Bisexuality is a term that most if not all have heard, yet unfortunately, its pervasiveness doesn’t reflect widespread understanding of what it actually means in practice. That’s because for many, the concept of bisexuality is shrouded heavily in confusion and misconceptions. And unfortunately, clearing up the answers the most simple of undertakings.
But that doesn’t mean the confusion can’t be unpacked, period. Below, find eight common misconceptions about what bisexuality actually means, plus what people who identify as bisexual are especially tired of hearing.
1. Actually, bisexuality isn’t gender-exclusionary
The Bisexual Manifesto, published in 1990, reads: “Do not assume that bisexuality is binary or duogamous in nature.” That means anyone who contends bisexuality reinforces the gender binary, given its prefix that means two, is mistaken.
Rather, according to The Bisexual Resource Center, bisexuality means “being attracted romantically and/or sexually to more than one gender.” That said, Mimi, 24, a queer bisexual tomboy-femme, adds that some (herself included) define it as attraction to genders that are like and unlike their own, meaning not necessarily just male or female.
2. Identifying as bisexual does not make dating any easier
“It’s hilarious to me that people think dating would be easier because I’m bi,” says Mimi. Sure, in theory there’s a larger group of potential suitors from which to draw. But in reality, that’s not actually the case, she says. “Dating seems to be much harder for me. Finding someone who is accepting of, not shame-y about, or insecure around my sexuality is, and even celebrates my sexuality, is hard.”
Joey, 27, a bisexual non-binary femme, agrees, adding: “It really stinks. When I try to date within the lesbian community, I’m told I’m gay or queer. But when I try to date men, I feel like my queer and bisexual identity isn’t so much embraced as tolerated.”
3. Not all people who identify as bisexual are polyamorous
Sexual, romantic, and relationship orientation are not the same. Sexual orientation points to the person you get down and dirty with, and romantic orientation describes whom you want to share emotional intimacy with. Or, as psychotherapist and sex coach Carlos Cavazos, MA, LPC, previously told Well+Good, it’s who you “want to date, kiss, cuddle, be lovey-dovey with…. It’s who we want romance and who we want to romance us.”
“Just as a lesbian can be either monogamous or polyamorous, so can a bisexual person.” —Liz Powell, PsyD
Your relationship orientation is your preferred relationship structure, which may be monogamous, polyamorous, or something else. The point, here, is that your sexual orientation is not an indication of your relationship orientation. As licensed psychologist Liz Powell, PsyD, an LGBTQ-friendly sex educator who identifies as bisexual, says, “just as a lesbian can be either monogamous or polyamorous, so can a bisexual person.”
4. Bisexuality and monogamy are not mutually exclusive
Since confusion exists here, it’s worth zeroing in on the concept of preferred relationship structure being irrelevant to identifying as bisexual. Many bi people do prefer monogamy.
“Of course I can be happy, loyal, and loving in monogamous relationships,” says Mimi. “I have been before and I will be again.”
5. Cheating isn’t more common among people who identify as bisexual
Dr. Powell says that there’s a reality that people in all relationship structures and situations will cheat, “but bisexual folks are no more likely to cheat” than anyone else. People cheat for a number of reasons—and sexual orientation is not one of them.
6. A person who identifies as bisexual is not automatically interested in group sex
Liz*, 24, a bisexual, cisgender woman, says having threesomes with her current partner, Tucker*, 32, a cisgender, heterosexual man, helps her feel like she can be her full self with him. But while it’s certainly true that some people who identify as bisexual do love and regularly engage in threesomes, that’s not the case for all.
“If you’re bi and want to have threesomes or group sex, I’m all for it,” says Mimi. “But that’s not something I’m personally into, and I think it’s problematic to assume that a bisexual person wants to be your third.”
7. Women who identify as bisexual aren’t secretly just into men
One 2018 study published in the journal Psychology of Sexual Orientation and Gender Diversity found that a majority of people wrongly perceive bisexual people of any gender as being into men. And, that’s just not the case.
“People assume that women who are bisexual are just experimenting with women but will return to men, and that men who identify as bisexual are actually just gay.” —Dr. Powell
“Theres a really harmful misconception that all folks who identify as bisexual are actually just into men,” says Dr. Powell. “People assume that women who are bisexual are just experimenting with women but will return to men, and that men who identify as bisexual are actually just gay.”
8. Bisexuality is not a phase
“Sometimes I go through phases about what I’m looking for within a relationship,” says Mimi. “Sometimes I want someone who fits X criteria, and other times I’m looking for someone who fits Y criteria—but that doesn’t mean my sexuality is a phrase.”
*Names have been changed.
While we’re talking about biphobia, did you know it’s rampant in medical spaces? And BTW, here’s how to be a true LGBTQ+ ally, all year long.
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