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In the first part of Epigram Comment and the LGBT+ Society's collaboration, Social Secretary Nura Alyah gives an account of her experiences of internalised biphobia.
This article was proposed to me as an exploration of the damaging effect of biphobic stereotypes. If you want to see ‘damaging’, look no further than me in March of last year.
It happened towards the end of my first year. After years of being confident that I was a lesbian who never had genuine attraction to men, nothing had been as damaging to my sense of identity than this one stupid boy.
Anyone that was friends with me at the time can tell you what a mess I was. It didn’t help I had a particularly boozy month that March, or that when I’m drunk I overshare. But there I was, telling anyone and everyone - except for him - about the stupid and ‘probably fake’ feelings I had for this guy.
"Nothing had been as damaging to my sense of identity than this one stupid boy"
It’s ironic - when I first came out some six years ago, I also identified as bi. At 14, as an unguarded child that knew who I liked, I had no problem being bisexual. But after years of seeing stereotypes as a funny thing you could tack onto your identity if you were gay or a lesbian, and comparing it to the stereotypical cries of ‘bisexuals are sluts!’ and ‘bisexuals are lying!’, it was inevitable that I’d tamper down how I felt any time I looked at a guy and thought he was attractive.
It took me far longer than it should have to realise that when people talk about internalised homophobia, it’s not just kids hearing homophobic parents telling them their identity is a sin. I wish I had known that the people that tell you bi people have ‘straight privilege’, that bisexuality is ‘easier’, that biphobia isn’t real - I wish I had known that these people were wrong.
Biphobia sucks, and internalised biphobia is just as damaging as any other type of bigotry.
"Internalised biphobia twists genuine feelings you have and makes you doubt and question them"
Internalised biphobia thrives on all the stereotypes you hear: that bisexuals are fake, that we’re not as LGBT as other sexualities, that you have to be gay enough to be bi and think of yourself as part of the community. It takes these stereotypes and tells you that you shouldn’t want to identify as bisexual. Internalised biphobia twists genuine feelings you have, feelings that should be celebrated and enjoyed, and makes you doubt and question whether or not you want people to know you feel that way, until you’re more distressed than anything else at what people will think of you.
Our newest issue is out today! For an overview of the @Bristol_UCU strikes, an interview with @ThangamMP and @EpigramComment's bi-visibility campaign, find it around campus or online here: https://t.co/v2SflrvEGA pic.twitter.com/IaJkfHtYms— Epigram (@EpigramPaper) March 12, 2018
It tells you that you should say you’re a lesbian, because then people will take your sexuality seriously. You should look at a guy who identifies as bi and judge whether or not he’s actually ‘gay enough’ to deserve that label. You should use any other word to describe yourself other than bisexual because that way no one will look at you and think you’re lying for attention.
I did all of those things, and I hate that I did. I identified as a lesbian, I used the word ‘queer’ until I could accept that being bisexual wasn’t lesser, and I had awful, awful thoughts about some of my closest friends. I have all the guilt you’d expect, and I wasted a lot of time that didn’t need to be wasted denying how I felt towards guys.
I know deep down that relying on other labels and having initially bigoted thoughts (which I fight any time I notice them) aren’t things that make me a bad person, or a bad ally to other sexualities: sometimes you have to do some avoidance until you’re comfortable with yourself. But I’m sad and I’m sorry that I ever felt like I had to do such a thing.
"I’m bisexual! Suck it, biphobes. I have a bi pride flag hanging above my bed, a poster declaring ‘LIBERTÉ, EGALITÉ, BISEXUALITÉ’"
We’re a year on from this big bisexual crisis, and I’m now loudly and proudly chanting that I am bisexual. I’m bisexual! Suck it, biphobes. I have a bi pride flag hanging above my bed, a poster declaring ‘LIBERTÉ, EGALITÉ, BISEXUALITÉ’, and I can look at a guy and think he’s attractive without thinking that I need to lie about what I feel. I do like girls more often than guys, but bisexuality doesn’t mean 50/50 - hell, it doesn’t even mean “You like boys and girls and no other genders!” - my sexuality being more of a 80/20 deal doesn’t mean it’s invalid or bad.
There are still going to be issues and caveats, of course. For instance, I have yet to tell my parents, in the case that they look at what it means to be bi and think ‘well, she’s dating a girl, so I don’t need to accept that she has the potential for any other type of attraction’ (although now I have a nice article to link them to - Hi Mom! Hi Dad!)
But at the same time, after a hectic year of ups and downs and boys and girls, I’m taking this victory for what it is. I am bisexual. Maybe that’ll change again in another six years, but at the very least, I am proud of who I am right now.
People have a very specific image of what it means to be bisexual, and honestly? It’s usually bullshit.
Destroy the idea that you need to be ‘gay enough’ to count yourself as bi and part of the LGBT community. We’re here, and we’re bisexual, and that’s good enough.
**By Nura Alyah **
Featured image; Flickr/mary