I still remember the day I came out.
I don’t remember what was going on that day except that it was Pride Month in 2019 and I had recently attended my first pride event in town that year. Like a typical millennial, I came out on social media. It was a word vomit of a post that said I was 99% certain that I was bisexual, with the added caveat that just because I came out as bisexual now didn’t mean I would identify like that forever and I was still figuring things out.
As time went by, I started using the term “bisexuality” more confidently. To be honest, when I first heard the term bisexual in middle school, that term struck a chord with me. I had a name for it, while you don’t need labels, something is empowering about having them for many of us. Saying “I’m bisexual” gives me validity in my identity, in my attraction. It tells me that yes, I’m not the only one who feels this way and that my feelings are valid.
But just because I’ve come out doesn’t mean I’ve fully made my peace with my bisexuality. I can’t count the number of times I’ve questioned my sexuality. There are times when I’m more attracted to men and I wonder if I’m straight but thought I was bisexual because of the mass sexualization and objectification of women. There are times I wonder if I’m giving in to a so-called trend of claiming to be a part of the queer community. There are times when I don’t feel “bisexual enough.”
Subconsciously, I’ve put rules and stipulations on what it means to be bisexual for me, what counts and makes me a “true” bisexual in my mind. I compare and contrast my feelings among different genders as if there has to be some sort of “equation” that equals out—that if I’m attracted to X number of this gender, I should also be attracted to X number of other genders. And with that attraction, I feel the need to feel the same way about every gender I’m attracted to. I can’t be sexually and romantically attracted to men but only romantically attracted to women; it has to “even” out.
Most of all, I have to “prove” that I’m bisexual to my friends and outside people who see the word “bi-con” on all my social media bios. I have to show them that me finding a man attractive doesn’t mean I don’t find women or other genders attractive, and then I have to point to whatever non-male crush I can remember having (Megan Fox is usually the go-to since she was my bi awakening). I have to appear not “too gay” but also not “too straight” so people get the memo. If I don’t do this, I risk confusing people in my mind, making people question the validity of my sexuality, of the very concept of bisexuality itself. I know I can’t control people’s perceptions of myself or my bisexuality, but I still try.
There’s a concept called Stereotype Threat that says people of marginalized groups worry when they seemingly fit into a stereotype that they are not being authentic but are reinforcing stereotypes. I’ve experienced that myself. It’s like imposter syndrome, but worse in that I am invaliding my own identity. I feel an enormous responsibility to represent a small number of people who barely get representation in media and other aspects of life. If I slip up, then everyone loses. It’s not my responsibility, but it sure as hell feels like it is.
Implicit bias is real; it not only affects people outside of marginalized groups but also those within the marginalized group. I have internalized biphobia; I’ve had it even before I came out to myself and the public. And It’s pervasive throughout my life. I rarely see bisexual characters on television or film or in media in general, and when they do show up, they tend to fall into negative stereotypes, ranging from sex-crazed characters who have rampant affairs to femme fatales (such as Basic Instinct’s Catherine Tramell). I’m inundated with messages that tell me bisexuality is wrong; I’m selfish and greedy for liking multiple genders; I can’t make up my mind; I’m hyper-sexual; I’m secretly “gay” or “straight” and pretending not to be; and overall notions that paint a negative picture of bisexuals.
Wherever you are in life—whether you’re bisexual like me or not, whether you are out or not—we all struggle with internalized prejudice, and that doesn’t make us bad people. Just like prejudice we feel toward groups we’re not a part of, internalized prejudice is subconscious. It feeds into our minds because it is so pervasive; it takes more work to undo the thoughts and realize they’re faulty than it takes to simply live with them. We don’t control the initial thoughts we have on things, the emotions we feel when we first approach a situation or idea.
What I can do, and what we can all do, is practice mindfulness. Being aware of our perceptions is crucial to dismantling prejudice; I must dismantle my latent biphobia. Like other aspects of my identity—my gender, my race—it’s a constant battle of de-mystifying messages, not just for others, but also for myself. Realizing that biphobia is a thing, that internalized biphobia is a thing, is a relief. It tells me that what I’m feeling isn’t uncommon, that other people have experienced it, and that it’s something I can work through.
While I may never be able to fully shed my internalized biphobia, I will always be able to counter it. For me, dismantling biphobia looks like me adding that I’m a “bi-con” on all my social media bios. It looks like me shouting from the rooftops that I’m bisexual and proud of it. They say the best way to unlearn a habit is to replace it with a new one, and that’s what I’m doing.