The Echo of My Friend’s Casual Biphobia Destroyed Our Relationship

Happy Bisexuality Day 2022, we love you.
💗💜💙 — Autostraddle


“So what are you, like, bi now?” my best friend asks as we walk down the street.

It’s the beginning of the school year and we haven’t seen each other much over the summer. I hadn’t told her that I had been hooking up with a girl since before the previous school year ended. I didn’t really tell anyone about it, not because of shame, but more because I had never told most of my friends that I liked girls.

My sexuality was simply something that had never come up in conversation. This was 2003, as teenagers, we didn’t ask questions like that. By high school we had moved past the “truth or dare” type questions of “who do you like?” — that was information we just shared openly. I’ve never been the type of person to make a big deal out of who I like. I didn’t swoop in and dramatically declare crushes on anyone — was never my style. My bestie knew I had crushes on boys in the past, but that was all the way back in freshman year; we were seniors. There was a guy I went on a date with that summer, but I had to ask my friends if it was a date and he never even tried to kiss me.

I guess after hearing that, finding out that I was hooking up with a girl was a surprise. I wasn’t going to sit my friends down and have a “very special episode” type talk with them about the fact that I liked girls. I figured I’d let them know if and when there was a reason to. A select few friends knew that I was bi — they were subjected to my absolute meltdown during the Justified/Stripped Tour concert we went to. But I didn’t tell them about my crushes on both Justin and Christina before the show, they found out in real time. Since my attraction to girls was something that had been more theoretical until that summer, I kept the information on a need to know basis.

“Yeah, I dunno if I could be a lesbian though, I don’t know if I could go down on girls all the time.” I shrugged, kind of playing it off.

I honestly don’t know why I said that, even in the moment. I knew then that it wasn’t true, but I think it was some sort of coping mechanism. I don’t know exactly what kind of reaction I was anticipating from her, but the one I got wasn’t it. So I think I was thrown for a loop. Was I expecting a parade? Maybe. Of my group of friends, I was the last to have my first kiss. Even though I didn’t make a big deal out of it, I was hoping my best friend would. Isn’t that what best friends are supposed to do? Shouldn’t she have been excited first and then asked about the rest of it after?

About six months later, I hooked up with a boy for the first time. The two experiences could not have been more different in terms of my friends’ reactions. My bestie definitely threw me a parade this time. I’m almost entirely sure there was a high-five when I told her. She wanted every detail of how the whole thing unfolded from start to finish. This was everything I had wanted when I told her that I had kissed a girl over the summer.

I’m not saying that the way my best friend reacted to finding out that I was bi caused me to lock that part of myself away during college, but I’m also not not saying it, if you get what I’m saying. Being questioned about my sexual identity in such an accusatory way by someone that close to me made me fearful of how other people would react. So the easiest thing to do was just not tell anyone close to me. This way they couldn’t make me feel bad about it. But it went so much deeper than that, which is something I didn’t even realize until I was older.

That blow to my confidence didn’t just lead me to not revealing my sexuality to friends, it sent me so far back into the closet that I wouldn’t even consider pursuing women.

Since I was a kid, but especially during my teenage years, I was pretty outwardly boy crazy. I had these deep crushes that bordered on obsessive in elementary and intermediate school. I had two pretty intense crushes in freshman year of high school, but then that was it. The only guys I had crushes on after that were celebrities — by their nature, celebrity crushes are supposed to be obsessive. But even while I was publicly thirsting over Justin Timberlake, I was secretly searching for lesbian fan fiction featuring Christina Aguilera. Much like a millennial stereotype, I figured out I was attracted to women when I saw Angelina Jolie’s breasts in Gia when I was like, 12. My teenage bedroom was plastered with posters of the celeb guys I loved, so no one questioned why the wall of pop princesses was the one I could see when I laid in bed.

“Remember your bi phase?” my best friend asked when we were in our 20s. I rolled my eyes.

“Yeah. It was never a phase,” I groaned.

This wasn’t the first time she had asked the question, and it never got less upsetting. Just because I only hooked up with one girl doesn’t mean that it was just a phase. At the time, I didn’t really know how pervasive this line of thinking was, especially for bisexual women. I did know that every time my friend said those words, my skin started to crawl. No matter how many times I would correct her, she never seemed to receive it. I don’t know if it’s because she found it funny or because she knew it bothered me, but she never stopped referring to it as a phase.

After my son was born and my relationship with his dad started to deteriorate, I found myself being more attracted to women. I remember watching Orange is the New Black and being drawn to the lesbian relationships. I don’t think I shut up about how hot Ruby Rose was for weeks. I had a massive crush on a woman and even though nothing was ever going to come of it, this time, instead of running away from it, I ran towards it. Like clockwork, my friend busted out her usual response.

“Remember your bi phase?”

“Dude, I’ve told you. It was never just a phase,” I said, barely even mustering up the energy to do something about it.

