‘It’s not about being greedy or selfish, it’s about liking both the river and the sea’
Tomorrow (23 Sept) marks Bisexuality Day.
It’s seen as a day of both celebration and visibility.
We asked a variety of bisexual people what being bi means to them.
The answers show you just how varied the experience of bisexuality can be.
Regardless of experience though, biphobia and bi erasure are always prevalent issues.
Paige, 21, Australia
‘There was never a moment where I realized “oh I might like girls too.” I was always bisexual I just didn’t know the technical word for it until later on in life. It wasn’t like an epiphany, it was just like “oh it has a label.”
‘For me being bi just feels like a natural thing. I never understood why who you can love is chosen for you. It’s not about being greedy or selfish, it’s about liking both the river and the sea. Girls are pretty and boys are pretty too. I am attracted to both men and women, and it doesn’t matter who I choose to spend my life with. It’s about love, not gender.’
Elena, 22, USA
‘It means that I’m attracted to more than one gender, but I look for different things in the partners of each gender I date. That’s where my distinction between that and pansexual who love people regardless of gender is.’
Bee, 23, UK
‘Bisexuality means queerness. I tend to use queer and bisexual interchangeably. Partly because I can’t let go of the term ‘bi’ which I originally found and identified with. But also because I subscribe to the definition of bisexuality is an attraction to my gender and other genders. I can and want to have romantic, sexual, and other types of relationships with anyone. And also it’s a bit of a fuck you to the convention, to stereotypes, to rules and definitions.
‘Sadly, bisexuality has also meant stigma. It often means biphobia. It means not feeling “gay enough” for some of my queer friends, but not straight enough to be accepted by the mainstream. It has meant being sexualized and demonized in the same sentence. It has meant difficult conversations, where I am repeatedly coming out and explaining myself. It means I have not been allowed to be myself because others do not ‘agree’ or accept it. It has at times meant I felt excluded, isolated, and confused.
‘Ultimately, bisexuality means love. It determines who and how I love. I am currently in a monogamous relationship with a cis bisexual man. People look at us and assume we are a straight couple, but we are queer as hell and our love is as real as anyone else’s. I am so full of love, of so many kinds. I love my queer friends, they are my chosen family, and I have a special bond with my fellow bi pals. And, to be honest, I love myself. I love being bi and wouldn’t ever want to change who I am.’
Alexis, 21, USA
‘Being bisexual to me means that I can be myself. Live the life I want to, love who I love, and do what I want to do. Being bisexual, doesn’t mean significant anything really, it’s just a part of what makes me, me.’
Ary, 40, UK
‘To be honest, I feel a little like a fraud. I know that I am Bi, as I am attracted to women as well as men, however, I have only ever dated men. It’s just easier that way. Part of me wishes I had experienced what it was like to be with a woman before I married my husband, but then another part of me thinks that it is probably for the best that I don’t really know what I am missing.
‘I find it frustrating when people assume I am straight because I am married to a man, and that people assume I have never experienced the confusion of being attracted to a woman, because I have – but I feel like those people have a point, because I have never been brave enough to act on my interest. I only ever looked for men when I was on dating websites, and listed myself as heterosexual, as this reduced the amount of pervy messages that I received. Being Bi also put men off, as they assumed that I would cheat on them.
‘So I feel a bit of a fraud, as I conformed. It is only now that I am safely married that I am able to “admit” that I am Bi. Perhaps if I had been braver earlier, I would have been able to date one of the women I fancied – but I didn’t, and I am married now, and of course, I would never cheat on him, so bang goes my chance to explore the other side of my sexuality.’
Sandy, 22, UK
‘Bisexuality is one of the defining traits of my personality and life, and I’m happy about that. I came out (depending on who you ask), at 11, or 13, or 15, 16, 17 (ad infinitum), and I still to this day come out on a near daily basis. In terms of what bisexuality means to me, it means activism, and it means political and personal growth. One of the personal journeys around bisexuality which I’ve noticed myself thinking a lot about over the last few years started, as so many things do, in untangling my own definition of the word.
‘At 11, my sexuality was simply the realization that other people had, so to speak, ‘picked a gender’, which just hadn’t crossed my mind. By my early teens, I knew I was attracted to ‘boys and girls’. On my arrival at University, and my exposure to people of a far wider range of genders than the simple binary which my Catholic school had been so keen to enforce, I shifted to comfortably calling myself ‘bi or pan’, and at that, to having ‘attraction regardless of gender’. The latter definition here still holds true for me, though that attraction can take wildly different forms depending on the person in question.
