Bisexuality and pansexuality are probably the most debated sexualities amongst the queer communities and the heterosexual communities yet those who identify as Bi or Pan are thought to have more privilege than others in the queer community. That is bull shit and it's important to understand why your ideas of bisexual and pansexual people need to change.
If you have a pulse you've likely heard or read the largest misconception of bisexuality to ever grace the planet: bisexuality isn't real. Um what?! Ignoring the multitude of studies showing just the opposite, people seem to have this preconceived idea about sexual and romantic orientation that is utterly false. It implies that one's sexuality is a choice... that sounds pretty homophobic, right? Okay so why is it different for bisexual or pansexual people? In reality it isn't.
To understand where this particular facet of biphobia comes from, let's discuss it more. Heterosexual people are only just coming to terms with homosexuality in Western culture - some are not even there yet. So to grasp the idea that sexuality is fluid is more complicated - especially because many have been raised with the view that you can only be straight or gay. Anything in between or left of centre is weird, wrong and too difficult to handle. Biphobia tends to just display as homophobia in heterosexual people, for the most part. Call it religion, politics, whatever. This is just a fear from what they do not know or understand likely because heteros know that being gay is harder - some even see it as bad. To be in-between or unidentifiable is to struggle more. On a basic level, we all want to belong and please others so not being able to clearly identify yourself as 'straight' or gay leaves you wondering where you belong as a person. Whether a heterosexual person actually knows that this struggle to belong is even more prevalent in bisexuality and pansexuality is on a person-by-person basis but it is a gut feeling we all seem to have. Sadly though, biphobia doesn't just belong to the heteros. Yep, gay people you can be biphobic too! In homosexual persons biphobia is rampant; this is likely as a symptom of "closeted" sexuality. Viewing your own sexuality as something to be ashamed of is hard so when someone who floats between what you perceive to have been your true self versus your "closeted" self it can feel like an insult to your personal struggles. Heavy stuff, I know. This is called implicit bias. Lingering self-disdain due to societal expectations from the majority group causes implicit bias. This shows up in racial minorities just as it does in other minorities. The bias that we all have in one way or another is a knee-jerk reaction. It's due to societies expectation of us and what we're exposed to. It's a bit like the 'doll test' done on children - we prefer what we are taught to prefer: white, cis-gendered, heterosexual men.
The ever-harmful idea of the myth of bisexuality is reinstated by media and porn but it is entirely due to male gaze so that heterosexual men can enjoy the fluidity of sexuality not for the people who are queer but for their own urges. It comes in the form of 'college experimentation', 'a phase', or the dream of threesomes because if one woman is hot then two women are even hotter, right? Well only if those women might be interested in the heterosexual man too. Now no offence to this hypothetical "dude bro" who wants a threesome desperately or needs the V x2 but just because you meet a bisexual woman that doesn't mean she's down to clown. Often there is the thought that if one is happy to date, fuck or marry any or multiple genders that they will be happy to do at the same time which often leads to the idea that bisexual or pansexual people are deviants. Once again, this is pretty similar to the old homophobic thoughts but now it's more specific and coming from both the queer and the hetero communities.
While bisexuality is popularized in the media it's called anything but what it is. Writers label characters as 'open' or 'free spirited' or, my personal favourite, 'not needing a label'. While I'm happy that some queer people refuse to label themselves because that's their lives my big issue is with fictional characters as we only see bisexual representatives refusing to call themselves bisexual while also in threesomes instead of twosomes - like we'd forget that Betty likes Veronica and Archie if it wasn't for the outrageous displays. Forgetting that this is actually poor writing and direction, this is exactly male gaze again because it seems that attraction to two or more genders is essentially boiled down to lack of control or sometimes even sexual greed. In particular with the porn industry, researcher and writer, Shiri Eisner has said that as bisexual women are only displayed in "hypersexualized contexts, as sexual objects for the hegemonic straight cis male gaze, while directly or covertly appealing to a quasi-pornographic fantasy of a (two females and one male) threesome, and while also reassuring us that these women are not really bisexual, but are simply behaving so for the satisfaction of the presumed male spectator”.
