Anyone who is bisexual might experience biphobia, or monosexism, from others. Or, they might have internalized monosexism, which involves having negative thoughts about their own sexual orientation.
A bisexual person has sexual and romantic attraction to people of their own gender and other genders.
In this article, we will be replacing the term “biphobia” with “monosexism.” This is because “biphobia” places emphasis on the irrational fears of an individual, as opposed to the systems in place that affect a person’s health and well-being.
Monosexism refers to stigma, prejudice, and discrimination directed at people who are romantically or sexually attracted to people of multiple genders.
Below, we describe what “internalized monosexism” is and provide some examples. We explore why it happens, the effects on mental and physical health, where to find support, and how to be an ally.
Anyone who is bisexual might internalize negative stereotypes and myths that a wider community holds about bisexuality. This is internalized monosexism.
The LGBTQIA Resource Center at the University of California, Davis define internalized oppression as “the fear and self-hate of one or more of a person’s own identities.”
This internalization might result from being exposed to negative ideas about an aspect of a person’s own identity from a young age.
Someone with monosexist behaviors and ideas may believe that bisexuality does not really exist or is impossible. Others may acknowledge its existence but try to exclude bisexual people from their communities.
Monosexism can manifest in many ways in various communities, including LGBTQIA+ communities.
A person with internalized monosexism may believe that their sexuality is a phase or not valid. They may also believe that they are incapable of having a monogamous relationship because they are bisexual.
A person who is bisexual may feel that they are “not gay enough” to belong in LGBTQIA+ communities and also feel excluded from heterosexual communities.
In addition, people experiencing internalized monosexism may
- that bisexuality is just a transitional stage and that they are really heterosexual, for example
- that bisexual people are more promiscuous than others
- that bisexual people are responsible for bringing HIV and other sexually transmitted infections (STIs) from one gendered population to another
- that bisexual people are never monogamous
- that bisexual people are more likely to “cheat on” partners
They highlight two main components of internalized monosexism: negative feelings about one’s sexuality and the internalization of stereotypes that others believe.
The researchers also recognize the likelihood of a link between not disclosing bisexuality and experiencing internalized monosexism. The team reports that people who do not disclose their bisexuality are more likely to have been exposed to monosexist views. This may lead to internalized stigma and uncertainty about sexual identity.
Another possible cause of internalized monosexism is an expectation that others will dismiss this sexuality. A person might assume that others will react negatively, and this can lead to internalized stigma.
Monosexism can negatively effect mental health. As the Royal College of Psychiatrists report, internalized monosexism may cause bisexual people to feel less comfortable accessing LGBTQIA+ mental health services, keeping them from receiving necessary care.
Specifically, it determined that men who self-identify as bisexual and men who self-identify as gay experience similar rates of mental health conditions, but that men who have romantic or sexual relationships with partners of more than one gender report higher instances of mental health conditions than men who only have romantic or sexual relationships with other men.
The review also found that bisexual people were more likely to report contemplating suicide in the past year than monosexual people.
If you know someone at immediate risk of self-harm, suicide, or hurting another person:
- Ask the tough question: “Are you considering suicide?”
- Listen to the person without judgment.
- Call 911 or the local emergency number, or text TALK to 741741 to communicate with a trained crisis counselor.
- Stay with the person until professional help arrives.
- Try to remove any weapons, medications, or other potentially harmful objects.
If you or someone you know is having thoughts of suicide, a prevention hotline can help. The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is available 24 hours per day at 800-273-8255. During a crisis, people who are hard of hearing can call 800-799-4889.
Bisexual people may be more likely than monosexual people to experience certain health issues.
However, among this group, men who self-identify as bisexual and those who self-identify as gay are more likely to report similar instances of using these substances.
The review also found that alcohol use disorder is more prevalent among bisexual women and than their monosexual counterparts.
- having sex at an earlier age
- having multiple sexual partners
- using substances before sex
- having condomless sex
The researchers also found that bisexual women have higher rates of self-reported STIs than those who are monosexual. Bisexual women may also be more likely to have at least one teenage pregnancy than monosexual women, the review suggests.
The Trevor Project affirm that a person does not need to disclose their sexual orientation for it to be valid.
They also remind people that:
- No one ever has to prove their sexual identity.
- Who a bisexual person dates or has relationships with does not make them more or less bisexual than others.
- Bisexuality is valid and real.
- Sexual identity can shift, and this never makes a previous sexual identity any less valid.
There are multiple ways to combat monosexism, including:
- affirming, internally and with others, that bisexuality is a valid identity
- not making any assumptions about a person’s sexuality based on their partners’ genders
- using inclusive language, such as by not using “gay” as a catchall term
- advocating for LGBTQIA+ communities to be more inclusive of bisexual people
- advocating for acceptance of bisexuality in schools and other institutions when it is safe to do so
Many organizations provide dedicated support, including the:
Also, GLAAD, a media monitoring organization that advocates for LGBTQIA+ communities, provides an extensive directory of resources.
A person can be an ally by combatting monosexism when doing so is possible and safe.
A few specific examples of how to be an ally include:
- Identifying individuals correctly: If a person discloses that they are bisexual, do not call them gay, lesbian, or straight, regardless of who they are in a relationship with.
- Identifying relationships correctly: If a person discloses that they are bisexual, do not say that they are in a gay, lesbian, or straight relationship, regardless of the genders of the people involved.
- Understanding that bisexuality is not a phase: A bisexual person is not “on their way” to becoming gay, lesbian, or straight, for example.
- Understanding that bisexuality does not equate with promiscuity: Bisexual people can be monogamous and can form close, loving relationships as easily as other people.
- Identifying terms correctly: Bisexuality is an umbrella term. A person may use a different or additional label for their romantic or sexual attraction. Always use the term that they do.
Internalized monosexism involves a bisexual person believing or expecting to hear negative ideas about their sexuality.
Monosexism, whether it is internalized or coming from someone else, can adversely affect mental and physical health. Regardless of a person’s own orientation, it is important to combat monosexism whenever it is safe to do so.
Anyone who experiences monosexism can find support and resources for education and advocacy from a range of organizations, some of which are specifically dedicated to supporting bisexual people.