‘As an activist, I work daily to remind people that actually, the B is in LGBTQ for a reason. We’re part of a systematically oppressed community, and we suffer our own stigmas and challenges. Our mental health is worse, our physical illness rates alarming, and our levels of homelessness, poverty, isolation, and alcohol & drug use are all higher than cis monosexuals. As such, one of the biggest things that bisexuality means to me is community. It means a group of people who understand and support me, and in turn, a group of people who I owe a lifetime of support to in return.’
Charlie, 21, UK
‘Being bi for me has meant have to defend a love for men around LGBTI people, and my love for women around straight people. It’s actually also meant not being able to talk about men to queer female friends and about women to queer male friend. I have been forced to develop the skill of tailoring which relationships I talk about according to the group of people. And it’s not fun. My sexuality is not a half way point between one thing and another. I’m not in a sort of constant transition stage between deciding whether I’m straight or gay.
‘Maybe I have dated more men, or more women at one point! That does not invalidate my entire sexuality. I do not have to keep an equal number of male to female partners to get your “gold star bisexual badge.” You probably have a patch of only dating blondes or maybe you’ve got a thing for Troye Sivan look-alikes. You go where you’re feeling, as do I. So why should my tastes be treated any different?’
Raina, 20, UK
‘I honestly think that being bi is awesome! We should be proud of our orientations. For me, that means taking pride in being able to crush hard on all the actors and actresses in films I watch. Being bi or pan is valid, and is definitely a real thing, despite what some bigots, and even some people in the queer community, think.
‘It really does pain me to see people brush it off as a phase or that we’re just being indecisive or doing it for attention. There seems to be a weird stereotype that bi men are really gay and are just trying to cover it up, and bi women are really straight and are just trying to get men’s attention…? None of these are accurate, obviously. I think that there needs to be more talk within society, and parts of the LGBT+ community, that it’s okay to experiment and it is equally valid to be bi.
‘I didn’t find out I was bi myself until I was nineteen. Even though I have definitely had crushes on male celebrities in the past (*cough* Brian Cox *cough*) I never seriously considered that I would be able to be attracted to absolutely everyone. I only really found out by accident- I had an IRL crush for the first time, and then it was settled. Despite this, I did have trouble coming to terms with it at first. I discovered that I had internalised homophobia, despite me thinking I was 100% LGBT+-accepting, and I had to work hard to rid myself of it. It soon passed and you’ll be happy to know I am now completely OK with seeing two guys kissing.
‘I’m excited to see what sort of relationships I’ll have in the future. With boys? Girls? Genderfluid people? Enbies? Who knows. To any bi people reading this, once again, your orientation is 100% valid! Don’t let anyone, straight or not, tell you otherwise.’
Daisy, 20, UK
‘Being Bi isn’t about really anything crazy, it’s just me. People are so confused when I say that I’m in a relationship because the most common question is “how does that work since you have a boyfriend” and it’s simple really. If you, as a straight person are in a long term relationship, do you date other people? No, exactly! It’s exactly the same with me.
‘Being bi is not the same as being poly. It’s about how I feel and not limiting myself to gender because people’s personalities are the things that really matter in a relationship.’
Isla, 20, UK
‘So being bi means to me… it’s a sense of openness, it feels like a lack of restrictions caused by binary gender. It feels completely normal to me to like men and women and other genders, I can’t really imagine what it’s like to just like one of them! Despite having identified as both straight and lesbian in the past, lol. I am currently in a long-term relationship with a man and feel a need to validate my bi identity a lot more than otherwise because everyone reads me as straight if they don’t know me, so I talk about it a lot more and have been engaging in LGBT groups and culture a lot more recently as I grow to love my bi identity more.
‘I am even doing my dissertation on Pride in Belfast and the LGBT community in Northern Ireland. So there are definitely some pros to being a bi women in a “straight” relationship and constantly having your sexuality denied and questioned! I tend not to engage too much with people who are bi-phobic, and I find it comes more from the lesbian/gay community than anyone else. Thankfully most of my queer friends are very accepting and open, same with my straight friends! I love being bi, I have definitely been on a journey recently to accept myself more and engage more with my identity and it is something I have become more and more proud about lately, which makes me really happy!’
