Many people use “bisexual” as the umbrella term for any form of attraction to two or more genders.
But ask a few people about what being bisexual means to them, and you might get a few different answers.
This can make things confusing if you think you might be bisexual, know someone who is bisexual, or you’re just wondering what it means to be bisexual.
So let’s talk about some of the different factors that determine what bisexuality really is.
Does the term “bisexual” refer only to attraction to men and women? Some people see it that way.
To them, bisexuality excludes nonbinary genders, or even erases transgender people altogether.
For some, other terms like pansexual, queer, and fluid feel more inclusive.
Historically, the term bisexual has referred not to “men and women” but to “same and different” — as in, attraction to people of your own gender and to people with gender(s) different than your own.
One popular definition was created by bisexual activist Robyn Ochs:
“I call myself bisexual because I acknowledge that I have in myself the potential to be attracted — romantically and/or sexually — to people of more than one sex and/or gender, not necessarily at the same time, not necessarily in the same way, and not necessarily to the same degree.”
— Robyn Ochs
This definition makes sense when you think about the definitions of homosexual — attraction to the same — and heterosexual — attraction to what’s different. Bisexuality can include both same and different.
While defining homosexuality and heterosexuality might help you understand the definition of bisexuality, don’t make the mistake of thinking that bisexual people are “half gay” or “half straight.”
Bisexuality is a unique identity of its own, not simply an offshoot of being gay or straight.
You might meet a bisexual person who says they’re only attracted to cisgender men and cisgender women, though that’s certainly not the case for all bisexual people.
This definition can be based on some misconceptions about gender, as you can’t always tell by looking at someone whether they’re a man, a woman, or cisgender.
Plenty of bisexual people are attracted to trans and nonbinary people, and plenty of bisexual people are transgender or nonbinary.
So for many bi people, there’s no question that “bisexual” is an inclusive term spanning across the gender spectrum.
You might think you’re only “allowed” to identify as bisexual if you experience an equal attraction to multiple genders.
Don’t worry — nobody can take away your bisexual card if this isn’t the case for you.
Research shows that lots of bisexual people are attracted more to one gender than another. Their bisexuality is perfectly valid.
Getting into a relationship is another thing that might make you wonder if you’re “bi enough.”
For instance, if you’re a woman in a monogamous relationship with a man, does that mean you’re not bisexual anymore?
While you may come across people who think you’ve “picked a side” by getting into a relationship, that’s not actually how bisexuality works.
There’s even a whole movement – #StillBisexual – created just to affirm that bisexual people are bisexual regardless of relationship status.
Maybe you’re more attracted to one gender than another. But what does it mean if you experience different types of attraction to different genders?
For example, you could be romantically attracted to people of multiple genders, but sexually attracted only to men. Or maybe you don’t have sexual feelings for anyone, but you do experience romantic attraction.
This is sometimes referred to as cross (or mixed) orientation: romantic attraction to one gender group(s) (or no gender group) and sexually attraction to another (or none).
It’s possible to be bisexual or biromantic, along with another orientation like asexual or aromantic.
Don’t see yourself reflected in common descriptions of bisexuality? That’s OK.
If nothing else, this shows that there are many different ways to be bisexual, and many different expressions of sexuality as a whole.
Your unique experience is valid.
One of the most persistent myths about bisexuality is the idea that it just doesn’t exist.
Do people say that they’re bisexual just to go through a “phase” or hide that they’re really gay?
There are many, many people who live their entire lives identifying as bisexual.
And while there have also been people who identified first as bisexual and later as gay, their experience in no way invalidates the existence of bisexuality as a whole.
Does it turn out that bisexuality isn’t what you thought it was? Did you used to define it one way, and now you think of it as something else?
Welcome to the club! That’s actually how a lot of us have come to reach our understandings of bisexuality.
You’re not obligated to stick with a definition that doesn’t feel right to you anymore.
As long as you’re not hurting anyone (including yourself), let yourself explore what bisexuality really means to you.
Once you’re bisexual, are you always bisexual? You certainly don’t have to be — and if you used to identify as bisexual and you don’t anymore, you’re not the only one.
Some people’s sexuality is fluid, meaning it changes from time to time.
It’s also possible that you’ve learned more about yourself and sexuality over time, and realized you were never bisexual in the first place.
This isn’t anything to be…