Boiling down an entire group of people to a fetish or non-existence, as preferred by television and movies, has serious repercussions not just for the mental health of the group but for their physical safety. Whether you like to admit it or not the biases we have can have real life consequences for ourselves but mostly for the group you might be biased against. These consequences can be boiled down to statistics. Rape, abuse, threats and everything in between are directed towards those in the LGBTQIA+ community all the time and these issues are even more prevalent for people of colour within the Queer community. However it's believed that when exposed whether in one's personal life or through accurate media representation people are less likely to act violently towards minorities. However, as bisexual or pansexual people are viewed as tourists in the Queer community it completely disregards that they are similarly likely to face discrimination while in same sex relationships or when they are open about it with their opposite gender partners.
As my experience is as a cis-gendered woman I'm hardly able to accurately comment on personal issues felt from biphobia from a male or trans perspective there may be more to this but to give a cliff notes version there are certainly troubles that bisexual men face that aren't particularly problems that cis women might have These issues typically are that while it's acceptable for women to be bi or pansexual, because it is really for a heterosexual man's pleasure, a bisexual man or transgendered person is unheard of. That's bullshit, too! Do you see a theme here? Hopefully you do!
The privilege that bisexual people are perceived to have from the rest of the queer community actually leave us out of the conversation, exclude us from belonging and all together do nothing to validate the truth which is: sexuality is fluid and whatever a person identifies as - they are. Some men, women, and gender queer people might identify as heterosexual but later realize they are homosexual and this is no different for bisexual people who perhaps later realize that they are homosexual, pansexual, ace, hetero or really prefer to leave themselves without a defined label. So to say that bisexual men do not exist is robbing people of their identities and of a huge part of themselves because when we are able to share who we love, regardless of gender, our other relationships can flourish too. The fluidity of sexuality is further explored by the Kinsey Scale. This scale was explained by the creators by showing that people "do not represent two discrete populations, heterosexual and homosexual" as there is many in-between just as there is many things in between a dog and a cat. The world is not black and white, but varying shades of grey which is exactly the case for human sexuality. This scale has done a lot for the furthering of understanding sexualities for heterosexual and homosexual persons alike but not nearly enough as bi and pan people still need to appeal to monosexuals so that they may understand the complexities of attraction while also trying to navigate a minefield of harmful stereotypes like bisexuals always cheat, are greedy, and confused just to name a few.
As you may be able to tell, I am a bisexual woman. However, I have only dated men. This does not mean that I am not attracted to women nor does it mean that I'm actually heterosexual. Our history does not actually mean much in terms of our sexuality which is why "Gold Star Gay" is a particularly disturbing term as many people have had to hide their sexualities for their safety, religion and perhaps even not fully comprehending what they feel. Now although I share this information pretty freely, it's not acceptable to ask someone about their sexual past. I would hardly go up to a stranger and demand to know what they've done in the bedroom because I'm pretty sure that our private parts and what we do or not do with them are private. I have loved a woman before, though. However as I know that many in my community whether heterosexual or homosexual view bisexuality as false I don't know if I could go through with dating a woman because I know that there will be more troubles to face. This is not privilege. This is closeting because for those around me, they aren't actually faced with it. They don't notice because there is nothing "abnormal" about me dating a man but to date a man then a woman or really whatever that's probably more than most people know how to handle because of all of the above. (This is a personal matter, not really up for discussion on my blog though. I share this just to explain a little more. Please be respectful of this.)
These problems are not just my own - all genders in the bisexuality and pansexuality identities feel this one way or another and it is their prerogative as to whether they will be open enough to date the same gender or if they will fight those feelings because of intolerance in both communities. If you are queer or an ally, it's important to make bisexual people feel welcome because hiding your sexuality can lead to depression and a host of other problems - with even suicide being a major one. So before sexualizing bi persons or saying they don't exist just listen, try to understand that what you say may be a big difference in a person's life good or bad. I hope you choose to be a good difference by encouraging your bisexual comrades to be their truest selves because equal rights for LGBTQIA+ was built on the backs of bisexual, trans-women of colour. We owe them that much.