Heidi, 23, USA
‘I am privileged to be bisexual. However, growing up, I was taught it is bad manners to lord blessings over others. Then again, I was also taught that the Lord considers it bad manners to be blessedly bisexual. Such paradoxical advice persuades me to be – for the most part – hush hush about the whole affair (not that there’s many of them, contrary to stereotype). But it would be unpatriotic of me to not brag away on a pride day so I will voice my usually quiet bi-ness. Bisexuality is, of course, a hefty part of my identity, but personally, it acts as more the shadings of my personality tapestry rather than the dominant color.
‘That being said, I think everyone should be bisexual.
‘The benefits seem obvious. First and foremost, you have no idea how much more amazing Game of Thrones is as a bi viewer. Secondly, rather than perhaps feeling as if you don’t belong in the “real world,” you are actually free to feel more individual. You’re less likely to fall into stereotypes dependent on relationship type so – perhaps ironically – it allows self-discovery outside of the definition of partnership.
‘Being bi affects your perspective. We generally don’t seek to mentally categorize people through the lens of gender roles, instead seeing others as humans first (although noticing their type of human is admittedly not far behind… or far from their behind). There’s also the potential to bond with anyone over their relational butterflies and betrayals. I know it sounds like hippie utopia propaganda, but trust me – we’re just like everyone else. Except for the secret language and meetings.
‘As alluring as I’ve made the bi lifestyle sound, we’re not hidden unicorns. We’re visible unicorns free for the catching. So track down your local horny stallions and give them a hug. To my fellow egalitarian equestrians, congratulations (insert secret handshake here). And to those who aren’t in the club: even if you can’t be bisexual, you can be friends with someone who is. What a privilege.’
Robyn, 21, UK
‘In its most simplistic form being bisexual means that I am attracted to multiple genders
‘Entirely, more importantly, being bi is the bisexual community that has grown around me without me really having to try. As I write this I’m in a room with 4 close friends; some of over a decade, some of less than a year, all are biromantic and 3 are bisexual.
‘Almost by accident, a wonderful group of bisexual people have grown around me at all points in my life. First in school, all of us, of course assumed we were straight at the age of 11 as time progressed It became very clear the majority of us were bi. The idea that queer people know each other before they know themselves would appear to not just be a myth, again I built different bi communities online, in work and at university.
‘Of course this isn’t me saying ‘bisexual people are only friends with other bisexuals’ I just feel that the solidarity is strong between us and like with other identifiers we, somewhat accidentally, fall into these communities.
‘Being bisexual is being erased by most modern media, being bisexual is being told you’re greedy when you’re a single teenager, being bisexual is being rejected for being too gay and too straight despite being neither. Being bisexual is who I have been since I recognised attraction, being bisexual is a strong undeniable community and most importantly being bisexual is just existing in my living room playing board games with my close friends.
‘Coming out can be terrifying and isn’t always met positively, but coming out as bi found me these communities and with that in mind being bi could never be a bad thing.’
Holly, 18, UK
‘At face value, being bi means getting butterflies around people of more than one gender. It’s the sexuality equivalent of being asked whether you like sweet or savoury food better – just shrugging and wondering why you can’t like both. The answer should be easy, because of course you can like both. (Or multiple, getting away from food – bisexuality isn’t always about liking boys and girls, not when nonbinary folk exist too).
‘Yet you’ll still get people – gay, straight – who, for some reason, are determined to see you pick a side. For me, being bi is a lot more political than just liking who I like. When it’s almost impossible to find myself in characters onscreen (the number of harmful tropes about bisexuality is wild, not to mention the number of writers who shy away from the identity and claim their characters “don’t like labels”), it feels like a fight to be understood and heard.
‘When I bring up being bi, people make assumptions based on that, just because of what they’ve been exposed to in the media. And it’s hard to keep it simple when there are so many hurdles to cross – the whole “no, I’m not more likely to cheat on you,”, “no, I won’t ‘miss the other gender’,” nightmare – before people get it.
‘Being bi, for me, is wanting to present myself in a way that makes me feel more visible to the queer community. Having shorter hair, wearing pin-badges and the like. Being open. But it’s also being scared, because there are a lot of angry people out there fuelled by misconceptions.
‘It’s me, sitting in a café writing this, subconsciously shielding my notebook with my hand whenever someone walks past. (Even though I’m not ashamed. Even though I know how to defend myself). It’s an underrepresented experience, which is why I’m really grateful for days like the 23rd of September when I can paint the bi pride flag on my eyelids and feel a little more heard. (A day which has been celebrated since 1999, the year I was born. Ha).
‘It’s nice knowing that as time passes, more people will come to understand the reality over the fiction. The truth that we aren’t wrong and we don’t have to pick a side; that if you flip a coin and it lands heads-up, it still has a tail.’