Can I identify as bisexual? A 4-step guide
As a proud (and loud about it) bisexual woman, I often find young gay (or questionable) women in my inboxes online – mostly wondering if bisexual is the right etiquette for them to use and describe their attraction experiences.
Most often, I am asked if bisexual identity is valid under certain conditions:
- What if I had only ever dated cis men?
- What if I had never been drawn to a non-binary person?
- What if I fantasize about having sex with women, but I don’t want to do it IRL?
Yes. Your bisexual identity is valid “even if”. I wrote at length about it here. And I encourage everyone who is wondering if they are permit identify as bisexual to read this article.
Here I want to dive deep into Why we struggle with bisexual identity – what ideas about sexuality we may have internalized that lead us to believe we couldn’t to be really bisexual.
Of course, you don’t have to identify as bisexual if that doesn’t make you feel good, even if the description matches, but it’s worth exploring why.
The definition of bisexuality (as well as other bisexual umbrella identities, such as pansexuality and omnisexuality) is as varied as the bisexual experience itself. But bisexual activist Robyn ochs‘definition is a good start: “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.
It’s important to stress here that gender is not binary, and bisexuality can include an attraction to any (and all) gender, including non-binary ones. This is not a trait you were “born” with, and you don’t have to be gender-attracted to be bisexual (although if your “I’m not attracted to all gender” sounds more like “I’m not attracted to trans or non-binary people” , you must ask yourself).
Bisexuality, in short, is the attraction to multiple genders. The ways in which these attractions appear may seem different, but these differences do not negate bisexuality.
The Orientation, Behavior and Identity Model is a useful tool for understanding how these three aspects of our sexuality can be mixed and matched in a thousand different ways.
Here’s the basic idea:
And while it is very easy to understand that a woman who is only attracted to men (orientation) and has never dated only men (behavior) can call herself straight (identity), we also need to understand than these aspects of our sexuality do not have to “match” to be valid.
A woman can feel an attraction for several genders (orientation); historically have only dated men, but fantasize about having sex with women (behavior); and is called right (identity). Another woman may have the same orientation and the same behavior, but claim to be bisexual. Hell, another woman can have the same orientation and the same behavior, but call herself a lesbian.
But even the orientation part can be complex: you can mostly feel the attraction to X kind; a deep but not broad attraction to Yes kind; and almost no attraction for z kind and always identify as bisexual.
The idea is this: these three things, while related, are not clear. Our identity isn’t as simple as what we like, what we do with it, and what the digital breakdown of our experiences with each genre looks like.
There is a myth specific to bisexual people that you cannot to be really bisexual if you have had sex with any gender that appeals to you.
A teenager who has not yet had sex, but who identifies as straight, is not questioned about his identity. An adult man who recently revealed his homosexuality, despite having been married for many years to a woman, is not asked about his identity. At least not at all as often as we ask bisexual people for receipts to prove our attractions.
You don’t have to have had sex with nobody to know who you would do like have sexual relations.
And while sexual fantasies are not inherently indicative of our behavioral desires, it certainly can be. In sexology, we talk about the difference between masturbatory fantasy and partner fantasy. The former is something you like to think about to get by, but it’s not something you need or want to experience in real life. The latter is something you want to try for real!
You can masturbate at the thought of having sex with multiple genres, or you can watch porn that features multiple genres, without necessarily wanting to have sex with them. It is quite valid. But you too can.
One of my favorite ways to close the “But do you already have it?” question is to remind people that masturbation is also sexual behavior. So if you have masturbated at the thought of X sex, even if you have not yet had partner sex with X like you still have technically engaged in sexual behavior with X kind.
While many people who experience bisexuality (sexual attraction to multiple genders) simultaneously experience biromanticism (romantic attraction to multiple genders), some bisexual people don’t.
the split attraction model explains how for some people sexual and romantic attraction differ: The genres that appeal to them sexually are not necessarily the genres that appeal to them romantically.
For example, you can be bisexual and gay (or queer) romantic: you’re sexually open to multiple genders, but you only want to be romantically involved with people of the same gender (or queer). You can be bisexual and aromantic: you are sexually open to multiple genders, but you feel little (or no) desire for romantic relationships.
Of course, it can also work the other way around: you may feel romantic attraction to multiple genres, but sexual attraction to one or more limited gender (s).
The most common way I see the shared attraction model popping up in bisexual conversations is with bisexual people saying they are only romantically attracted to one sex – more often than not sex with which they are most culturally allowed to have sex with, such as bisexual women who only date men (especially cis).
It is a very valid experience.
You don’t have to be biromantic to identify as bisexual.
And when we find that our attractions match social expectations (for example, “I am a bisexual woman who only dates men, but is willing to experiment with women”), we need to ask ourselves how our socialization plays a role. role – and if this is really our natural inclination or if its acceptability is comfortable.
People of all genders can receive (and believe) damaging messages about sexuality that disrupt their ability to connect with their authentic selves. And a message that women often get is that all women are at least sort of attracted to women – so that doesn’t necessarily make us homosexual.
The underlying notion of this myth seems to be that as women our attraction to other women is frivolous or insignificant – or even if we expect it to crop up every now and then for us. may dismiss it as NBD.
Take the phrase “crush girl,” for example. While this tends to explain a particular phenomenon, where you idolize or appreciate another woman to the point that you want to be like her or be friends with her, it also undermines the possibility that may be it’s just a crush – and that’s okay! (Florence Donné has a big T-shirt who says, “Maybe it’s a ‘girl crush.’ Maybe you are queer. “)
Yes there is a long story in sex research which claims that strictly one-sex attraction is nearly impossible. And when you consider that you don’t know a person’s gender just by looking at them, yes, the concept of monosexuality crumbles. But the idea that “everyone is a little bit bisexual” undermines the experience of people who are actively drawn to multiple genders and who view bisexuality as an identity.
If you are wondering if you are bisexual or not, depending on how you feel the attraction, you may very well to be bisexual – not just the experience of a common, casual, attraction-that-doesn’t-count-for-a-reason phenomenon.
Because bisexuality is so often overlooked in conversations about sexual experience (yes! Even in queer circles!), It’s much harder to find role models of what bisexuality looks like in practice. And this can make us think that we should not really be bisexual if our experience is not like _____.
But really, bisexuality can take different forms. It’s a complex identity that isn’t always as simple (no pun intended) as monosexual identities. And if you’ve ever worried about the above four dilemmas, rest assured that this is just biphobic nonsense – and you can identify yourself as bisexual if you want to.