Biphobia and transphobia have no place in the LGBTQ+ community

Part of growing up and going through growing pains is self-realization, and it’s never easy. It’s incredibly hard when contemplating your sexuality or gender identity, and the world is telling you not to.

After finally realizing those things, you would think that acceptance and understanding would be abundant in your own community. Surprisingly, this is not always the case, especially for bisexual and transgender individuals. Discrimination within the LGBTQ+ community is a genuine issue and often comes from gay and lesbian or cis-gendered members.

Bisexual individuals are often spoken down to and told what their sexuality is. In contrast, trans individuals have been told that the community focuses on sexuality and that they have to fight for their place in it. This ignorance within the community comes from the failure to see gender identity and sexuality as a spectrum and not concrete. 

If the community claims to be a safe space for all, why are the “B” and the “T” in the “LGBTQ+” equation made to feel uncomfortable in their own community? This internal discrimination needs to stop.

Community members need to put an end to the biphobia and transphobia that plagues queer spaces. The community wouldn’t be as enriched or where it is today without bisexual and transgender individuals. 

Biphobia is, “the fear and dislike of bisexual people and others who have the potential to be attracted to more than one genderl.” It can be perpetrated by anyone and often looks different from homophobia. It’s usually more passive-aggressive and consisting of mean remarks. 

Biphobia within the community is even perpetuated in the media. Television shows such as Ryan Murphy’s “Glee” have been in hot water through the years for its biphobic dialogue. Kurt Hummel, one of the show’s leading characters and one of the first openly gay characters on TV, has a biphobic rant during one episode. This outburst happens when his friend Blaine is questioning that he might actually be gay. 

Kurt responds, “‘Bisexual’ is what gay guys in high school use when they want to hold hands with girls and feel like a normal person for a change.” He continues to say that his friend is going back into the closet and is “not being his truest self.”  

A viewer can perceive this scene either as an authentic example of the biphobia people face every day or the validation of such ignorance by one of television’s first queer icons. Given the year and the dialogue’s pointedness, it felt like a personal attack on bi individuals instead of a comment on biphobia within the community. 

As a questioning pre-teen, that scene alone stuck with me and brought up many questions that I would continue to be asked, by myself and others, throughout the years. 

Is bisexuality even real? Do I have the right to come out of the closet? Am I just waiting to come out as gay, and I don’t know it yet? Questions like that already come from straight people, so to see a character say those things, to whom I and thousands of other queer kids related, hurt.

 Although it may seem like it’s just an episode of a show, many bisexual people have described real-life interactions similar to that. The last thing questioning people need is other people telling them what they are and whether they’re valid or not. We particularly don’t need to be questioned by gay members of the community who have likely had that same experience with straight people.

As confusing as our sexuality might be to others, I assure you it’s more confusing for us. 

Bisexuality is challenging to accept within yourself because you have to embrace not knowing what the future may hold. One might compare bisexuality to permanently staring down Robert’s Frost’s famous poem, “The Road Not Taken.” On the road more traveled, life looks heteronormative, and all of the ideas you had as a kid about the typical American lifestyle — the spouse, the kids and the ease with which life comes, are all possible. 

On the path less traveled, life looks different. It’s the possibility of experiencing discrimination in every aspect of life — from employment to marriage to kids and the general feeling of unsafety. Knowing that your life and the prejudice you may experience could go in two very different directions, based on the gender of who you fall in love with, is overwhelming. It’s an incredible amount of pressure. 

When thinking about the future, bisexual individuals need love and support from gay community members more than ever. They need reassurance that if they happen to end up with a same-sex partner, their dreams can still come true and that normalcy is not lost on them. They also need to feel that they are still valid community members if they end up with an opposite-sex partner. 

We need to empathize with each other more because we are the only people that can truly understand how our attraction and ability to love can negatively impact our lives. 

The LGBTQ+ community needs to extend a sense of empathy to the trans community as well. Trans individuals are commonly discriminated against and made to feel uncomfortable in queer spaces while becoming comfortable in their own bodies.

Transphobia is similar to biphobia in definition but different in action. We often see this  through the invalidation of trans people’s membership in the group or their existence.

Many community members think that there should be a separation of trans issues and lesbian, gay or bi issues since there’s a difference between gender identity and sexual orientation. This separation leaves trans people feeling like they’re on the outs when they should feel included.

There are obvious differences between sexual orientation and gender identity that warrant a difference in advocacy approaches. Trans individuals are discriminated against much more harshly when it comes to public policy and general safety. As a community, we need to acknowledge this and rally around trans members with support, and not push them away to bear the burden of fighting for their rights alone. 

Feeling at home in your body, and with the gender assigned to you at birth is a privilege. Supermodel and trans activist Geena Rocero describes the trans experience best.

All of us are put in boxes by our family, by our religion, by our society, our moment in history, even our own bodies,” Rocero said. “Some people have the courage to break free.”

That courage should be admired and celebrated by trans allies.

Some of the animosity in the community comes from the existence of heterosexual trans members. I’ve heard the argument that it’s “invalidating to gay people to be trans and heterosexual.” Some say it would be better for the gay community to have people living as gay people under their assigned gender, rather than straight and their true gender identity. That is a problematic mindset that implies that being trans is a choice when it is simply not. 

This argument usually comes from TERFs, or “trans-exclusionary radical feminists,” an embarrassing community that somehow finds causation between the advocacy of trans issues and “lesbian erasure.” This group is fueled by hate and the false idea that by putting down trans individuals, they will somehow shed light on lesbian and feminist issues. These people have no ties to real allies and have been condemned by most mainstream LGBTQ+ activists

Trans individuals, particularly trans women, shaped the LGBTQ+ community into what it is today and paved the way for all of us.

Let’s not forget that Marsha P. Johnson, a Black trans woman, was rumored to have thrown the first brick at the Stonewall riots, the catalyst of the modern gay liberation movement. She and Sylvia Rivera were some of the first people to combat the addiction and homelessness that so many LGBTQ+ individuals experience.

Trans individuals have always supported efforts made by gay activists. It’s time that we acknowledge trans people’s place in the community and their efforts in building it. 

The division within our community will only hurt us and dilute our passion for equality. People with hate in their hearts will always be able to unite on that basis. Suppose we, as a community, are divided on whether or not to stand up for each other. In that case, straight, cisgender people in positions of power will be able to invalidate our existence much more quickly. 

That’s exactly what an oppressive system wants. People in power want us to fight and bicker over the minutiae of “who deserves what.” While we fight over who should get the shreds of validity in an oppressive system never designed for us, they will continue creating discriminatory policies for all of us.

To anyone who doesn’t respect our existence, we are all the same, a scapegoat for their hate. Sometimes, it’s easy to forget that.

When we tear down bisexual and transgender people, we do the system’s dirty work for free. We have to present a united front.

It shouldn’t be “equality for some of us.” It needs to be equality for all of us.