At Mount Holyoke, biphobia is the norm

Graphic by Kinsey Ratzman '21

Graphic by Kinsey Ratzman '21

BY LILY REAVIS '21

Being bisexual at Mount Holyoke is an experience of conditional acceptance. It’s an invitation to a meeting where you’re not allowed to speak. Comments from community members frequently discredit bisexuality, even though the intention is often to create a more supportive environment. 

In high school, I served as the president of our Gay, Straight, Transgender Alliance, and most of the student body knew that I identify as bisexual. Then, however, being LGBT was out of the ordinary. My identity was an anomaly in my majority-straight school, and people generally avoided the topic due to a lack of knowledge on how to approach it. Even so, I felt the support of the GSTA and select students, and I had space to grow into the bisexual label as I needed. 

Comparatively, my peers at Mount Holyoke seem to guess my sexuality before I have a chance to tell them. Students are immediately defined via their sexualities, instead of any other features. It’s important to note that this attitude comes from the reclamation of women’s sexual identities after enduring hundreds of years of oppressive power structures. I haven’t met any member of the College community who aims to be unaccepting in any way, but the general attitude excludes those who are not solely attracted to women. 

I’ve had students tell me that I “look straight” after having just met them. Sexualities are often treated as common knowledge, as basic as your class year or first name. Once, a group of students asked my friends and I if we were cool and, after talking to them for only a minute, they changed the subject to, “Are you gay though?” The acceptance and celebration of LGBT identities on campus is generally amazing, but I find myself having to explain why I’m not only attracted to women far more often than I should. Often, celebrations of women who love women excludewomen who are attracted to multiple genders. 

The most infuriating conversations I have had are the ones in which a student inquires about my sexuality and then gives their opinion on it. Sharing my sexuality so openly is something I’m still getting used to, and having it so readily — though often accidentally — discounted is disheartening. People have claimed that I won’t identify as bisexual after a few years, that every friend group needs a “token bisexual” and that it’s “close enough” for them. Though it is often said in a joking tone, several students have asked me why I’m attracted to men, as though being solely attracted to women is a choice. Opinions such as these are ridiculous — especially when shared with people who have just come out. 

Another common response is, “Isn’t everyone a little bi?” While there’s something to be said for sexuality being a spectrum, this phrase undercuts all sexual identities in one fell swoop. The attempt to create an accepting environment feels more dismissive than welcoming, and contributes to the silence forced upon bisexual people.

If none of those responses are given, often times, one of my friends will interject “Lily has a boyfriend though!” into the conversation. This is another incredibly toxic viewpoint on bisexuality. No matter the gender of a bisexual person’s partner, that person is still bisexual. Insinuating that having a boyfriend temporarily disqualifies bisexual individuals from their LGBT status is unfair and incorrect, and robs that person of an entire community of support. 

Friends on campus should not feel the need to justify each other’s attraction to women in order to remain friends. A student’s sexual identity shouldn’t define who they can interact with, and bisexual students shouldn’t feel the need to explain their attraction to any gender. It should be more commonly believed that people who identify as lesbians are not “more gay” than those who identify as bisexual. 

The LGBT community at Mount Holyoke is generally accepting, but it’s important to provide acceptance to people of all sexual identities. Students should consider their actions beforehand, as many times biphobic comments are not intended. Bisexuality needs to be accepted as its own identity, as opposed to a phase before reaching another identity. 

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