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Internalised homophobia and biphobia. Why are we cruel to ourselves?

Internalised homophobia and biphobia. Why are we cruel to ourselves?

Image source: © canva
Oliwia Ruta,
02.10.2023 17:00

Internalised homophobia and biphobia are common phenomena. However, it is much more common to talk about queerphobia of other people. What exactly are the specific fears of lgbtqa+ people?

Homophobia and related biphobia are negative attitudes towards homosexual and bisexual people. It can manifest itself in hatred, fear or stigmatisation of gay, lesbian and bisexual people. This attitude is usually displayed by people prejudiced against the queer community. But have you perhaps heard of internalised homophobia and biphobia?

Why are lgbtqa+ people queerphobic?

Queer people's negative and stereotypical attitudes towards themselves are caused by living in a prejudiced society. Homophobic or biphobic comments from loved ones can result in a distorted perception of one's orientation. Despite the fact that deep down queer people know themselves best, peer pressure can create fear and doubt.

The image portrayed in pop culture and social media also has a huge impact on the feelings of gay, lesbian and bisexual people. If stereotypes, propaganda and the lack of representation of queer people supersede healthy and comfortable cultural messages, this can result in negative thoughts arising in the lgbtqa+ society.

Educational institutions - schools and universities – also fail in this respect. In these places, unfortunately, queerphobia is very common. Lack of proper education, unwillingness to understand, exclusion, difficulty of fitting into a group: all these can have a very negative impact on non-heteronormative people.

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One of the main causes of internalised homophobia and biphobia is also the restriction or total lack of rights for lgbtqa+ people. Polish law does not allow the marriage of non-heteronormative couples, the unproblematic adoption of children, and makes it difficult to provide important information on, for example, the health status of a partner. Furthermore, harassment, verbal and physical violence (occurring even in schools), definitely does not make life easier for queer people. All these problems add up to a distorted perception of one's own orientation and sexuality and, as a result, internalised homophobia and biphobia.

Internalised homophobia – how does it manifest itself?

Internalised homophobia is connected with fear and dislike of being a homosexual person. In the text above you were presented with the causes of internalised queerphobia, below we will focus on the behaviour characteristic of those affected by it.

The basic manifestation of internalised homophobia is denial of one's orientation, shame and non-identification with lgbtqa+ community. The fear of coming out makes many homosexual people lose sleep over. Another behaviour of people with internalised homophobia is not reacting to political issues in need of change. Hiding one's feelings in public due to a mental block is also sometimes a manifestation of this specific phobia. Similarly, the discomfort felt over elements associated with lgbtqa+ (ie. the symbol of a rainbow, equality marches), the presence of someone seemingly queer or the initiation of same-sex touching is also a telling symptom.

One of the more obvious manifestations of internalised homophobia is forcing oneself into heteronormative relationships.

What about bisexual people?

Bisexual people are also affected by an internalised phobia, called biphobia.

Internalised biphobia is manifested with negative attitude bisexual people have towards their own experience.

It is deeply rooted in a biphobic culture that erases or reduces bisexuality to a stereotype and monosexist institutions that do not consider bisexuality existing at all.

- queerowyfeminizm

Bisexual people feel attracted to more than one gender. Depending on the individual and their preferences, one may feel attracted to others to varying degrees e.g. more to women than men or vice versa. In spite of all existing stereotypes, this orientation is very fluid and does not always imply cliché feelings towards a woman or a man.

How do bisexuals stigmatise themselves?

Internalised biphobia is just as, or even more, common than internalised homophobia. Through a misunderstanding of their own sexuality and erroneous assumptions in the culture, a large proportion of bisexual people stigmatise their orientation.

Questioning one's bisexuality is one of the main features of internalised biphobia. One cannot be too gay or too straight to fit into the flexible framework of being bi-. The same is true of not having a romantic experience with someone of the same or different sex. If you feel attracted to more than one gender, you don't have to be in a relationship with people of both (or more) genders to call yourself bisexual.

It is also a manifestation of internalised biphobia if you only have a sense of being bisexual when you are in a queer relationship. Passivity and ignorance when loved ones spread biphobia and stigmatise queer people is also a trait of internalised biphobia. Another issue is sharing and accepting only half of oneself, e.g. tolerating being only homo or only hetero.

Other gender identities also fall under the "umbrella of bisexuality" category. This means that if you feel attracted to multiple people regardless of gender, you are pansexual. On the other hand, if you feel attracted to all genders, you are omnisexual. These are just two examples that fall under bi+ category.

Source: Instagram/queerfeminism

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