Content warning: This article contains mentions of biphobia, drug use, sexual assault and sexism. Reader discretion is advised.
Photo by Tom Robertson on Unsplash
The B in LGBTQ+ is the most likely to experience mental health issues and attempt suicide. The B experiences the highest rates of sexual assault and drug use. The B suffers from isolation and harassment at much higher rates than its LGTQ+ counterparts.
And that’s before even taking into account intersectionality.
The numbers when taking race, gender and socio-economic status into account are heartbreaking. Referring to every issue experienced by every letter in LGBTQ+ as homophobia grossly oversimplifies the plights of each individual letter in the community. As a bisexual woman, I want to bring attention to issues unique to my community and explain how biphobia and homophobia are related but distinct. And how female-presenting bisexual women suffer exponentially when it comes to sexual assault.
An alarming number of those suffering from substance abuse problems happen to be bisexual women. In fact, bisexual women are two times more likely than heterosexuals to turn to binge drinking and regular drug use. Obviously, this statistic raises questions.
Why is this specific demographic so easily susceptible to substance abuse disorder? Upon further investigation, it’s because of the gross amount of sexual abuse and harassment bisexual women face.
I know my own experience with sexual harassment. I’ve had stalkers, cat-callers and creepy men slide into my DMs. But I always assumed it was only because of my gender. I’m fortunate that my sexuality isn’t a visible trait that I can be targeted for in public, however, online it’s a different story.
Until I saw the staggering numbers that expose how many predatory men seek out my community, I hadn’t even put two-and-two together. Sure, I’ve had plenty of men make comments about having a threesome when they find out I swing both ways. And people on dating apps always have oddly invasive questions when they discover I have “bisexual” on my profile.
But, thankfully, I’ve only had to deal with small microaggressions and a few passive-aggressive slurs. But for most bisexual women –– this isn’t the case.
A bisexual woman at the University of Cambridge recently completed a study which “linked the high rates of sexual violence experienced by bisexual women with the hypersexualisation of bisexual women, biphobic harassment and the abuse of drugs and alcohol.” It also doesn’t help that bisexual women are often fetishized, particularly by straight men who see female bisexuality as a performance for the male gaze.
Disney star, Dove Cameron, is an unfortunate example of a bisexual woman who’s suffered from online sexual harassment, stereotyping and bi-erasure. All of which you can see up-close and personal on the internet.
On the cover of Gay Times’ June issue, Cameron comes out as bisexual and goes into detail about her history with LGBTQ+ fans and why she’s no longer allowing people to ignore her identity.
Cameron has come out as bisexual multiple times in the past. She says she’s “hinted” at her sexual preferences, but when she says she’s flat-out not heterosexual and the media chooses to ignore it for years ... that’s not “hinting” at your sexuality. That’s society blatantly choosing to ignore the queer part of your identity.
Take a look under her posts and most of the top ones are supportive, but a scroll or two will bring you to the explicit comments men leave under every single one of her posts. Many of which choose to bring up her sexuality.
Cameron and I shouldn’t be considered the lucky ones when we still have to come out over and over again and deal with biphobia constantly. But we are. And that needs to change.
After assault, many bisexual women have no one to turn to, and they’re often rejected by their own community. Being told they're not truly queer or just not “queer enough” to receive services that cater toward gay individuals. Or being transgender (which 25% of the bisexual community identifies as) and unable to access healthcare because of their gender. There are so many barriers that keep bisexuals from getting support and care, and these barriers push the community towards substance abuse and suicide. It’s unacceptable.
Photo by Vladimir Proskurovskiy on Unsplash
The HRC recently released an action plan to help advocates and healthcare providers better look out for the bisexual community. It includes information about sex-positive and bi-competent organizations and how to use bi-inclusive language. While biphobia and sexism are complex, systemic issues, there are ways you can help fight them in everyday life. Check in on your bi friends, don’t assume someone’s sexuality and remember that just because someone has a partner of the opposite gender that doesn’t mean their queerness suddenly disappears.
My sexual orientation is not an invitation and neither is my gender. Biphobia is not a concept, it kills people. And we need to do more as a community to combat biphobia and sexism.