Understanding Bisexuality:
What it Means to Be Bi+

It’s time to shine light on the “B” in “LGBTQ+”!

When it comes to sexual orientations, a significant portion of representation, and therefore a more universal understanding, is given to straight, gay, and lesbian individuals (with the former orientation receiving far more attention than the latter two). This disproportionate portrayal of sexuality can leave other orientations (such as bisexuality) in society’s dust, contributing to a lack of awareness and acceptance.

But just because bisexuality isn’t being largely discussed or showcased in popular culture, that doesn’t mean that the bisexual community isn’t broad and real – over 50% of LGBTQ+ American respondents identified themselves as bisexual in a 2022 Gallup poll.

What is Bisexuality?

The simplest definition of bisexuality (which is often shortened to “bi” or “bi+”) is the attraction to multiple genders.

One widely accepted definition of bisexuality (referenced by many trustworthy LGBTQ+ sources such as PFLAG, the HRC Foundation, and The Trevor Project) comes from bisexual activist Robyn Ochs, who describes bisexuality as “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.”

Bisexuality often acts as an umbrella term for non-monosexual sexualities; “monosexual” refers to the attraction to only one gender, as is the case for many straight-, gay-, and lesbian-identifying individuals. Non-monosexual identities that fall under the spectrum of bisexuality include pansexual, omnisexual, and sexually fluid.

It’s a common misconception that bisexuality references attraction to only two genders due to the word’s Greek prefix, which means “two” - however, this is not the case. Despite what the term’s prefix implies, bi people can be attracted to more than just two genders. Bisexuals can and do experience attraction outside the gender binary; the sexual orientation doesn’t apply solely to cisgender individuals.

What is the Difference Between Pansexuality and Bisexuality?

Pansexuality is a sexual orientation that describes having an attraction to all genders or attraction that exists regardless of gender. A distinct quality of pansexuality is that attraction to others is unrelated to gender, which may or may not be the case for bisexual-identifying individuals.

Because pansexuality falls under the umbrella of bisexuality, someone can identify as bisexual and pansexual simultaneously, though some may prefer to use only one of the terms to describe their sexual orientation.

The difference between pansexuality and bisexuality is less about how many or which genders someone is attracted to and more about personal identifiers and to what extent, if any, gender impacts attraction.

Debunking Bisexual Myths and Stereotypes

There are a handful of common misconceptions held about bisexuals, so we’re here to set the record straight (or, more aptly, set it bi).

MYTH: Bisexuality is just a phase

Bisexuality is a real sexual orientation and does not mean someone is confused about their sexuality. Though some individuals who identify as bisexual may go on to sexually identify otherwise in the future, this does not negate bisexuality’s validity as a sexual orientation. Sexuality is often fluid, and a singular person’s (or multiples’, for that matter) journey or experience does not dictate the legitimacy of an entire community.

MYTH: Prior romantic or sexual experiences dictate whether someone is truly bisexual

Just as young (or old!) straight, gay, and lesbian individuals can sometimes identify their sexual orientation before their first sexual or romantic experience (think schoolyard crushes and fantasizing about fictional characters), bisexuals don’t need to have sexual or romantic experiences with all or any genders to comprehend their sexuality.

There is no sexual or romantic scavenger hunt someone must complete for their bisexuality to be valid and real. A bisexual could go their entire lives only having sexual experiences with one gender and still be bisexual – attraction and action are not inherently linked.

MYTH: Bisexuals experience equal levels of attraction to all genders

Though it’s possible for bi+ individuals to be equally attracted to all genders, this isn’t always the case and is not a prerequisite for bisexuality. Bisexuals may have a preference for one gender identity over others, and that preference might change over time or even from day to day. It’s important to note that being primarily attracted to one gender does not negate someone’s bisexuality.

MYTH: Bisexuals in monogamous relationships have “chosen a side”

Monogamy and bisexuality can and do coexist. A bisexual being in a monogamous relationship with a person of one gender does not mean their attraction to other genders or the possibility of attraction to other genders has gone away.

When monosexuals enter a monogamous relationship, they still tend to be attracted to people outside of their partner (think celebrity crushes or doing a double take when you see a cutie at the grocery store), right? The same is true of bisexuals and said attraction is not limited to the gender of the person they are currently dating.

In the event that a bisexual’s monogamous relationship ends, their next partner (assuming there is one) may be the same gender as their previous partner or another gender identity entirely. In either case, their bisexuality is still valid. As stated earlier, the gender(s) of a person’s past, current, or future partner(s) does not dictate whether or not they are bisexual.

