Seven Ways to Address Internalized Biphobia

Posted by – April 15, 2024
Categories: Excerpt Society & Politics

Excerpt from Dear Bi Men: A Black Man’s Perspective on Power, Consent, Breaking Down Binaries, and Combating Erasure

Seven Ways to Address Internalized Biphobia

1. Stop gaslighting yourself. Doubting your own bisexuality is destructive. Whatever you feel is what you feel, and whatever you have felt in the past is what you have felt. It is valid. If you’ve had crushes on guys or girls or nonbinary people, if you’ve wanted to get to know people on a romantic level or sexually, stop gaslighting yourself. Stop doubting the legitimacy of your own feelings or saying iterations of “This doesn’t really count, and it doesn’t matter.” Pause. Take a breath, and accept what is. Accept the feelings that come up and don’t judge them.

2. Read bisexual+ literature. I cannot stress this one enough because there is something so incredibly powerful about seeing experiences similar to yours in written form. It can make you feel a rush of excitement or just feel normal. Try any genre from fiction to nonfiction to memoir to speech transcriptions. A book that I return to is Barriers to Love: Embracing a Bisexual Identity by Marina Peralta with Penelope James. It’s a memoir that chronicles the life of a Mexican woman who is a psychotherapist and takes you on a journey from some of her earliest memories all the way to her vibrant life in her sixties as a psychotherapist and moonlighting dancer. It really resonated with me because she talks explicitly about some of the differences in her experience dating men versus dating women, compulsory heterosexuality, and an attractive balance between being reflective and living out loud. It holds lots of insight that promoted a lot of healing and self-acceptance.

3. Bisexual+ support groups. Depending on where you are in the world, this unfortunately may not be an option available to you, but YouTube and other forms of social media, where you can remain anonymous if you need to for safety reasons or because you want to, exist. Certain places might not have bisexual+ support groups or an LGBTQ+ support group at that, but I definitely recommend traveling to larger cities once in a while when it is within your means. Or go while you’re on vacation in a metropolitan city. Even if you can only find a gay men’s support group, I’d recommend going, though I’d be cautious about revealing your bisexual+ identity in groups that are not explicitly bisexual+. You can simply connect to being able to talk about being attracted to other men without fear of your safety being compromised or being scorned. The pros of going to one of these meetings is off the charts in the realms of feeling less alone, feeling affirmed, meeting people at different parts of their journey than you are who could potentially help you, or who you can help. Even if you just have to drive out or get on a train on a weekend for a few hours, it is worth it. It reminds you on a really substantive level that you’re not alone, because you’re not alone. There are so many bisexual+ people in this world.

4. Stop putting pressure on liking a particular gender. Before I’d done the work to be more comfortable in my own skin, I placed so much importance on my attraction to women. In retro-spect, a lot of this was because of the faulty ideas I had about manhood, which was heavily intertwined with my attraction to women and the access I had to them. This is not surprising when you consider the way this society conditions boys to be, and when you look at the expectations around manhood in this society. A lot of it is centered on how much power we have over women, how we feel about women, and how women feel about us. This is one of the many pitfalls of Eurocentric ideas around gender; it says that men are nothing without the other gender: women. It says that we are only half of a whole. As I said, I was putting so much weight on my attraction to women, and when I began to ease up on that, my sexuality was really able to bloom, and I began to be attracted to men, women, and nonbinary people who didn’t fit inside the neat little boxes I’d prescribed. I could feel a lot better about myself and my sexuality. Though we live in a heteronormative society that praises our attraction to another gender only, it’s just not healthy to put so much attention and focus on your attraction to a particular gender. It’s not healthy to wrap your self-esteem and self-worth around how attracted you are to women. Accept what is.

5. Stop assigning negative meaning when comparing your sexuality and desire to other men’s. I’ve berated myself so many times for not wanting to immediately fuck women or men I was attracted to. It has led me to be physically ill on more than one occasion. In these moments I’d tell myself there was something wrong with me or my sex drive because what I felt wasn’t overtly sexual; real men not only had the ability to be sexual at will but also had to desire people they were attracted to, sexually, at all times. I’d tell myself these stories that said what I was feeling was illegitimate and didn’t measure up in comparison to what other men felt. This is incredibly unfair, unkind, and steeped in rape culture and gender expectation. It’s important to accept yourself and your sexuality as it is instead of trying to force it to be something else.

6. Allow yourself to feel the excitement and the rush of being attracted to somebody. Whether it’s a celebrity crush or somebody you see on the street or a friend, allow yourself to simply appreciate how good that feels and how exciting it is to be attracted to somebody without all the judgments, without all the labels, and without the questions of “What does this mean?” and “Are we going to wind up together?” Allow yourself to just feel it, and hopefully one day you’ll get to a place where, experiencing attraction, the only feeling you have is excitement and joy and not shame.

7. Foster a kinder, more accepting internal dialogue. I notice my bisexuality and subconscious speak to me more often and are easier to hear the kinder I am to myself internally. If my internal dialogue is kind, forgiving, and accepting, all sorts of bisexual+ desires reveal themselves to me. Whenever I am critical, think in binaries, and am judgmental of myself or others, it is inaudible.