The LGBTQIA+ community is full of diverse and remarkable individuals, each with their own story to tell. Throughout history, people in this community have faced immense hardship and discrimination. However, each of these individual groups has faced their own unique struggles as well.
For many years, bisexual people have struggled to be perceived as a true part of the LGBTQIA+ community due to something called “bisexual erasure.” Bisexual erasure, also known as “bi-erasure,” is a pervasive issue that makes it difficult for many bisexual people to feel accepted and live in their truth.
What Is the Concept of Bi-Erasure?
the bisexual experience in media or other representations. It also refers to the experience of those within the bisexual community who feel that their sexuality is “erased,” overlooked, or invalidated within both society and their own communities.
Bi-erasure posits that the sexuality of bisexual individuals is often categorized into either homosexual or heterosexual norms of behavior, rather than perceiving it as what their sexuality actually is: a spectrum of sexuality and sexual behaviors that are not defined by the limits of homosexual and heterosexual behavior.
For example, bisexual people may face scrutiny or negative opinions about their relationships, being called “straight” if they are with someone of the opposite gender and “gay” if they are with someone of the same gender, even being accused of lying about their sexuality to get attention if they end up in a “straight-presenting” relationship. This discriminatory opinion posits that bisexuality doesn’t truly exist and one’s relationship status and partner places them back in the heterosexual/homosexual binary.
Further, many within the bisexual community feel that they are not given fair representation both in media/pop culture and within their own circles and communities, instead receiving messaging that their sexuality is invalid. This causes many bisexual people to doubt themselves and their identity and can make them feel unwelcome in both straight and queer spaces.
The Emotional Toll of Bi-Erasure: The Impact of Bi-Erasure on Mental Health
Bi-erasure can have a significantly negative impact on an individual’s mental health. For example, it can cause an increase in:
- Low self-esteem
- Low self-worth
- Depressive symptoms
- Feelings of worthlessness
- Feelings of abandonment and rejection
Bi-erasure can even discourage engagement in communities of belonging due to a fear that the individual will automatically experience rejection by that community. It can also cause significant and serious self-doubt and imposter syndrome as well as perceived abandonment and social isolation from peers and support groups.
Being in the LGBTQIA+ community and facing the process of “coming out” is daunting in and of itself. No one wants to feel rejected by those they love most. However, due to this stigma and stereotypes about bisexuality, some bisexual people may end up feeling rejected by both the life they’ve always known and the new, authentic life they are trying to create for themselves. Bisexuality is a real and valid identity, and it deserves to be respected when someone is honest and vulnerable about who they truly are.
Addressing Bi Erasure: Strategies and Resources
One of the best ways to address bi-erasure is to talk about it openly and identify that it’s a problem that impacts those within the queer community. It’s important to recognize that bisexual people are valid members of the LGBTQIA+ community and that they often have to face this stigmatization.
Some great resources on how to overcome bi-erasure can be found online at GLAAD.org, a popular online resource for the queer community that provides strong support and helpful information about a variety of queer identities and issues. Finally, one of the best ways that you can address bi-erasure is to make sure that you are supporting your friends in the bisexual community and confronting narratives that attempt to falsify their lived existence.
You can do this by actively listening to bisexual friends and family members when they confide in you about struggles with their sexuality and queer identity and addressing stigmatizing ideas and comments when you come across them. Spreading knowledge and awareness about what bi-erasure is and how it can impact bisexual people is a great way to spark change.
Seeking Professional Help for Coping With Bi-Erasure
The best way to find professional support to help you cope with the effects of bi-erasure is to look for a mental health professional who specializes in treating LGBTQIA+ people and issues. If it makes you more comfortable, it can also help to look specifically for a therapist or counselor who is part of the LGBTQIA+ community themselves. Speaking to someone that understands the struggle of being queer—someone you don’t have to explain yourself or experience to—can go a long way to make you feel safe and comfortable in your therapeutic space.
Professional counseling services dedicated to coping with experienced bi-erasure will likely involve your provider working to validate your lived experiences and encouraging you to fully experience and honor your feelings.
Other strategies and common goals for this treatment include providing clients with cognitive challenging and restructuring strategies to increase their overall ability to tolerate distress (such as discrimination or feeling misunderstood) as well as mindfulness training to help clients find effective and lasting coping strategies. These strategies will enable them to effectively resolve unwanted or unhelpful emotions as they come up and build overall resilience.
Building Resilience and Empowerment Strategies
Some great empowerment strategies and ways to build resilience involve incorporating distress tolerance skills into your daily rituals and routines. Some great distress tolerance strategies include:
- Practicing radical acceptance: Accepting what you can and can’t change and practicing release through relaxation techniques.
- Engaging in behavioral activation: Performing behaviors that align with your values to increase self-esteem, overall life enjoyment, and satisfaction, as well as engaging in healthy coping mechanisms, all of which significantly contribute to overall resiliency.
- Being involved in a community: Finding and cultivating a strong social support network of loved ones and people with shared experiences can bolster resilience.
One of the best ways to be resilient in the face of adversity is to find the right support. Whether it’s getting connected with other bisexual people who understand the complexities of bi-erasure or finding a mental health professional to help you with what you’re struggling with, support and understanding are a vital part of weathering prejudice and stigma in a healthy way. You aren’t alone in what you feel or who you are, and your experience is valid.