The truth of Bisexual Erasure: Why we need to talk about it

Well before we can talk about the effects of bi-erasure, lets define it. This definition and explanation is from Glaad.org:

“Bisexual erasure or bisexual invisibility is a pervasive problem in which the existence or legitimacy of bisexuality (either in general or in regard to an individual) is questioned or denied outright.

For example, two married women might spend time in community spaces dominated by lesbians. Perhaps one of the women is bisexual and objects to the assumption that she is a lesbian (i.e., when others call the two women a “lesbian couple”). However, every time she mentions this, others insist that she can’t really be bisexual or that her orientation doesn’t matter (perhaps with the subtext that she shouldn’t talk about it) now that she is partnered.”

Bi-phobia, which is the fear or dislike of someone who identifies as bisexual, is often heard in and around secondary school environments. “The Stonewall School Report 2017 found that more than a third (36 per cent) of 11 to 19-year-olds ‘frequently’ or ‘often’ hear negative comments about bi people (bi-phobic language), for example that bi people are ‘greedy’ or ‘just going through a phase’.” This type of language and behaviour encourages young people to not only hate, but also neglect the feelings of those who identify as bisexual and it can create a toxic environment among young people as they grow.  

Being told that it’s ‘just a phase’ or ‘you need to pick a side’ are both phrases that contribute to bi-erasure. These are things that many parents and peers say to those who are coming out as Bisexual. It’s very discouraging and builds a wall up for those who are being their most venerable with people whom they trust.

I spoke to a couple people who identify as bisexual and asked them a couple questions about their experience with Bi-erasure and bi-phobia. One person said that after a break up with a girlfriend, her friends said that ‘at least she knows she’s into boys now’ which completely disregards the previous relationship she’d just had and because the relationship didn’t work out it was decided, by her friends, that she would never feel that way again.

Others found that experiencing bi-phobia from parents and other family members really stunted their coming out for several years. One woman said she wanted to come out when she was 13 years old but due to bi-phobia she’d experienced at school, her coming out was delayed until she was 15 years old. A lot of the people I spoke to said the people around them influenced their internalised bi-phobia, which created internal barriers within themselves.

You may think that being a part of the LGBTQ+ community means that you’re fully accepted and supported but this may not always be the case. A couple of the people I spoke to said that many members of the (LBGTQ+) community brush-off bisexuality as valid and say that ‘identifying as bisexual is just a stepping stone towards being gay’ and often don’t see those who are bisexual as a part of the community.

Bi-phobia and bi-erasure need to be talked and defended just the same as homophobia and transphobia. We cannot continue to ignore those who identify as bisexual we’ve come too far for this group of people to be marginalised and disregarded.

Written by Zinnia Bridgman