Biphobia is a term used to describe aversion felt toward bisexuality and bisexuals as a social group or as individuals. People of any sexual orientation can experience such feelings of aversion. A source of discrimination against bisexuals, biphobia is based on negative bisexual stereotypes and bisexual erasure.


Etymology and use

Biphobia is a portmanteau word patterned on the term homophobia. It is derived from the English neo-classical prefix bi- (meaning "two") from bisexual and the root -phobia (from the Greek: φόβος, phóbos, "fear") found in homophobia. Along with transphobia, homophobia and biphobia are members of the family of terms used when intolerance and discrimination is directed toward LGBT people. Note that biphobia need not be an equivalent to the clinical or medical meaning of a phobia – an anxiety disorder. Instead, its meaning and use typically parallel those of xenophobia. The adjectival form biphobic is used to describe things or qualities related to biphobia whereas the noun biphobe is a label for people thought to harbor biphobia.[1]

Basic ideas and their negative stereotypes

While biphobia and homophobia are distinct phenomenons, they do share some traits: attraction to one's own gender being a part of bisexuality, the heterosexist view of heterosexuality as the only “proper” attraction or lifestyle apply to bisexual people as well as to gay people. However, bisexuals are also stigmatized in other ways: two classifications of negative stereotypes about them center on the belief that bisexuality does not exist and on the generalization that bisexuals are promiscuous.


The belief that bisexuality does not exist stems from binary views of sexuality, that is to say that people are assumed to be exclusively homosexual (gay/lesbian) or exclusively heterosexual (straight), which means that so called bisexuals are either closeted homosexual people who wish to appear heterosexual,[2] heterosexuals who are experimenting with their sexuality,[3][4][5] and cannot be bisexual unless they are equally attracted to both sexes.[6] Maxims, such as People are either gay, straight or lying, embody this dichotomous view of sexual orientations.[6]

Resulting negative stereotypes represent bisexuals as confused, undecided, dabblers, insecure, experimenting or "just going through a phase".[7] Attractions toward both sexes are considered fashionable as in "bisexual chic" or gender bending. Either homosexual or heterosexual relations are dismissed as a substitute for sex with members of the "right" sex or as a more accessible source of sexual gratification. What’s more, homosexuality can also be perceived as purely situational, in other words due to sex-segregated environments or groups such as the armed forces, schools, sports teams, religious orders, and prisons. Conversely, heterosexuality and opposite-sex relationships are viewed as "caving in to" society’s pressures, fostering oppressions, condoning discrimination, keeping up appearances, retaining straight privilege, hiding in the closet, being self-hating or in self-denial, suffering from internalized homophobia, etc.


Categorizing all bisexuals as being promiscuous is a hasty generalization. Moreover, having more than one sexual partner in one’s lifetime, in addition to being commonplace in the world, is not restricted to bisexuals. People of any sexual orientation can change partners, practice serial monogamy or have multiple casual sex partners. The fact that bisexuals are potentially sexually attracted to both men and women does not imply that they must simultaneously engage in sexual relationships with both men and women to be satisfied, any more than the ability of a heterosexual or homosexual person to be attracted to multiple persons of their preferred gender means they cannot be satisfied in a monogamous relationship. The strict association of bisexuality with promiscuity stems from a variety of negative stereotypes targeting bisexuals as mentally or socially unstable people convinced that sexual relations only with men, only with women or only with one person is not enough. As a result bisexuals bear a social stigma from accusations of cheating on or betraying their partners, leading a double life, being "on the down-low", and spreading sexually transmitted diseases such as HIV/AIDS. They are characterized as being "slutty", insatiable, “easy”, indiscriminate, and in the case of women, nymphomaniacs. Furthermore, they are strongly associated with polyamory, swinging, and polygamy,[8] the last being an established heterosexual tradition sanctioned by some religions and legal in several countries.

Current issues of debate

Apparently validating the above belief and generalization and their related stereotypes are current issues of debate connected to identity and human sexuality in general.

