Biphobia: The downside of going both ways

I’m on the road this week, so I am indulging in magazine reading as my travel smut. This New York Time’s Magazine article (because no, I don’t read Playboy for the articles) The Scientific Quest to Prove Bisexuality Exists, by Benoit Denizet-Lewis, proved to be a lengthy and interesting read regarding the enduring phenomenon of “biphobia.” The author, a self-identified gay man, spends some time with John Sylla, the president of the American Institute of Bisexuality (A.I.B.), a well-endowed group that sponsors research on bisexuality in an effort to promote understanding and visibility to the somehow overlooked population. Despite the comfort we now have in this country with rolling L.G.B.T. off our tongues, it is true that the B. gets very little play in academia, as well as science and media. From the moment my Gender & Sexuality Studies professor, an out gay male, told me he struggled in believing his male friends who declared themselves bisexual, I have had a difficult time in wrapping my brain around what’s so hard for everyone to wrap their brain’s around! Wasn’t this the whole point of Kinsey’s scale? One A.I.B. board member, Brad S. Kane, explains biphobia from within the gay community:

“They’re misunderstood. They’re ignored. They’re mocked. Even within the gay community, I can’t tell you how many people have told me, ‘Oh, I wouldn’t date a bisexual.’ Or, ‘Bisexuals aren’t real.’ There’s this idea, especially among gay men, that guys who say they’re bisexual are lying, on their way to being gay, or just kind of unserious and unfocused.”

Another contention from the “born that way” believers:

Bisexuality, too, is politically problematic. Are bisexuals born bisexual? Where does choice come into the picture? John Sylla’s longtime partner, Mike Szymanski, told me that his parents didn’t accept his bisexual identity. “If you’re born that way and you can’t choose, that’s something we can accept, but if you like both, then you do have a choice,” Szymanski’s mother told him.

And the most interesting of issues brought to light here, to me at least, is the question of sexual identity:

Biphobia doesn’t tell the whole story of bisexual invisibility. According to the 2013 Pew Research Survey of L.G.B.T.-identified Americans, bisexuals are less likely than gays and lesbians “to view their sexual orientation as important to their overall identity.” That feeds into a belief among some gays and lesbians that bisexuals are essentially fence-sitters who can pass for straight for decades at a time and aren’t especially invested in the L.G.B.T. community.

For more, including lab research measuring levels of sexual arousal in order to identify bisexuality in individuals (whether or not they identify that way themselves) read the full article.

For some of the studies referenced see:

Pew Research 2013: A Survey of L.G.B.T. Americans

Sexual Arousal Patterns of Bisexual Men

Sexual Arousal Patterns of Bisexual Men Revisited



-Caterina Gironda

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