Biphobia has a destructive impact on bisexual people's lives. It pushes many of us to hide in the closet to avoid ridicule and rejection. It can affect our well-being and sense of identity. It makes it harder for us to develop confidence and be assertive about who we are.
Looking back on my own experience, some relatively small incidences of biphobia had a large and negative effect on my life.
I first came out when I was 19 to a straight girlfriend. She was taken aback, but seemed pleased that I wanted to be open with her.
Shortly afterwards, the jokes started.
Smiling, she asked me if I was in love with a male friend of mine. "No, why would I be?," I replied. "I was only joking!" she said. Later, she started calling me "gay boy," I think intending it to be a kind of in-joke. I didn't like it, but at the time I lacked the confidence to challenge her.
Then she announced that I wasn't bisexual after all. She'd consulted with a gay friend of hers who told her that bisexual men didn't exist. I was just a confused straight person looking for attention. To her, I fancied myself as a latter-day Lord Byron figure, trying to mark myself out as different and special.
I admit that back then, I liked being told by someone that I was really straight. I didn't want to be bisexual, and the fact that I knew in my heart that I was, and always would be bi, made me unhappy.
On the day we split up, she didn't waste the opportunity to tease me about my professed bisexuality. "Bisexual then!" she said, shaking her head, "Really? What a silly boy you are!" We didn't speak much after that.
Her denial and mockery expressed not only her biphobia, but her difficulty in accepting that I might be telling the truth. By turning it into a joke, she was able to erase the possibility of bisexuality, and fit me into a simpler category that made sense to her.
She was unaware, however, that her actions had a serious impact on my sense of identity. Having plucked up the courage to come out to her (the first person I had ever come out to), it felt like a slap in the face not to be taken seriously. I was learning that honesty about my sexuality could cause problems.
A few years later, I mentioned to a friend that I was bisexual. I wanted to share this fact about myself to ease the burden of my shame and discomfort. I wanted someone else to know and accept who I was. My friend seemed uncomfortable with the news. He told me that when men say they're bisexual, they're actually gay. He didn't seem to want to discuss it further. I didn't want to argue. I knew that the recognition I needed was not going to come from him. We didn't discuss it again.
I decided it would be safer not to talk about my bisexuality anymore. I went back into the closet and stayed there until my late 20s.
Nowadays, as an openly bisexual 30-something man, I respond assertively to biphobic comments and beliefs. But as a younger man, I wasn't confident enough to challenge such ignorance, and instead retreated into myself.
The strange thing is that the two people I first came out to were people who I liked, who liked me, and who in other ways treated me well. Somehow, though, they couldn't cope with the idea of me being bisexual.
I was a victim of biphobia, but so were they. They had absorbed society's biphobia, and when confronted with a bisexual person, they didn't know what to do but rely on the misguided ideas and stereotypes about bisexuals that still persist in our culture.
Since I came out to everyone in my late 20s, I've been lucky, for the most part, to find the acceptance and recognition that I wanted. I've been able to develop a sense of confidence in my sexuality, and I feel happy now about being bisexual. I know from experience that feeling comfortable about your bisexuality is something that you can learn, despite the existence of biphobia.
It would have been so much easier though, if I'd received a warm welcome, rather than prejudice, when I first came out.
Neil Endicott is a bisexuality coach and author of 'How to be a Happy Bisexual: A Guide to Self-Acceptance and Wellbeing'. He blogs on bisexuality and wellbeing at happybisexual.com Follow Neil on Twitter.