This section is designed to answer some questions regularly asked about
bisexuality. They should provide some background to issues which are often
discussed on soc.bi.
Bisexuality means sexual or romantic attraction or behavior directed towards
some members of more than one sex.
A strict definition of a bisexual would be someone who has romantic and/or
sexual relations with other people of more than one sex (though not
necessarily at the same time - see
However, since not everyone has necessarily had the opportunity to act on
their sexual/romantic attractions, some people prefer a looser definition; for
instance, that a bisexual is a person who - in their own estimation - feels
able to have such attraction. This could be anyone who has erotic,
affectionate, or romantic feelings for, fantasies of, and/or experiences with
both men and women.
A bisexual may be more attracted to one sex than the other, attracted equally
to both, or find people's sex unimportant (see
section A7). The strength of
their attractions to men and women may vary over time.
Yes. Definitions for "a bisexual" are suggested above - all relating to
attraction and behaviour. "Bisexual" (and the short form, "bi")
is sometimes used as an adjective, to describe a bisexual person.
However, many people who exhibit bisexual behaviour do not identify as
bisexual; and other people may identify as bisexual for reasons other than
those suggested in the narrow definitions of
section A2. In other words,
bisexual identity and bisexual behaviour are not necessarily the same thing.
So the word bisexual is being used in two different ways here.
Some argue that if bisexual is to mean anything, it must have a strong
definition - that of exhibiting bisexual behaviour, or at least the potential
for it. Others feel it is more important to respect people's self-definition
whatever it is.
It has been suggested that the word "bisexual" should be limited to
describing behaviour, and the word "bi"
could be used for describing identity, with all
the cultural implications which have grown up in the bi community.
Since the word "bisexual" can be used in different ways, it is enough to
bear this in mind and make it clear how you
are using it, in the interests of good communication.
(See section B12 for the definitions of
MOTSS and MOTOS)
Can you be? Sure. Are you? That's up to you to decide; nobody can make that
decision for you, and nobody has the right to tell you your decision is wrong.
Bisexuality isn't about whom you sleep with, it's about how
you feel; so a good rule of thumb in defining your sexual identity is not
what you've done, but what you'd like to do.
The simple answer is "no" or at least "not necessarily" - many of us are
absolutely certain that we are attracted to both sexes; there is no confusion.
Many people are bisexual for life, which proves it is not always just a phase.
It is natural for people who are coming to terms with a sexuality which is
not society's norm to be feel confused. For some people, bisexuality is a phase
between homosexuality and heterosexuality (and the individual in question could
be going in either direction); for others it can just be a brief
experimentation. But for many people bisexuality is a lifelong, committed
And even for those who ultimately do not stay bisexual for life, that does
not make it any the less valid as a sexual orientation. Many people have
reported that their sexual orientation has shifted over time; sexuality is
dynamic, not fixed. For some people it may be a small shift, others a major
change of lifestyle; but this does not make the points in between in any sense
"wrong". Life is a continuous process, and few of us remain exactly the same
over long periods of time.
Some people who behave bisexually (having sex with both MOTSS and MOTOS over
time) identify themselves as gay or lesbian or straight. This too does
not mean that they are confused, only that they base their sexual identity on
their primary interest rather than going for the more technical term bisexual.
It's difficult for some lesbian/gay people to come to grips with their
homosexuality, and for a while, dating MOTOS may make life seem a
little more "normal" and bearable. Let's face it, coming out of the closet
and living as a homosexual is no picnic; between the sanctioned discrimination
which gay/bi men face of being in a perceived high risk group for
AIDS, and the social standards of love, courtship, and marriage,
being gay at times takes more energy than humans should be asked to give.
But coming out bisexual is no easy matter, either. Some bisexuals have
loved ones who have relied in the past on their attraction to them being
constant, and who have to assure them that it will be there in the future.
We also often have to deal with straight friends who assure us that our
attraction to MOTSS is just "a way of avoiding intimacy" or gay
friends who suggest that our attraction to MOTOS is "internalized
homophobia". At all events, whether or not a bisexual is currently
involved with a MOTSS,
to much of the straight world anyone who comes out as bi is queer, "one of
them," and is discriminated against and excluded on that basis.
Thus, being bi is not an "easy way out," a "denial," or a "middle
ground." It is for many people the hardest decision they will ever make.
Many bisexuals feel they have a "preference" for one sex over the other,
but they do not deny their attraction for that other sex.
Some bisexuals, however, have no such preference, and instead focus their
attractions on qualities they see in an individual regardless of that person's
sex. Sometimes these qualities involve sex, sometimes not. For example,
some people find men attractive as men, and women attractive as women; others
find people's sex irrelevant.
No. People who call themselves bisexual are saying that they are
attracted to both men and women. They don't necessarily have to act on that
attraction, any more than straight or gay people have to act on their
attraction to people of the same sex as their partner.
There is a separate newsgroup, alt.polyamory, for discussion of the
issues relating to the dynamics of multi-way relationships (whether involving
bisexuals or not).
Yes, some are. It depends on the individual. It's like asking
"Can a straight person be
monogamous?" Some bisexuals are monogamous, and some aren't. Monogamy is the
socially sanctioned option with respect to relationships, but then so is
heterosexuality. It should be up to every individual, of any sexuality, to
choose the lifestyle which is right for them.
A bisexual deciding to be monogamous is not deciding to be "gay" or
"straight." He/she is still bisexual; he/she has chosen a person to
live his or her life with, not an orientation, preference or ideology. It is
important to recognize that he/she still feels bisexual.
Not by any useful definition. A useful definition of bisexuality might be,
anyone who has serious relationships with members of both sexes, and anyone who
identifies as bisexual. It is possible to suggest that everyone has some
potential for attraction to both sexes, but since most people never act on it,
(*) this is pretty irrelevant.
