Content warning: examples of internalized homophobia and biphobia, homophobic slurs.
I’ve been wanting to write about our mental health for some time, and internalized homophobia and biphobia are a good starting point. Homophobia is a bundle of negative attitudes and stereotypes. It’s aimed at people feeling same-sex attractions, in same-sex romantic relationships, and who do sex stuff with people of their own gender. Think of the ickiness some people feel when they see two guys kiss.
On top of this, we have to deal too with BS that gay guys don’t face. Biphobia is similar to homophobia, but towards people who are attracted to multiple genders. It’s the old: “we’re just on our way to gay town;” “I’d never date a bi guy;” or “you have to choose.” Homophobia and biphobia become internalized when we start to believe what we’ve been hearing our whole lives. The fear of other people’s reactions to our sexuality takes root; self-doubt and self-hate rear their ugly heads.
Internalized homophobia and what it feels like
Internalized homophobia makes you wish you were straight. It can lead to denial. It makes you feel you don’t deserve the same things “normal” people get because of your desire or love for men. These thoughts can sound like that:
You wish you were “normal”, and you even started hating yourself. When the other guys started accusing Rob of looking at their d**ks in the showers, you called him a f*g—because you were looking at their d**ks too.
Things are better now, but you were walking downtown and you saw two guys kiss. It was so weird, even though you’ve been dreaming of kissing your best friend. You hooked up with a guy from Grindr, but you were clear: no kissing, no hugging, just sex. But the moment you blew your load, you wanted out. Your skin crawled as you walked home, and you felt hollow.
Now, the sex is good, but that’s all you want from guys – there’s no way you’d fall in love with one. Your profile says masc for masc; you’re not like those over-the-top, flamboyant guys. You wish they’d tone it down, they give everyone the wrong impression. Seriously, what’s the idea of making your entire life about being gay, with the rainbows and the parades? It’s making everyone uncomfortable.
Internalized biphobia and what it feels like
Internalized biphobia is even more insidious. It starts by feeding on the ignorance that those around you have been cultivating about being bi+.
All you know is gay or straight. Sure, you think of other guys, but f***ing girls feels amazing! You couldn’t possibly be gay; you just wish you had this guy’s body.
Or you’ve always been into other guys, you can’t be having feelings for that woman you just met. Anyway, everyone says you have to choose, maybe it’s just a phase. Maybe watching the right kind of porn will help you “choose.”
And once you think you know the truth about yourself, it tells you that maybe you’re wrong, or that it’s not such an important part of you.
Just settle with your new wife, and you don’t have to bother about liking guys anymore. Or just say you’re gay so you don’t get the weird comments from your gay friends. You’ve always preferred guys after all. You don’t want to deal with what they would think of you if you got a girlfriend. For all you know, maybe you’re just faking being attracted to women.
It doesn’t stop once you’ve settled down
Still, you’ve always seen yourself with a wife and kids and a family. Even if you have these sexual desires for guys, your sexuality is nobody’s business but your own. Anyhow, your wife would be right to be angry if you told her you’re bi. That’s not what she signed up for, and it’s normal she’d worry about you being gay if she saw your porn.
You talked, and it’s kinda okay? You’ve been thinking of coming out, but you’re not really into labels, and people all get the wrong ideas when they hear a guy’s bisexual. Yet you end up being one of the 12% of bi men who come out to most of the important people in their lives. You’re finally done with that shit. But lately, you haven’t really been thinking about women, just guys. . . Are you gay after all? Oh, that girl who walked by is hot; you’re good.
And it keeps going sometimes after you’ve come out
This cool gay guy and you have been flirting—you think?—but what if he thinks you aren’t gay enough, or that there’s something he could never give you? Hey, he’s bi too! Wait, what if he leaves you for a woman someday? You’re not too sure about that.
Now it’s been years, and you love being bi! But that pansexual friend you had in college just got married, she was probably straight after all… That singer just came out as bisexual, but you bet he’ll say he’s gay in a couple of years; all the celebrities end up doing that, it’s so disappointing. And being bi is trendy with young people today. You wish you had another friend who’s bi, but they’re all gay or straight. Oh wow, your friend that you’ve known for years just said he’s not just into women! You had no idea, how come he didn’t say something sooner? He’s known for a long time that you’re bi after all.
Internalized biphobia and homophobia aren’t all of that for everyone
I hope you’re not thinking or feeling all of what I just wrote. For many of us, internalized homophobia and biphobia are subtle. Just a few of these thoughts poison us, especially when we’ve worked towards accepting ourselves. Also, some of these beliefs can be there for reasons other than internalized oppressions. For example, many people have valid reasons to not want to label themselves: maybe the words feel too limiting. Or some people are private. They feel that aspects of a sexuality they haven’t touched in a long time—or touched only when they watch porn and masturbate—belongs to them.
But internalized homophobia and biphobia hide in our blind spots and in our subconscious – it’s their thing, that’s what they do. So do some introspection. What are ways you think these internalized oppressions are still impacting you? Healing starts with developing an awareness that these exist within you. Many of us overcome our internalized homophobia. Still, I have yet to meet a bi+ person who doesn’t occasionally struggle with internalized biphobia – so it’s probably in there somewhere.
My next article on this topic will talk about overcoming internalized biphobia. Still, I don’t want to leave you hanging after stirring that shit up. This article and this video give helpful suggestions, like reading books with bi+ characters or learning not to second-guess your feelings. Another important way of taking care of yourself is to connect with other people like you. If you haven’t already, check out r/BisexualMen on Reddit and maybe join our Discord chat server. You might discover how much of a weight is off your shoulders when you talk about your sexuality with other bi+ guys like it’s the most natural thing in the world.