  1. The nature versus nurture debate over homosexuality complicates matters. Supporting a polar view of sexual orientations, discussion here revolves around possible causes for a homosexual orientation and not a heterosexual or bisexual one. See separate articles on Kinsey scale and Klein Sexual Orientation Grid
  2. In line with the nurture side of the previous debate is Sigmund Freud’s term for sexual disposition and gratification in the first five years of a child’s development: the polymorphous perverse. This theory is misinterpreted as meaning that all people are (born) bisexual,[9] that socialization is the key factor in determining whether people will be heterosexual or homosexual, or that people eventually choose their sexual orientation toward one or the other sex, but not both.
  3. People do not always choose to identify themselves strictly according to their sexual orientation. Just as someone can feel pressured not to disclose his or her homosexual orientation and claim heterosexuality, so too can a person claim bisexuality. Mainly out of oppression from negative bisexual stereotypes, the reverse is true for some bisexual people choosing to identify or state that they are straight, gay or lesbian depending on company and the situation.
  4. The concept of bisexuality may not exist in a given culture or may be encompassed by transgender identities as in some indigenous cultures such as those of Native Americans, Aboriginal peoples in Canada or the Zapotec in Oaxaca, Mexico.
  5. Having sexual relations with people of the same as well as different genders is perceived as a direct indication of a person’s sexual attractions and, hence, a bisexual orientation. This perception explains how the Kinsey Scale is used to label sexual orientation despite its original design and use to explain a person’s sexual history or past. Moreover, in many parts of the world, gay men and lesbian women still lead so-called straight lifestyles. The reasons cited are discrimination, internalized homophobia, strong personal or religious beliefs about the family, and a lack of information on and visibility of same-sex relations and sexuality.
  6. Regardless of their actual sexual orientation it is sometimes assumed by those not in the industry that all sex workers or actors/actresses opt to participate in homosexual sex scenes only as part of their jobs. Confusing fantasy and acting with reality, this has been dubbed “gay-for-pay”, this myth has been used to create further confusion and reinforce biphobia.

Bisexual erasure

Bisexual erasure is the tendency to ignore, remove, falsify, or reexplain evidence of bisexuality in the historical record, academic materials, the news media, and other primary sources.[10][11] When bisexual erasure is found in intellectually dishonest or erroneous works, it has been called a manifestation of biphobia.[12] In its most extreme form, bisexual erasure can include denying that bisexual people actually exist.[13]


Monosexism is a term used to refer to beliefs, structures, and actions that promote monosexuality (either exclusive heterosexuality and/or homosexuality) as the only legitimate or right sexual orientation, excluding bisexual, pansexual, or polysexual orientations.[14][15] The term may be considered analogous to heterosexism.[15]

Liz Highleyman, author of several queer studies works, has claimed that bisexuals cannot address monosexism inside the context of a wider lesbian/gay/bisexual movement.[14]

Controversial studies

A 2002 study said that a sample of men self-identifying as bisexual did not respond equally to pornographic material involving only men, and to pornography involving only women, but instead showed four times more arousal to one than the other. However, bisexuality does not imply equal attraction towards both genders. In addition, opponents state that genital arousal to homosexual pornographic material is not a good indicator of orientation both because the material is chosen by the researchers, ignoring the study participants' preferences (i.e. body types, looks, scenarios, particular fetishes, presentation of relationships, etc.), and because tumescence is problematic as an indicator of arousal (some tumescence may be caused or prevented by anxiety, and erectile dysfunction should be considered before such studies commence). They also point out that the study showed a third of men had no arousal, and ask why this does not mean that one third of men are really asexual.[16] The study, and The New York Times article which reported it in 2005,[17] were subsequently criticized as flawed and biphobic.[18][19] Lynn Conway criticized the author of the study, J. Michael Bailey, citing his controversial history, and pointing out that the study has not been scientifically repeated and confirmed by any independent researchers.[20]

In 2011, a new article published in The New York Times, mentioned a new study elaborated by Jerome Cerny and Erick Janssen showing evidence of bisexuality in men and therefore contradicting Bailey's study.[21] However, the methods used in both studies have been highly criticized because of the aforementioned reasons.