Maybe if I had sat her down from the beginning and explained to her that my feelings were real and had existed for a long time, she would have responded differently. But I also don’t think it was my job to constantly beg her to validate my feelings when I knew they were real. Someone who is supposed to be your best friend shouldn’t need to be convinced to believe you. Plus, even if it had been a phase or a one time thing, that still doesn’t make it worthy of being treated as a footnote or an afterthought. That experience was an important part of who I am and how my life has gone since.

In 2017, at the ripe old age of 31, I decided to come out to everyone and share with the world that I was bisexual. I was tired of not being able to talk about my feelings openly with everyone. The following year, I decided that talking about it wasn’t enough and that I wanted to try pursuing relationships with women. I hadn’t been attracted to a man in years (again, celebrities don’t count) and I was beginning to realize that even though I was craving a relationship, my lack of attraction to men was what was holding me back from trying to date.

When I shared this with my best friend, she was glad I was starting to date, but seemed indifferent to the fact that I was dating women. She was never as invested in the trials and tribulations of my dating adventures, but would constantly expect me to care about what she was going through. When I met someone I really liked, she mustered up some excitement at first, but after our first date, she didn’t ask much more. So I didn’t share anything with her. I had lost interest in trying to get her to care about my attraction to women.

Her lack of interest is one of the many reasons why our relationship was coming to an end. I had other friends who were so invested in my romantic endeavors and they made me realize that I could choose who I shared that joy with. It was important to me, and I didn’t have to share it with people who couldn’t even pretend to muster up some excitement for me. As my relationship with the woman I was dating progressed, I only shared it with the people who I knew would honor my excitement and match it. If I hadn’t posted pictures on social media, she wouldn’t have known anything about the relationship — she never asked and I never told her. We stopped speaking for good a few months later.

The way my former best friend handled by bisexuality definitely hurt my feelings over the 10+ years of our relationship. At first we were young and it’s easy to see how she was blindsided and confused. But as time went on and I repeatedly told her that my feelings were real and never just a “phase,” she should have course corrected and tried to change her mindset. From what I’ve heard, she now identifies as pansexual, and I’m really happy for her. But I’ll admit that it hurts to see her twirling around in a rainbow skirt for Pride when my sexuality was a joke to her for so long.

It also hurts because she’ll never get to see me truly happy. She’ll never meet my fiancee, the woman I was meant to be with. But I’ve learned these things happen for a reason.


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Sa'iyda Shabazz

Sa'iyda is a writer and mom who lives in LA with her partner, son and 3 adorable, albeit very extra animals. She has yet to meet a chocolate chip cookie she doesn't like, spends her free time (lol) reading as many queer romances as she can, and has spent the better part of her life obsessed with late 90s pop culture.

Sa'iyda has written 14 articles for us.

27 Comments

  1. Oh goodness. The most painful biphobia I have endured was from my own best friend in high school/early adulthood – who was also bi. I think we internalized biphobia so much that it tore us apart in a way because we weren’t equipped to deal with it. I’m sorry for your very real, very valid pain, but I am happy for you for being strong enough to claim your identity. I see you, my fellow bi human. Thank you for sharing. <3

    Happy Bi Visibility Day.

  2. This really resonated with me! I’m so sorry you experienced this with your former friend. Congrats on your engagement!

    It’s really hard when people shut you down or dismiss you when you’re bisexual, and it really had a massive impact on me as a young queer person! Thank you for sharing, this gave me a lot to reflect on.

  3. i find the most violent biphobic ppl are lesbians. I had an ex who got abusive with me when she found out i have had sex with men before her, calling my body disgusting. i also just find a lot lesbians i’ve dated say casually biphobic things to me. It’s not that i’m super invested in the label i use about myself, especially as i do primarily date women, but the violence gets to me sometimes.

    • I have the same experience. Had a lesbian bestie tell me several times that she could never date a bisexual. I tried to pass as monosexual lesbian for years because I was so terrified of discrimination from lesbians.

    • No one is talking about entitlement or institutional discrimination. If you insult bi people and act like they are all greedy,cheaters etc and wouldn’t date them because of that, how is that NOT discrimination? There is too much of that line of thinking within the community, just like the transphobia.

      • I’m saying that my association with the word discrimination is that of institutional discrimination. And, well, the thing with entitlement is that you don’t need to say word for word “i have a right to be considered a potential partner, i am entitled to that”, for the impression of entitlement to arise.

        I would call this behaviour being a small-minded, uneducated asshole. Its quite possible to be against this line of thinking, being against prejudices, without categorizing it as discrimination. And yeah well do I need to spell out what I think regarding the dating options of trans people or is that obvious?

        • You mean you think it is also ok for people to act like all trans women are dangerous, not really women etc or am I getting that wrong? No one is saying you have to date people but if you exclude people because of these things, it is discrimination. Plain and simple.

        • The only people bleating about whether ‘sex is real’ are trans exclusionists. That’s literally a TERF trope. Everyone knows that sex is real, including trans people. And it is 100% a ‘fringe issue’, if not totally fabricated by transphobes.

