No matter where you live, at some point in your life, you will come out as bi to someone new, and they will invalidate your bisexuality. Either they will claim bisexuality doesn't exist, you're confused, you're doing it for attention, or you're "actually gay." It's inevitable.
Depending on where you live and how socially aware the people are in your town, you may even experience doubt and invalidation on a weekly basis.
Since I've been out as bi, open to nearly everyone new I meet, I've learned the best ways to respond to people when they simply don't believe you.
Here they are:
1. Knowing that you don't have to change their mind.
I think this, by far, is the most important thing that I've learned. While we have this innate desire to change the naysayers' minds, to prove to them that not only are you bi, but there are, quite literally, millions of bi people of all genders across the globe, that often isn't the best approach. Additionally, I think there's a large difference when someone says, "Bisexuality doesn't actually exist," and "I don't think I've met someone who's bisexual." Both, I believe, actually mean the same thing. The second response simply implies that he doesn't think bisexuality exists, while the first response says it point-blank. The first response is looking for an argument. The second response, on the other hand, is inviting a conversation.
When people say bisexuality doesn't exist point-blank, I don't give them the satisfaction of having the argument. I simply say, "Alright," and move onto something else, knowing that I'm probably not going to hang out with this person again. This confuses the living hell out of them. They expected me to defend my sexuality, to want to prove to them that they're wrong.
Often, when I casually dismiss them, they'll then circle back to bisexuality because they are so puzzled by my response. At which point I'll say, "If you don't believe it, you don't believe it. Nothing really for me to say about my sexuality then, is there?" This will either shut them up, or they'll start to backpedal.
2. Don't be defensive.
When I first claimed the bi label, and folks proceeded to invalidate my identity, I became very defensive. I think that's the most natural human response — to say "No!" and start shouting. This didn't do me any good. Seldom did I actually change folks' minds by being defensive and getting all up in their faces. In fact, it probably made it seem like I was in denial of my sexuality as "full-blown gay" — only proving their point.
3. Knowing the difference between ignorance and biphobia.
My column last week was dedicated to exploring the difference between ignorance and biphobia, so I'm not going to go in-depth here. What I will say is that there's a big difference between people who simply haven't been exposed to openly bi people, and people who have and still refuse to believe a bi identity exists. The former group shouldn't be shamed, simply educated (if you would like to). The latter group doesn't deserve the time of day.
4. Not needing their validation.
Of course, this is easier said than done, and I think this can only come when you have other forms of bisexual identity validation and support from family and friends. I craved validation from every single person I told I was bi right when I came out. Now, truthfully, I don't. I pity their biphobia, ignorance, and lack of open-mindedness. Not to sound like your mom, but they are missing out.
Dr. Maria Pallotta-Chiarolli, of Deakin University, recently published a book titled Women in Relationships with Bisexual Men: Bi Men by Women. In the lengthy tome, she illustrates how bi men make the best lovers, husbands, and fathers. So when straight/cis women and gay/cis men refuse to date bi men, yeah, they are missing out. That really does suck for them. Or when straight guys fetishize bi women, turning them off, these straight guys, too, are missing out on all the awesome things that bi women offer in relationships.
5. Taking a break from coming out to every person you meet.
If you come out to multiple people in a row, and they all don't believe you're bi, take a break from absolutely everybody. Otherwise, you may begin to resent being bi. You'll be tired of it. You'll grow to hate your own identity and feel lost in the world. The name of the game is self-care. Being bi — and having your identity ripped from you — isn't fun, no matter how confident you are in your bisexuality or how little validation you need from others. If other people are only making you see the cons of being bi, as opposed to all the pros and ways your bisexuality is a blessing, then take a break from telling people.
Don't deny who you are or all the wonderful aspects of your bisexuality, but you don't have to tell every super judgmental stranger you meet either.