If someone says that they are straight, or (gay/lesbian) then for you to
insist that they are "really" bisexual but perhaps just don't realise it is
to deny them their self-identity. Everyone should be free to define their own
identity for themselves, which invalidates this kind of generalisation.
Moreover, bisexuality is not better
than being straight or gay. The best
thing for each individual is to be what they feel is right. So please do not
think that people identify as bisexual if they are "more highly evolved" or
more in touch with their inner feelings. Accept diversity - different people
really are different.
(*) Research carried out at the Harvard School of Public Health, USA in 1994
found that 20.8% of the men and 17.8% of the women studied admitted to
same-sex sexual attraction/behaviour at some time in their lives.
While homophobia is a bi issue (many would say the biggest issue),
we do also have concerns different from
those of the gay community; the most striking being that of dealing with
prejudice from the gay community itself!
Among our other issues is the problem of
dealing with the emotion of
One reason is because we are sometimes perceived as "hiding," a sense that
some bisexuals use their bisexuality to look heterosexual at work, in
straight social settings, to enjoy the "heterosexual privilege" that is part
of the social norm. Secondly, bisexuals are sometimes seen as blurring the
issues and weakening the lesbian and gay movement. Naturally, bisexual
activists disagree with this view (we feel that the real issue is sexual
freedom for all sexualities), but sometimes lesbians and gays label bisexuals
"traitors" for this reason. A further reason is that some lesbians and gay men
also have sex with MOTOS (while not identifying as bisexual). Often peer
pressure means that they can't admit this in the lesbian and gay communities,
and see bisexuality as a threat to their own acceptance. And finally, simply
because of the fear that arises out of ignorance and out of the media's very
poor record of portraying bisexuals as serial killers, homophobes and
generally self-centred, confused people.
The lesbian and gay communities are oppressed by homophobia and prejudice, but
unfortunately being oppressed is no guarantee that you won't oppress others.
Happily, prejudice against bisexuals in the lesbian and gay communities seems
to be diminishing over time as more people come to accept that sexuality is
not a monochrome issue.
Some of us have tried, but why should we? Denying our attraction to one sex
or the other hurts. If you ask the question out of innocence (you
don't feel this attraction, so why should anybody?) then you're asking us to
put away feelings that we cannot and will not live without. If you ask these
questions with full knowledge of the issues at hand, then your question is as
patently offensive as a white supremacist asking us to choose one race over
Look at your life, and decide that if by telling them you will help
yourself, and by not telling them you won't hurt yourself (one doesn't
necessarily preclude the other). Both instances, of telling or not telling, can
be problems. They may not accept you, then again, maybe they will. Not telling
them may leave you at peace, or it may gnaw at your mind constantly, with "I
really need to tell them" or "I really need to tell someone who
knows me well".
There are many people in the bisexual community who can tell you of good and
bad situations that have happened to us with each different type of decision.
Indeed, these "coming-out stories" (so called because they describe "coming
out of the closet" and telling people of our sexuality) are often to be heard
whenever bisexuals meet - it is something that brings us together, because so
many of us have one of these stories to tell.
But, ultimately, the decision is yours, and must be made by you. We can
offer support for your courage, and comfort for your loss, happiness for your
gain. But you must make the step to make it all possible. You must
decide whether any need to know, or whether you want any to know. Good
You're talking to one right now. We are here to share our lives, through
stories, history, friends, family; we are here, on soc.bi, to reach
out from one bisexual to another and bridge the gap between isolated bisexual
communities. To be the human part of the interface.
We are slowly coming together, demanding that our love of both sexes not be
ridiculed or minimized. Demanding that as much as the gay/lesbian community
wants recognition and respect from the straight community, we demand
recognition and respect from both. We are falling in love or grieving in loss;
we deal with the very human issues of having children; we deal with a world
after the advent of AIDS. We enjoy discussing our shared experiences that
make us slightly different to the rest of the world. What else is a community?
Yes. Some lesbian/gay venues (pubs/bars, clubs, meeting-rooms) welcome
bisexuals (or in some cases, at least tolerate us). Many major cities in the
UK and the USA (and, increasingly, in Australia) have
bisexual groups which meet regularly and provide a bi-friendly "space".
Details of how to get in contact with the nearest such group to you can be
The Bisexual Resource Guide, edited by Robyn Ochs. It
is published by the `Bisexual Resource Center'. Send US$11.95 to
BRC, PO Box 639, Cambridge, Massachusetts 02140, USA.
Additions since the most recent edition of this are included in the Bisexual
Resources List (see section A20).
The Bisexual Resources List (cf. section A20)
up-to-date details of how to get lists of books (both general literature, and
specifically Science Ficton/Fantasy) with bisexual themes and/or characters.
Additions to these lists are always welcomed.
Dr. Alfred Kinsey created a scale, graduated between heterosexuality and
homosexuality, to rate individuals on actual experiences and psychological
reactions. The ratings are as follows:
0 - Entirely heterosexual.
1 - Predominantly heterosexual, only incidentally homosexual.
2 - Predominantly heterosexual, but with a distinct homosexual history.
3 - Equally heterosexual and homosexual.
4 - Predominantly homosexual, but with a distinct heterosexual history.
5 - Predominantly homosexual, only incidentally heterosexual.
6 - Entirely homosexual.
Clearly anything above 0 and less than 6 can be defined as bisexual. Although
many people will say "I am Kinsey (whatever)," it should be noted that
subsequent researchers such as Klein have found it more useful to rate people
on a variety of levels, such as "Past History," "Present History,"
"Present Feelings," and "Future Inclinations". Nevertheless the Kinsey
scale remains a
useful tool for discussion of sexuality precisely because it is so simple.