This covers the stereotypes, misconceptions, and myths that span bisexuals, polysexuals and pansexuals. The following page has pansexual/bisexual stereotypes only because I could not find anything specifically addressing polysexual that was a stereotype, misconception, or myth that wasn’t tacked onto bisexuals and pansexuals too.
For simplicity, the umbrella term polysexual will be used to address all identities – bisexual, pan- and everything that falls under it.
“Coming out as polysexual is easier than coming out as gay or lesbian.”
Polysexual face oppression both from homophobia/heterosexism as well as biphobia. They face discrimination both from the gay/lesbian community as well as the straight/heterosexual society.
Statistics: (bisexual can also be used as an umbrella term for polysexual identities)
- “bisexual men are 6.3 statistically more likely to consider consider suicide than heterosexual counterparts.”
- “Bisexual women are 5.9 times more likely to consider suicide than heterosexual counterparts” (“Bi the Way, We Exist”).
- “19 to 29% gay lesbian students and 18% to 28% of bisexual students experienced dating violence in the prior year”
- “14% to 31% of gay and lesbian students and 17% to 32% of bisexual students had been forced to have sexual intercourse at some point in their lives” (“LGBT Youth”).
- “25% of bisexual men and 30% of bisexual women live in poverty, in contrast to 20% and 23% percent of gay men and lesbians, respectively” (“High Rates of Violence, Discrimination Against Bisexual People”).
-I apologize for the lack of a non-binary or genderqueer statistic of bisexuals.-
“Bisexual people often face pervasive stereotypes and myths surrounding bisexuality,” adds Ellyn Ruthstrom, president of Bisexual Resource Center. “The fear of being stereotyped manifests itself in a real way: bisexual people are six times more likely than gay men and lesbians to be closeted. This impacts the emotional well-being of bisexual people and is a contributing factor to the community’s high rates of poor physical and mental health” (“High Rates of Violence, Discrimination Against Bisexual People”).
This evidence is not to say that gay men and lesbians experience less oppression or that they should stop complaining about their own oppression – “look at what’s happening to the polysexuals.” Gay men and lesbian face significant oppression of their own but we must acknowledge that polysexuals experience oppression too and that denying it is not helping those who are suffering from oppression from both the gay community and straight/heterosexual people.
“Polysexual is just a phase.”
There are 2 major problems I see with this statement.
The first is that this is usually applied to children (those under 18-21). It usually comes from a parent or someone that is considered an “adult.” It also usually comes from an extreme place of ignorance about how fragile a child’s feelings and psyche are. Speaking from experience (Doe Mori), it can completely destroy a person’s confidence in one’s identity to have someone who you trust say “it’s just a phase.” If you were not already extremely confident in your identity, then you go back into the closet and delays your full coming out. On the other hand, if you are somewhat confidence and very knowledgeable, it virtually ruins the relationship you have with that person.
While many people’s identifer changes over time with how they feel, it doesn’t mean for that moment that that identifier is not legitimate or authentic. For some, we switch identifiers because of the lack of information about the different and diverse sexual orientations. For others, they have a fluidity in their sexual orientation which forces them to identify as different terms at different times in their lives. Neither path makes a person’s identity null and void. In addition, if you want to respect someone who has gotten up the sometimes enormous amount of courage to come out to you, don’t tell them that this is just a phase. You should be congratulating them on their bravery and discovery of a new part of themselves. This identity discoveries are like discovering an elusive buried treasure.
“Polysexuals can’t maintain a relationship.” “Polysexuals are adulterous and not loyal in relationships.”
Sexual orientation and behavior are two different things. It depends on the person’s character and environmental factors to determine whether a person can maintain a relationship. The mere fact that a person has the potential to be attracted to 2, 2+ or all genders does not prevent them from a monogamous relationship. When a heterosexual/romantic man and woman are in a relationship, if the both the man and woman appear to be loyal then we don’t assume just because they can be sexually attracted to other people besides their partner that they would be adulterous or break off the relationship.Of course there are heterosexuals, homosexuals and polysexuals that are interested in polyamorous relationships and/or adulterous. However, a person’s mere sexual orientation does not predicate whether they are capable of a sustained and/or monogamous relationship. Just like any couple who is heterosexual/romantic couple, you have to judge the content of their character before asking to be in an intimate relationship.
“This graph came from the survey of Psychologist Kristen Mark of the University and her colleagues recruited 6,000 people using social media and various other websites… [He] asked them to take an online survey about their views on monogamy” (“Are Bisexuals Really Less Monogamous Than Everyone Else?”).
“The mean for the bisexual group on both enhancing and sacrifice is right in the middle of the scale. That pretty much guarantees that individual bisexuals are all over the spectrum in this regard, with there being as many monogamy-embracing as monogamy- avoiding individuals” (“Are Bisexuals Really Less Monogamous Than Everyone Else?”).
“Polysexuals can’t choose between being gay or straight.”
