Talking about Bisexuality+
There are many ways of communicating to partners, friends, family members, and co-workers that you are or have been attracted to and/or had experiences with people of more than one gender. Using humor, casually referring to past experiences, and coming out more formally can all be good approaches depending on the person or situation. One often learns that those around us have also had similar experiences. Or at least knows someone else who is bisexual+.
It is not true that bisexuals always need more than one gender at a time to be fulfilled romantically or sexually. Just like straight, lesbian, and gay folks, , bisexuals are all different. Some of us prefer to date many people (e.g. polyamory, open relationships), while others are perfectly content with just one person. And some people prefer not to date at all. What we want can change or evolve over time – just like everyone else!
Bisexual+ people are often asked, “Why do you call yourself bisexual+?” Whether spoken aloud or present but unvoiced, the question usually implies that identifying as bisexual+ is unusual, unnecessary—or worse: an act of treason, a sign of immaturity, or “just a phase.”
Often the question accompanies another long line of personal inquiries : “Why do you call yourself bisexual when you are committed to so-and-so? When you never date men? When you haven’t had sex with both men and women? When you’re celibate? When you’ve never had sex? When all your partners are women? When all your partners are men? When you don’t feel 50/50?” All of these questions use stereotypes and misinformation to put down bisexuality+. Or they are close-minded or based on someone else’s personal definitions, which may be very different from your own, especially when your attractions and relationships may also include transgender, non-binary, or genderqueer folks.
Which brings us to a more interesting question: Why do so many people embrace their bisexuality+ in the face of overwhelming adversity and biphobia? After all, we confront not only an overwhelming lack of openly bi+ role models, or people who are open about being attracted to more than one gender, however they identify, but also stigma and discrimination from both within and outside the LGBTQ+ community. There is also a presumption is that everyone with the same label experiences sexuality in the same way. But we are all different. And that is fine. We have found that our community, with its many labels and identities, is resilient with a rich and diverse history that is worth celebrating and being proud of.
The bisexual+ community often engages in a healthy and active discussion of these very topics: What does it mean to call yourself bisexual+? What do you gain or lose when you embrace this word and this aspect of yourself? How do we continue to move the dialogue forward regarding the complexities of sexuality and gender identity? Tools such as the Kinsey scale and the Klein Sexual Orientation Grid aid the discussion. Above all, these questions are critical to our self-identity and expression. Many bisexuals will explain that they are attracted to people of more than one gender, but even this simple definition includes those drawn to all genders and those to a select few.
One of the most common attacks is the declaration that bisexuality+ doesn’t exist. But bisexuals most certainly do! Recent research and data has shown that bisexuals make up over half of the lesbian, gay, and bisexual+ community. And bisexuals have greatly contributed to the arts, sciences, and various social justice movements over the centuries. These folks include Alan Cumming, Alice Walker, Walt Whitman, and June Jordan – to name a few.
We are all different.
Indeed, many people declare their bisexuality+ to claim their personal history. They don’t want to erase previous lovers (or crushes, or even a really hot fantasy) or deny parts of themselves to “buy” acceptance from society at large.
Others respond to the question, “Why bi+?” by affirming the many benefits of being bisexual+. Many people find a deeply rewarding, sometimes spiritual wholeness in looking beyond gender in their partners, lives, and imagination.
Others enjoy actively engaging with gender and experiencing its range. Many bisexuals also find their lives enriched by the bisexual+ community, the larger LGBTQ+ community, or both. They form strong friendships, find a sense of purpose, and credit the deeply diverse and welcoming atmosphere of bi-inclusive communities with aiding them and broadening their lives. Still others see power in the act of naming themselves. They claim their bisexuality+ as part of a larger mission of making the world a wider, more expansive place, in which people with diverse gender and sexual expressions are welcome.
But How Do I Know If I Am Bisexual+?
You – and only you – can answer that question. You are a unique person with unique feelings and experiences, and no one knows better than you the contents of your own head and heart.
Still not sure? Remember: Identity development is a journey. It’s OK to question. And it’s OK to change your label if, as you learn more about yourself, you realize that a different word is a closer fit. This is true not only for youth, but for people at any age.
Make use of resources available. (See Bi Youth Resources page.) There is a lot of support and information out there for you.
And If You Have a Clear and Strong Bisexual+ Identity:
Stand up for yourself (if safe to do so). Don’t let anyone else tell you that your identity is not real. If that happens, ask them how they would feel if someone said their identity wasn’t real. Connect with existing bi+ or bi-inclusive organizations and/or communities, or create a new, safe and supportive space for other bisexuals in your own community for support.