are: You are normal. You do not have to be either straight or gay. Bisexuality exists. It is real. You are normal and loved, and deserve to be visible.


Amazingly, it isn't just thoughtless screenwriters who erase our sexuality, but even the so-called experts. During graduate school, I came across a sentence while reading a theorist in sexuality studies talking about "gay and lesbian writers" producing queer literature. I instantly thought: But what about bisexual writers? Trans writers? By not including bi and trans writers, this acclaimed sexuality theorist effectively erased the B and T from LGBT. The same goes for things like "Gay and Lesbian Guides to [insert country name]." It is not only biphobic but transphobic too. Why not say "LGBT Guides" and include all of us?

Recently, I went on a speed dating event for "lipstick lesbian (femme) and bisexual women, or women who like women." I was pleased that my sexuality had been acknowledged in the event title. I went along, and though no sparks flew, I made a few friends. One person asked me: "So what was your last relationship like?" and I began explaining how my previous relationship hadn't worked out because of our differences. My new friend asked "So she wasn't the one?" and I said, "He wasn't the one for me, no, but after him, I met another guy." Everyone in the group went silent. I didn't say anything, just carried on having my drink.

Later, another new friend asked about my experiences with women. I said that I unfortunately had not yet been with a woman. She said "Aww, bless you, but you know you're gay" and I said "Actually, bi" and there was another awkward moment. This isn't biphobia, and it's fine to assume I'm lesbian or straight, but when I tell you I'm not then it shouldn't really make the conversation awkward. It shouldn't be the elephant in the room.

Dating itself is a struggle sometimes. Not long ago I signed up to the popular dating site, and the first question is to choose one of the following options about who I am: A woman seeking a man, A man seeking a woman, A woman seeking a woman, or A man seeking a man.

This erases our sexuality too. Why must I limit myself to one sex when I am attracted to both? There should be an option for those of us who are bi. At least Tinder gives you the options "Men", "Women" or "Men and Women". Much better than Match, which I gave up on because it was too annoying to search for women one day and men the next. Straight and gay people don't have to change their settings constantly, so why must I? Now I'm on "Her", a dating app for queer women. I have seen quite a few profiles of lesbian women accompanied by: "Lesbians only, no bisexuals or bicurious women." That's hurtful. Imagine if bisexual women wrote "Bisexuals only, no lesbians." That would be needlessly discriminatory. And so is writing "No bisexuals".

Unsplash/Toa Heftiba

Another thing that feels like bi-erasure is when monosexual (straight/gay) people say about a person of the sex they aren't attracted to: "Ooh, if I were gay, I would.." or "If I were straight, I would" as if there's no in-between and as if they would have to renounce one sex for another. Something in my head always says, "Or if you were bi!" and sometimes I've said it aloud.

Please, non-bisexual people, don't erase my sexuality. We exist, and we deserve respect and acknowledgment like everyone else.


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