By: Dani Kessel
Identifying as a bisexual person comes with a plethora of misconceptions about who I am, what I do, and how my identity impacts my queerness. Nearly every bisexual has to fight against these false ideas about who they are. What makes it even more frustrating is having to answer the same questions over and over again. In order to educate others and decrease the need for explanations, I decided to compile a list of some of the most common bisexuality myths and break them down. Here we go!
Myth: Bisexuality is just a phase before coming out as gay or straight.
Truth: Bisexuality is a completely valid identity. It is not a stepping stone. It is not a way station. People in same gender relationships aren’t gay. People in different gender relationships aren’t straight. Bisexuals exist. Period.
In the past, folks may have come out as bi before accepting or realizing their sexuality. This is largely because queer culture was hidden, and many labels outside of straight/bi/gay require a basic understanding of queer culture. Now that LGBTQ+ culture and identities are becoming more visible, there are now terms like questioning, queer, bicurious, heteroflexible, and homoflexible which all serve as better transitional labels but don’t contribute to biphobia and bierasure.
Moreso, identifying with one sexuality before coming out as another is nothing new. People identify as straight before coming out as other sexuality. Does this make straight as a sexuality just a phase? No. People are straight, bi, asexual, pan, gay, etc. They are all real identities.
Myth: Bisexuality means attraction to men and women.
Truth: One important thing to remember when defining sexuality is that there is a difference between romantic and sexual attraction. Romantic and sexual attraction can align (like being bisexual and biromantic) or be different (like being bisexual and homoromantic). For the sake of clarity, I will be using “bisexuality” in this definition as both bisexual and biromantic. You can apply sexual attraction or romantic attraction to the definitions as you would like.
Bisexuality’s definition has expanded. There are currently 3 widely accepted definitions of the label:
1) Attraction to men and women,
2) Attraction to 2 different genders,
And—the most common definition— 3) Attraction to people of the same gender and people not of the same gender.
Myth: Bisexuals can only be women.
Truth: Bisexual men and nonbinary folks exist too! Bi visibility is nuanced. Some contributing factors of bisexual women being more visible are that bi women get hypersexualized for the straight male gaze, toxic masculinity impacts bi men coming out, and the gender binary erases the existance of nonbinary people all together.The intersection of gender, sexuality, race, and other identities all play into this issue, it’s important to recognize that these all play a role in an individuals visibility within and outside the bisexual community.
Myth: Bisexuals are transphobic.
Truth: While people of all labels (including transfolk) can be transphobic, the bisexual label does not automatically indicate transphobia. The widened definition of bisexuality accounts for identities falling outside the gender binary. Most people have attraction to a specific set of genders and a specific set of anatomical configurations. Some are attracted to a specific anatomy without regard to gender. Some are attracted to specific gender without regard to anatomy. The concern about transphobia in bisexuality comes when people’s specific attractions are men with penises and women with vaginas. However, this is not the overwhelming case for bisexual as a whole community. Furthermore, because transfolk are the gender they identify as, attraction to a gender does not necessarily exclude people of that gender whose outsides don’t match their insides.
Myth: Bisexuals always want/are interested in threesomes.
Truth: No. We aren’t any more or less interested in threesomes than anybody else.
Myth: Bisexuality provokes cheating.
Truth: Being bi doesn’t make you a cheater; being an inconsiderate, selfish jerk does. Whether monogamous or polyamorous, relationships are negotiations of boundaries. People who cheat violate the trust and boundaries of their partner/s. That is a character flaw and red flag in the long-term, but it isn’t tied to any identity.
Myth: Bisexuals aren’t as oppressed or stigmatized as gays and lesbians because of passing privilege.
Truth: I am going to start out by stating that this is a complicated and nuanced situation. Still, I’ll attempt to dissect why the above statement is in fact a myth.
Firstly, why is it called being in the closet when monosexual identities’ identities are invisible, but it’s “passing privilege” when a bisexual, polysexual, asexual, or pansexual’s identity is invisible? I honestly don’t understand. This attitude aligns with the mistaken idea that bi people in different gender relationships are straight and that bi people in same gender relationships are gay. Passing privilege reinforces the idea that there is straight and there is gay. But, there is nothing other than that. Bisexuals are completely disregarded due to this dichotomy. It is bierasure at it’s finest. There are long-lasting and even permanent effects of bierasure. In fact, a multitude of studies indicate that bisexual individuals are at a higher risk of suicidality, anxiety, depression, and substance abuse than their lesbian and gay counterparts.
Secondly, the reality is that homophobic people don’t typically distinguish between homosexual and bisexual attraction. They hate, oppress, and stigmatize anyone who isn’t straight, allosexual, and monoamorous. The minute that my sexuality is revealed, I am in danger of harm. I recognize that my sexuality isn’t immediately visible, and I don’t have as high risk of being assaulted walking down the street with my life partner. This is a privilege in one way, but it also creates the mistaken idea that being bisexual is easier. Bisexuals face other overlapping and unique issues. I constantly have to re-out myself or be stuck in the closet. If I wear my bisexual pin on my purse, I’m at risk of violence. Exiting LGBTQ+ spaces, I still have bigots scream hate and spit at me just like every other queer person. Also, bisexuals face microaggressions from the majority of people (in and out of the queer community) upon our sexuality becoming known. Bisexuals have to watch what we say and when we say it just like gays and lesbians. Previous co-workers of mine created a hostile work environment towards me when I was having a casual conversation with a friend and mentioned that a woman was attractive. If I weren’t in a state with provisions protecting LGBTQ+ people from being fired for their gender and sexuality, I could’ve been fired. Bisexuals aren’t exempt from these problems. In fact, bisexuals in other states have been fired for their sexuality.
Lastly, being bisexual means also facing oppression within the LGBTQ+ community as well. Though attitudes have started changing recently, most bisexual individuals are not welcome in queer spaces. I have been kicked out of nearly every queer space because I am “not queer enough” or my identity “isn’t a real thing” or I’m “just looking for attention.” Friends of mine were told that they shouldn’t come to Pride with their partners (no matter their gender identity) because they didn’t really experience what it was like to be queer. Bi people don’t have their identities accepted, recognized, or validated in the queer or straight community.
All in all, We don’t need an oppression olympics. Because of this myth, the LGBTQ+ community ends up fighting each other instead of fighting together against the external bigotry, hatred, oppression, and violence against queer folks.
Myth: Bisexuality means that you have twice as many options for relationships.
Truth: Nope. Biphobia is rampant EVERYWHERE. Bi men aren’t taken seriously because they are viewed as being closeted gays. Bi women aren’t taken seriously because they are viewed as just experimenting. Bi nonbinary people aren’t even seen. Bi folks of all sorts are seen as confused, selfish, undecided, cheaters, promiscuous, and a million other false stereotypes. There is also an overwhelming belief that bisexuals pass STIs around more than gays and lesbians. An Adam and Eve study found that 47% of people wouldn’t ever consider dating a bisexual person and another 19% of people were undecided. In a Glamour study, 63% of women said they would never date a man who’d had previous sexual experience with another man (and this includes some of the 31% of women who’d being sexually explorative with other women). Despite what one may think, bisexuality definitely does not double your chances of getting a date or relationship.
I hope this helped you get a better understand of what bisexuality is and isn’t. Feel free to share it with others. The more that society understand these things, the less prominent that biphobia and bierasure will be. It is important to establish yourself as an ally who creates safe spaces for those in the LGBTQ+ community. If you have other questions about bisexuality, there are a wide variety of resources online to help, and I am happy to answer more questions in the comments section below. Thanks for reading!