MYTH: Bisexuals are more likely to cheat

One common biphobic excuse people use to disqualify bisexuals as potential partners is the unfounded presumption that bisexuals are naturally less monogamous than monosexuals. Some mistakenly reason that because bisexuals are attracted to more than one gender, this gives them more “chances” to cheat on their partners, but there is zero correlation between bisexuality and a proclivity towards infidelity.

MYTH: All bisexuals are promiscuous

Some falsely equate attraction to multiple genders with promiscuity (not that there’s anything wrong with being promiscuous!), but bisexuals are no more likely to be promiscuous than individuals of any other sexual orientation.

MYTH: All bisexuals enjoy threesomes

Similar to misconceptions about bisexuals’ faithfulness and promiscuity, many confuse the potential to be attracted to more than one gender with the desire to have more than one sexual partner at once. Some bi+ people are into threesomes and group sex, and some aren’t - never assume someone is down to join you in a threesome simply because they’re bisexual.

Navigating Prejudice and Discrimination

The stereotypes listed above and more often accompany hardships that bi+ individuals must endure from wide-spanning types of people, communities, and society at large.

Unique Challenges

Discrimination-based struggles that regularly impact bisexuals include bi erasure, fewer opportunities for connection, and having to face an unwelcoming or unwarrantedly sexually aggressive dating field.

Bi Erasure

Bi erasure refers to the questioning, delegitimization, promotion of invisibility, or entire disregard of the existence of bisexuality. Instances of bi erasure can occur on a large-scale societal level, and individualistically. Examples of global bi erasure include a lack of bi+ representation in media and a disproportionately higher focus on the “L,” “G,” and “T” communities regarding queer support and conversations. More personal executions of bi erasure include individual bisexuals having the validity of their bisexuality questioned and being presumed straight, gay, or lesbian based on prior or current relationships or other factors.

Romantic and Sexual Discrimination

Dating can be difficult for bisexuals, as both straight and queer people can hold biphobic viewpoints that prevent them from seeing bi+ individuals as viable romantic partners. Stigmas surrounding bisexuality can make some monosexuals fearful that they’ll never be “enough” for a bisexual partner or that a bi+ person is only going through a “phase” and will eventually leave them for a different gender.

“Unicorn hunting,” the practice of a couple trying to find a third to join them, is also a persistent problem for monogamous bisexuals trying to date online. Bisexuals are often oversexualized or fetishized due to stereotypes regarding them being inherently promiscuous or open to threesomes; it can be quite disheartening to open your heart and phone to love only to find people who want to use you as an avenue for sexual adventure within their preexisting relationships.

Trouble Finding Community

There’s a surprising amount of biphobia and bi erasure within the LGBTQ+ community itself, making it even more difficult for bisexuals to find a sense of belonging. Biphobic individuals and groups (or biphobia within groups) can place bi+ people in a box where they feel “too gay for the straights and too straight for the gays,” contributing to feelings of loneliness.

Coping Strategies for Bisexuals

Whether dealing with microaggressions or blatant biphobia, experiencing frequent discrimination can do a number on your mental health. As such, it’s important to establish supportive relationships and self-soothing techniques.

Connect With Other Bisexuals

Having a network of people who relate to and understand their experiences is an important support system for many marginalized groups, and bisexuals are no different in that regard. Bi+ individuals may struggle more than others to feel like they belong to a group due to biphobia within the larger queer community, and it can be especially hurtful to experience rejection and prejudice from a generally open-minded and accepting group. Don’t let a few bad queer apples force you into isolation, though. If your local queer scene is bi-exclusive, you may find it helpful to seek out specifically bi+ communities that you know won’t subject you to discrimination based on your sexual orientation.

Celebrate Your Bisexuality

If constant questioning and disbelief regarding your bisexuality occasionally has you second-guessing your own identity, you’re not alone. After all, you can only hear from others that you’re “faking it” so many times before ugly thoughts start seeping into your mind. You can combat these false narratives by engaging in activities that reaffirm your sexual orientation, whatever that means to you. If you’re out of the closet, you may enjoy decorating your home or body in items with the bi pride flag on it as a reminder to yourself that only you get to dictate who you are and a message to the haters to eff off. Some bi+ people may find comfort in consuming media that positively features bisexual characters they can relate to. Other bisexuals may prefer to be more active and march the streets donning bi pride colors at queer protests or parades. Whatever it is that makes you feel good about yourself and your sexual orientation (assuming it causes no harm), go do it!

How to Be a Bi+ Ally

In the context of social justice, allyship describes actions taken to support and advocate for a marginalized group by individuals who are not members of said marginalized group. Being a bisexual+ ally showcases love and compassion to the bi people in your life, makes the world a safer place for bisexuals, and helps to destigmatize and normalize bisexuality.