          When lesbian magazine Diva asked if this had happened to anyone, only one person responded, and it actually constituted other lesbians suggesting the person was prejudiced.

          Even in that disgusting BBC article, (where a survey was taken of 80 members of an *anti trans hate group*) only 40 of those people even claimed to have experienced this.

          When you can’t even get members of an anti trans hate group to back up your transphobic talking points, you might just have to admit they’re nonsense.

          • well i never said nor suggested trans people wouldnt know that sex is real. they should kinda know that way better than most other people, with dysphoria and alll that. i explicitly said that i dont even know where the “genital preferences are transphobic” talking point comes from, whether thats mostly cis or trans people, but you seem to have made me out as a trans hater, so you probably didnt wanna consider that.

            oh okay, so i guess all those people on twitter who talk about this i just dreamed up on? the first lesbian dating show (its called princess charming if you wanna look it up) having a discourse about this, where the stance “i accept trans women as women but for me personally i dont want to date one” was deemed transphobic? the youtube video of riley j dennis, i also made it up? k then.

        • Hi Anne, I previously outlined why I consider your views biphobic. Additionally, you didn’t say ‘no one has to date trans people’. You said that refusing to date bi women, based on prejudice, ‘wasn’t discrimination’, then proceeded to ask if we ‘had to ask’ what you thought of the option to date trans people.

          I agree that no one *has* to date anyone. So do most people. Citing Riley J Dennis – an obscure YouTuber who most trans people disagree with – is pretty much proof that it is a ‘fringe issue’, yeah.

          And while American readers might not spot it, you’re repeating very common ‘gender critical’ tropes that any British LGBTQ person is very familiar with, and can spot a mile off.

          E.g. ‘people are saying’. Yes, TERFs are saying.

          ‘It definitely happens’.

          Does it though? Because as I pointed out, the best Caroline Lowbridge could do – that is, a transphobic journalist, working for a transphobic news outlet, interviewing members of a transphobic hate group – was 40 people.

          And these very motivated, openly transphobic activists mysteriously couldn’t provide any details of these supposed incidents.

  4. I was always outwardly boy crazy, I still am. It took a long time before I was comfortable identifying as bisexual as I largely date cis men. I first came out in 2011, changed my label to queer in 2016 and now proudly call myself a bisexual queer non-binary femme. I’m also polyam, whilst two of my partners are cis men, one is non-binary (to put it in the simplest of terms). I adore women, they are so hot and wonderful and gorgeous and pretty. My Tiktok is largely hot queer women and gender diverse people. It’s glorious. Anyway, I loved this article.

    • This hit home!
      When I came out to my brother in high school, I confessed to him I was bi— his reaction was to come out to me as gay! It was wonderful, and I felt like we had a real bond forge over this.
      Unfortunately the initial excitement changed for some reason, and a few days later while we were talking about our crushes, he countered my mentioning being bisexual with, “Come on, you know you don’t like guys. You’re definitely gay.”
      (He was coming from a place of ‘bisexuality might be real, but probably not and also come on, look at you! you’re too butch to like men!’ Gross! He was also only 16, though.)

      Because I looked up to him, and was desperate for his approval, and I wanted our queerness to bond us, I laughed and… I went with it for some reason. Just like that, for the next several years, I convinced myself I was a lesbian instead of bisexual.

      It took me a long time to undo that. I was pretty damn biphobic for YEARS, all stemming from this deep shame that I couldn’t be bisexual because I was too masculine, and so I had to be hateful towards bisexuality in general for some reason. Really messed up.

      Luckily, I’ve since come back into my bisexuality full force, and it’s helped me on my gender journey as well as a nonbinary person! I’m happily married to a bisexual woman, and we live a bisexual little life.
      I’ve also since spoken to my brother about this, and he has apologized. He’s a much more open minded person now too, and completely accepts me just as I am.

  5. I still remember the question “Do you like that?” from my best friend with reference to Madonna’s video “Music” which we were watching (without any kind of recognition from my part of even the possibility of liking women). And the following comment after my “yes” stating: “I find it disgusting, how she is rubbing herself with other women. I just don’t think it’s appropriate with her being pregnant and all…” (At the time she was indeed pregnant and it was news that they had filmed the video in certain way in order not to show it). I’m pretty sure that that comment and a few more had a pretty big influence in me not being able to recognize my own bisexuality for a while. I was 17 at the time…it took me almost 10 more years to realize I was bi. I’m not sure if she still thinks the same, I started to drift apart no long after that. In a way I have forgive her, because I myself was young and stupid and said a lot of stupid things at the time. But sometimes when I remember it, it still hurts somehow.
    And that is one of the reasons I still love Madonna, even if she has messed up more than once. She was there at the time, battling for all of us in one way or another, showing in public what many would not even say aloud. Defiant and Unapologetic.
    Thanks for talking about this, my inner teenager feels validated with yours and everyone else experiences.

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