What is bisexuality?
A bisexual person is someone who is sexually attracted to both genders, but that doesn't necessarily mean equally. Guys and girls can be bisexual and, just like heterosexuality and homosexuality, bisexuality is not a choice.
- "Bisexuals can't be faithful. They can't be satisfied in a relationship with one 'gender'."
A person's desire to be faithful to their partner has nothing to do with sexuality. Genuine commitment means something, whether you are attracted to men, women or both. Just because a person can be attracted to men and women doesn't mean that person is any more likely to stray when they're in a happy monogamous relationship.
Even when madly in love, it's normal to notice other people who we find attractive, but anyone who's genuinely in love and happy with their relationship isn't preoccupied with thoughts of having sex with other people.
If you're worried that your bisexual partner is going to cheat purely because of their sexuality, then the real problem is with your outlook and lack of trust.
- "Bisexuals use gay people for sex and thrills before settling down with an opposite-sex partner when they get older."
It does happen, but it's not the rule. Most people still think that getting married and producing children is the only option for a normal and accepted lifestyle, so it's no wonder that some gay and bisexual people go back into the closet when they get to a certain age and begin to panic about their legacy. Some gay and bisexual people don't feel validated by their same-sex relationships and ultimately their need to conform wins out. On the other side of this, I've had many emails over the years from gay and bisexual people who are married and don't feel they can hide their same-sex desires any longer. It takes courage to be who you are. There are plenty of bisexual people who view same-sex relationships as being just as valid and worthwhile as heterosexual relationships, and who don't feel that they've missed the boat or compromised their happiness if they don't get married to an opposite-sex partner and produce children.
- "Bisexuals are just greedy."
This suggests that people decide to become bisexual because they want more choice when it comes to sex and relationships. People don't decide to be bisexual (or gay or straight). Physical attraction and romantic love simply just happen. Nobody can control these feelings or decide what individuals arouse those feelings in us. A great deal of emotional distress and suffering is caused when we're not at peace with our feelings of attraction and where they lead us. It's this conflict between what a person feels and what they think is right that accounts for most of the problem page emails I receive.
- "'Bisexual' is just an easier and safer word to use than 'gay' when coming out."
I'd imagine most people coming out as bisexual are bisexual, but a gay person might test the water by coming out as bisexual first. I've had many emails admitting as much. Coming out as gay can be a scary thing to do since the term is very definite and absolute. Some believe that coming out as bisexual won't upset the family quite as much, since it's a grey area of sexuality. Coming out as bisexual allows an individual to state that same-sex attraction is part of their life but that there's still hope that grandchildren might appear at some point. On paper it sounds like the best of both worlds for someone worried about coming out: they get to be somewhat honest about themselves while avoiding the potential rejection of coming out as gay. They can also undermine or downplay the same-sex part of being bi if the reaction at home isn't favourable. The reality of admitting same-sex attraction, whether gay or bisexual, likely raises the same issues (and eyebrows), though. After all, why would someone bother telling people they are bi if the same-sex aspect of that wasn't important? May as well say gay if it fits. Honesty is best. Coming out as bi if you are gay is delaying the inevitable and misleading those you care about. It's not doing genuinely bisexual people any favours either.
- "Bisexuals can choose between men and women on a whim."
While I have met some bisexuals who feel that they find men and women equally appealing, it seems more common that bisexuals lean more toward one sex than the other. Bisexual doesn't mean an equal division of attraction toward men and women. Some bisexual people say that their preferences shift over time too e.g. someone might be more into guys in their 40s than they were in their 20s. People don't get to decide whether they are more attracted to men or women.
- "Everyone would be bisexual if society wasn't so messed up about sexuality!"
It's true that homophobia and the desire to conform leave a lot of people feeling that they have no choice but to bury any same-sex desire that they may have. Some people imagine a future where, free from opression and an obsession with labels, bisexuality would be the norm, with people simply thinking in terms of attraction and regarding gender as irrelevant. I think that it's naïve and idealistic to think that everyone is bisexual and simply haven't liberated it, because there are plenty of balanced and happy people out there who are at peace with their sexuality and not willfully shutting off aspects of themselves. It's true that the number of gay and bisexual people out there is bigger than we can see because many people hide who they are, but that doesn't mean we're all secretly attracted to both genders. I can say that I am not bisexual, for a start. If we're all a little bi, then, for many, it's very little indeed. But it is intriguing to imagine what a future free from guilt and punishment over same-sex desire would look like. It's safe to say that while there wouldn't be more gay and bisexual people magically popping into existence, the number of same-sex relationships would increase because people would feel free to explore their desires without fear.
- "Bisexual people don't fit into the straight or gay world."
People like to categorise things. It's how we make sense of our lives and it makes us feel secure. After all, most of the emails I've ever received on this website are from people who feel they can't be at peace until they can completely understand and categorise their own sexuality; to put themselves in the gay or straight box. Something that isn't one thing or the other can make us feel uneasy and uncertain. To some, bisexuality is the lack of a proper, definitive sexuality tag; it's someone who can't make up their mind between straight or gay - someone who's confused. The shades of grey that bisexuality represents makes some people uneasy. But the world is complex and people can't simply be dropped into a handful of categories. Bisexual people don't need to shoehorn themselves into gay or straight labels to satisfy others' sense of order. Being attracted to both men and women is a valid and natural form of sexuality in its own right.
If you think you might be bisexual
Here are some thoughts and ideas to help:
- It doesn't matter if you are in a relationship with a man or a woman. The only important thing is whether you are happy and fulfilled with that person.
- Don't try to force yourself into being attracted to either gender. It's simply not possible to make yourself feel something that isn't there naturally.
- Try not to be scared of your feelings. Listen to the information your mind and body are giving you about who you find attractive and what you want. The answers are right there inside you if you block out the white noise and listen. Those answers will more readily reveal themselves as you get older, so be patient.
- Labels, such as straight, gay and bisexual are comforting and give us a sense of identity and order in our lives, but don't be in a rush to adopt one. Sexuality can take time to fully form and you may find yourself pulled in various directions by your desires during your teens and early 20s. Sometimes labels can make us feel restricted and cut off from possibilities. You might find that a label you give yourself today doesn't feel right a year later.
- Coming out is a personal choice. Don't be pressured into announcing your sexuality before you feel ready. It's okay to tell people that you simply aren't sure, or to tell them to mind their own business!
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