What really surprises me about this stereotype is that it doesn’t just come from straight people but also from people within the LGBTQIA community. The gay and lesbian communities have been fighting with homophobes for years about choice vs. born with. Polysexuality is as much of a legitimate orientation as gay and lesbian are. The simple fact that polysexuals can be attracted to more than one gender does not make it a choice- same as it’s not a choice in what gender a gay man is attracted to.
“Polysexuals are indecisive or confused.”
The simple fact of being attracted to more than one gender does not mean that you are indecisive. Gay and straight are two of many orientations. To say someone is confused makes it appear that you have no understand of orientations and that you are merely trying to enforce the sexual/romantic binary on people. The people who are confused are those who say these ignorant and psychologically damaging statements.
“Polysexuals are selfish and greedy.”
Feeling attraction to more than one gender does not make you greedy or selfish. It is the same if a heterosexual man, for instance, is attracted to many women that pass by him. He may be the most selfless and generous person you can know who has a who is attracted to a wide range of women.
“Polysexuals are immature.”
This likely has to do with the indecisive, confused, selfish and greedy aspect as if maturity comes from being attracted to only one gender. In reality, the lack of maturity is more likely on the part of the person saying these statements. Polysexuals, pansexuals, skoliosexuals, and bisexuals usually spend an extensive amount of time doubting themselves, checking and rechecking before finally coming to the conclusion that they are under the poly umbrella. To say that polysexuals are immature insults, their likely difficult, personal journey and show how little understanding you have on the subject.
“Polysexuals are sluts.”
This insult suggests that polysexuals have too many sexual partners. First of all, polysexuality is a sexual orientation, not behavior. Much like many heterosexual people, polysexual people can have a limited number of sexual partners because the possibility of being attracted to more than 1 gender does not define their sexual behavior.
“People are only identifying as polysexual so to get attention.”
Polysexual identities are stigmatized by society and within the lesbian/gay community. There is very little motive to pick such an misunderstood identity. There likely are a few who identity as polysexual to get attention but that does not discredit all other identities. It is the same as if an American person who was born in Utah said that they were Russian to get attention. Then you would assume that all Russians are Americans who are saying they were born in Russia for attention. There are ways to make fake documentation but it’s likely if someone says they were born in Russia that they are Russian. Sure, there is no sure-fire way to know but who are you to question it, you have neither the resources or the proof to disprove it.
“Polysexual is a stepping stone to identifying as gay.”
Polysexuality can often be seen in retrospect as a stepping stone for many people. However, to say that it is a stepping stone generalizes all the people who continue to identify as a polysexual orientation is wrong. Often (not all the time) stepping stones come when you can’t see the path ahead and you assume that it ends. In an LGBTQIA concept, a person may identify as polysexual because there is no closer identifier for their sexual orientation. That is, until, they research further and find the term asexual.
Imagine that you are at your child’s high school graduation. You have to sit next to a 3 year old child (not yours) who likes to talk about how yellow is their favorite color. You promptly tell them that yellow is the worst color and that you will eventually find another better color to like. The child starts to cry and the parent of the child glares at you. It was rude of you to say that to a child. It doesn’t affect you what that color that child likes. In addition, even if there was a trend of children eventually hating the color yellow and moving onto another one, you don’t tell that child because it’s insensitive, rude and some children do continue to like the color yellow which doesn’t hurt anyone. Polysexuals, bisexuals, pansexuals, etc. don’t hurt anyone in how they identity. They have a right to identify as they wish and if they realize that they mistook their gay feelings for bisexual feelings, that is okay too.
“Polysexual can ‘choose’ to pass.” “Polysexual just want to keep their straight privilege.”
*sigh* I, Doe Mori, don’t get why people say this. Yes, you can choose who you enter into a relationship with but can you really choose who you connect with in an intimate way? Can you choose (as a heterosexual or homosexual) who you are attracted to and feel a connection to? No, you do not have control. You can decide whether to act on it but in reality you have NO control to choose to “pass” or utilize so-called “straight privilege.” In addition, if a person falls in love or becomes intimate with someone which is considered a heterosexual relationship, then that can erase the person’s identity. So, even if a person accidently gets the perks of straight privilege then they (can) lose something very important to them in return.
If you are polysexual (bi, pan, skolio, etc.) and you appear to be one of the binary gender expressions then you can have your identity seemingly erased by society in whatever relationship you enter. For example, let us say that Bob the woman is pansexual. She falls in love with a man. Society will declare her heterosexual. A few months later Bob falls in love with a woman. Society will declare her
“LGBT Youth.” Center for Disease Control and Prevention. CDC, 12 Nov. 2014. Web. 4 Apr. 2016.
TEDxTalks. “Bi the Way, We Exist | Viet Vu | TEDxTerryTalks.” YouTube. YouTube, 24 Feb. 2015. Web. 04 Apr. 2016.
“High Rates of Violence, Discrimination Against Bisexual People.” Advocate. Advocate.com, 17 Nov. 2015. Web. 04 Apr. 2016.
Vrangalova, Zhana. “Are Bisexuals Really Less Monogamous Than Everyone Else?” Psychology Today. Psychology Today, 27 Sept. 2014. Web. 05 Apr. 2016.