See also


  1. ^ Eliason, MJ (1997). "The prevalence and nature of biphobia in heterosexual undergraduate students". Archives of Sexual Behavior 26 (3): 317–26. doi:10.1023/A:1024527032040. PMID 9146816. 
  2. ^ Michael Musto, April 7, 2009. Ever Meet a Real Bisexual?, The Village Voice
  3. ^ Yoshino, Kenji (January 2000). "The Epistemic Contract of Bisexual Erasure". Stanford Law Review (Stanford Law School) 52 (2): 353–461. doi:10.2307/1229482. JSTOR 1229482. 
  4. ^ "Why Do Lesbians Hate Bisexuals?". April 11, 2008. Retrieved March 26, 2011. 
  5. ^ Geen, Jessica (October 28, 2009). "Bisexual workers 'excluded by lesbian and gay colleagues'". Retrieved March 26, 2011. 
  6. ^ a b Dworkin, SH (2001). "Treating the bisexual client". Journal of Clinical Psychology 57 (5): 671–80. doi:10.1002/jclp.1036. PMID 11304706. 
  7. ^ "It's Just A Phase" Is Just A Phrase, The Bisexual Index
  8. ^ GLAAD: Cultural Interest Media Archived April 19, 2006 at the Wayback Machine
  9. ^ Myths About Bisexuality (PDF pamphlet from Bisexual Resource Center)[dead link]
  10. ^ Word Of The Gay: BisexualErasure May 16, 2008 "Queers United"
  11. ^ The B Word Suresha, Ron. "The B Word," Options (Rhode Island), November 2004
  12. ^ Bisexual erasure Bi Writers Media Guide: Glossary
  13. ^ Hutchins, Loraine (2005). "Sexual Prejudice: The erasure of bisexuals in academia and the media". American Sexuality magazine (National Sexuality Resource Center) 3 (4). 
  14. ^ a b Highleyman, Liz (1995). "Identities and Ideas: Strategies for Bisexuals", from the anthology Bisexual Politics: Theories, Queries, and Visions. Haworth Press. Black Rose Web Pages.
  15. ^ a b Rust, Paula C Rodriguez (2002). "Bisexuality: The state of the union, Annual Review of Sex Research, 2002", BNET.[dead link]
  16. ^ [1][dead link]
  17. ^ Straight, Gay or Lying? Bisexuality Revisited New York Times, July 5, 2005.
  18. ^ PrideSource: Bisexual study, New York Times article cause furor
  19. ^ "Gay Straight or Lying? Bisexuality Revisited," Revisited – Part 1 by William Burleson June 26, 2007
  20. ^ "Straight, Gay or Lying? Bisexuality Revisted" J. Michael Bailey attacks the identities of bisexual men
  21. ^ Tuller, David (August 22, 2011). "No Surprise for Bisexual Men: Report Indicates They Exist". The New York Times. 

Additional Resources for the Bisexual Community

Civil Rights Organizations


Political Activist Group (USA)


Bisexuality Wiki


Bi Magazine (USA)

Bi Community News (UK)

BiSocial News (USA)

Bi News Magazine (Netherlands)

The Fence (Canada)

Bi Women Boston (USA)


List of USA Bisexual Groups

UK Bisexual Groups

Netherlands Bisexual Groups

Binet Canada

Toronto Bisexual Network

Mexico Bisexual Network


Bi Any Other Name : Bisexual People Speak Out by Loraine Hutchins, Editor & Lani Ka'ahumanu, Editor ISBN 978-1-55583-174-5

Getting Bi : Voices of Bisexuals Around the World by Robyn Ochs, Editor & Sarah Rowley, Editor ISBN 978-0-9653881-4-6

The Bisexual Option by Fritz Klein, MD ISBN 978-1-56023-033-5

Bi America : Myths, Truths, And Struggles Of An Invisible Community by William E. Burleson ISBN 978-1-56023-478-4

Bisexuality in the United States : A Social Science Reader by Paula C. Rodriguez Rust, Editor ISBN 978-0-231-10226-1

Bisexuality : The Psychology and Politics of an Invisible Minority by Beth A. Firestein, Editor ISBN 978-0-8039-7274-2

Current Research on Bisexuality by Ronald C. Fox PhD, Editor ISBN 978-1-56023-288-5

Further reading

  • Garber, Marjorie (1995). Bisexuality and the Eroticism of Everyday Life, pp. 20–21, 28, 39.
  • Fraser, M., Identity Without Selfhood: Simone de Beauvoir and Bisexuality, Cambridge and New York: Cambridge University Press 1999. p. 124–140.

External links

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