Educate Yourself

True and helpful bi allyship requires an understanding of bisexuality. Though it may be tempting to use the bi+ people in your life as a primary resource for bisexual information and issues, the responsible and considerate manner of learning is to pursue education yourself using trustworthy and reliable outside sources. Being the go-to for all bisexual matters puts a lot of pressure on bi folk and can be exhausting, not to mention that it’s also unwise and unfair to ask an individual to speak for an entire community unless they’ve willingly taken on that role themselves. It is not the responsibility of marginalized groups to educate others – if you genuinely care about being a good ally, then self-education is a must.

There are plenty of reliable bisexual educational materials right at your fingertips. From social media accounts to dedicated websites, the answers you seek (and some you didn’t even know you were seeking) are already within your own reach. Below are a few helpful web pages and sites for learning about bisexuality and bi+ issues:

It may also be helpful to intentionally consume queer-focused entertainment, such as movies and television shows with LGBTQ+ narratives. The media we expose ourselves to has an impact on our way of thinking; by diversifying the content you consume, you open yourself up to different worldviews and can challenge any preconceived notions you may have about sexuality.

Speak Out

Now that you have a better comprehension of bisexuality and bi issues, it’s important to put that knowledge to use by speaking up for the bisexual community every chance you get. When you overhear someone saying something disparaging or incorrect about bisexuality, speak up and inform them. If anyone misidentifies an out-of-the-closet bisexual’s sexual orientation, correct them. Defend the bisexual people you know, bisexuals you don’t, and the bi+ community at large.

Another way you can publicly showcase your support is by celebrating Bi Visibility Day (September 23rd) on social media. Write or share posts that validate bisexuality, bring awareness to bisexuality, educate about bisexuality, or shed a positive light on the bi community.

Be Safe and Supportive

Whether you're in conversation with a bisexual, speaking to people who aren't bi+, or simply dealing with your own mind, the way you speak and think are key in supporting the bi community.

Trust and Listen to Bisexuals

When someone tells you they're bisexual, believe them. Don't ask for proof of their bi-ness or question their sexual orientation. Coming out is hard enough without being interrogated after the fact. You should also trust bisexuals when they share their lived experiences and express concern or offense by anything related to bisexuality – just because you personally don't find something to be biphobic or contributing to bi erasure, that doesn't mean a bisexual person doesn't read the statement or situation otherwise. Take bisexuals' feedback to heart and alter future behaviors or verbiage to be more inclusive and respectful of the bi community.

Respect Privacy

A crucial aspect of being a bi+ ally (and a generally decent human being) is to never “out” someone, meaning to divulge someone’s sexuality when they are not out of the closet. Outing queer people can harm their physical and emotional safety, not to mention that disclosing one’s sexuality is a personal decision.

Don’t Make Assumptions

It’s essential that you don’t let appearances, such as someone’s current or prior romantic or sexual relationships, dictate how you view their sexuality. Individuals’ sexual identities are up for them to define, not others, and having their orientations incorrectly stated or perceived can be painful and invalidating for bi+ people. Challenge your preconceived notions about what queer relationships and people look like by understanding that actual knowledge of others’ sexual orientations cannot exist without their input and say-so.

Be Charitable

Making donations, whether they be financial or through time and resources, can make an enormous impact on bi+ individuals, communities, and the world. Action-based support is a fabulous way to be an ally to the bisexual community (or any marginalized community).

Donating Money

If you have the means to do so, making financial donations to bisexual-supporting organizations can help said organizations better accomplish their goals of aiding the bi+ community. Don’t let concerns about your donation being “too small” stop you from giving – every little bit helps! Just make sure that whatever organization you’re donating to actually supports bisexuals, as biphobia and bi erasure exist even within the LGBTQ+ community.

Donating Resources

You don’t need oodles of extra cash in order to give. For instance, opening up your home to a bi+ person who has been kicked out of their living quarters or cannot find housing due to their bisexuality is an incredibly impactful way to use your existing resources to help the bi community. You can also donate unwanted clothing items to local LGBTQ+ clothing donation organizations.

And don’t forget that not all resources are tangible – your voice and right to vote are outstandingly powerful resources themselves. Vote with compassion by supporting bills and politicians that support the LGBTQ+ community and vote against any politician or bill that might be harmful to the queer community, even if said politics aren’t blatant in their attempts. You may also choose to volunteer at non-profits that support bisexuals, sign petitions that help protect bisexual rights, or stand side-by-side with the queer community at local protests and rallies.

The Lovehoney Forum
The best place on the internet to discuss all things sex and sex toys
Lovehoney Blog
Home of our famous Position of the Week series and more musings on sex and sexual happiness
Lovehoney on YouTube
Discover hundreds of videos on dozens of different subjects, all presented by our in-house sexperts