What about Bisexuals?  

What about Bisexuals?

Bisexuals are individuals who are attracted to more than one gender including their own.  The attraction can take many forms from sexual, romantic, to purely emotional.

When defining bisexuality, Dr. Ritch Savin-Williams describes what he calls a ‘foundation tenet.’

“A spectrum of sexuality exists between heterosexuality and homosexuality, and we call the middle ground bisexuality”

Given that large spectrum, bisexuals often see their respective orientations and lifestyles differently. Where some are attracted equally to different genders, others are more attracted to one gender in particular.

While some are in a long term committed relationship with a primary partner, others practice polyamory.

And, where some might see their bisexuality as a lifelong commitment, others might be in transition along the identity continuum.

So, given their diversity, it’s not surprising that many bisexuals feel misunderstood and misperceived from all sides.

 

Misunderstandings about Bisexuality

What about Bisexuals?  

Bisexuals are individuals who are attracted to more than one gender including their own.  The attraction can take many forms from sexual, romantic, to purely emotional.

Bisexuals face scrutiny from within and without the LGBTQ world.  Their actions are viewed more as a choice than an orientation.  Thus, they threaten the foundational assertion that homosexuality is biologically determined.

Bisexuals are not embraced by the straight world, either.  Often, they’re accused of being on the “down-low” if they’re male.  If they’re female it’s a flashy hip indulgence for attention.

Yet, more people identify as bisexual than any other LGBTQ category.  A 2021 Gallup Poll found that more than half of LGBTQ adults (54.6%) say they are bisexual. About a quarter of bi individuals (24.5%) say they are gay, with 11.7% identifying as lesbian and 11.3% as transgender.

Still, they are the least discussed, least likely to ‘come out’ and feel the invisibility of “bisexual erasure.”  For instance, they are not included on most dating apps or sites.  When they are, bi’s say they are contacted often only to be a third partner for hetero couples.

Over the past few years, the political struggles of LGBTQ adults focused on same-sex marriage. But often absent from discussions about same-sex marriage and broader LGBTQ issues are the views and experiences of bisexual adults.

 

Why Are Bisexuals Less Public? What about Bisexuals?

 

The PEW Research Center found that “Only 20% of bisexuals say being bisexual is extremely or very important to their overall identity. The shares of gay men (48%) and lesbians (50%) who say the same about their sexual orientations are much higher.”

Unlike LG-TQ counterparts, bisexuals, the “B’s”, are much less likely to “come out” to important people in their life. “Only 28% of bisexuals say all or most of the important people in their life know they are bisexual. By comparison, 77% of gay men and 71% of lesbians say the important people in their life know about their sexual orientation.”

Other than rejection cited above, bisexuals do not face the same level of discrimination faced by others in LGBTQ communities. They are less likely to be the subject of jokes, face employment or housing discrimination or violence.

Still, bisexual individuals experienced the same kind of journeys towards developing understanding about their respective sexual orientation.  For instance, bisexuals knew they were different than the hetero norm at about the same time (13-14 years old) as gays and lesbians. Those who did ‘come out’ to important people in their lives also did so at about the same age, 20.

 

Is bisexuality just a phase?

 

Ample research says that bisexuality is neither transitional nor experimental. Instead, it is a valid identity.

For example, one study found that less than one in five LGBTQ youth who initially came out as bisexual later came out as gay or lesbian. So, while some bisexuals embrace their identity only to later identify as only gay or only lesbian, most bi’s retain their bisexual identity.

As more research regarding bisexuality emerges, more evidence points to it not being a phase, though.  In a paper published in Developmental Psychology, Lisa Diamond found that “92 percent of people who identified as bisexual still identified as bisexual a decade later.”

But as Dr. Brian Dodge from Indiana University suggests, a phase might not be a bad thing.  In contrast, it can offer necessary time to explore and deepen an individual’s self-understanding.

 

Does Generation Make a Difference? What about Bisexuals?

 

Yes, it makes a huge difference.

Of the vast majority of Generation Z adults—those under the age of 24–who identify as LGBTQ, 72% report that they are bisexual.

In contrast, roughly 50% of all millennials who identify as LGBTQ–those aged 24 to 39 in 2020—say they are bisexual.

According to 2021 Gallup Poll, “LGBT identification is lower in each older generation, including 2% or less of Americans born before 1965.”

Clearly, generation makes a significant difference in sexual identity.

 

What Difference Does Gender Make?

 

The same 2021 Gallup Poll finds that gender also makes a big difference in sexual identity as well.

For instance, women are more likely than men to identify as LGBTQ and as bisexual.  In addition, “Women were three times more likely than men to report a shift in their sexual orientation over time.”

A feeling shared across the LGBTQ spectrum is that female bisexuality is more accepted (33%) than other orientations.  “Fewer (25%) say there’s a lot of acceptance for lesbian women, and fewer still see a lot of acceptance for gay men (15%) and bisexual men (8%).  Transgender adults are the least socially accepted group (3%).”

Again, bisexual men are less likely to publicly claim their sexual identity than bisexual women or gay men.  Often, their silence stems from the acceptance data mentioned above.

 

Are Bisexuals Promiscuous?

 

There’s no evidence to indicate that bisexual people are more likely to cheat on their partners than people of any other sexual orientation.  Still, bisexuality implies sexual encounters outside of a primary relationship.

According to PEW, bisexuals are much more likely than gay men or lesbians to marry.  And, most marry a spouse of the opposite sex. Roughly a third (32%) of the bisexual women in the PEW survey our survey married along with 23% of bisexual men. “By comparison, only 4% of gay men and 6% of lesbians” chose marriage.

Dr. Zhana Vrangalova writes in Psychology Today. “The ability to be attracted to more than one gender is distinct from the desire to love, date, or sleep with more than one person. Both are distinct from the ability to stay loyal to whatever commitments you’ve made to a partner.”

Female sexuality researcher Lisa Diamond shares a story about an encounter with a bisexual woman.  The woman told Dr. Diamond the following.  “I can choose between a red car and a black car, but I’ve only got a one-car garage!”

Attraction to different genders doesn’t mean constant pursuit of sex with them.  “Bisexuals are, on average, less enamored with monogamy than those with exclusive attractions.”

But, then again, so are most men.  That doesn’t mean that all are cheaters.

Simply stated, bisexuals “appear more willing to question” and “consider other alternatives.”

 

Why Are More People Claiming Bisexuality?

 

The better question might be, why do more people question traditional gender roles?  Why do so many marriages, especially second ones, end in divorce?

The number one reason for the almost 50% divorce rate is extra-marital affairs.  When asked why they cheat on their significant other, few, if any, answer because they’re bisexual.  For many people, bisexual or not, traditional relationships are not working too well.

A growing number of young people are asking the same question as 16 year non-binary old Jasper Swartz asks.  “Why do we have to live our lives this way?”

 

Challenges

 

Dr. Brian Dodge says, “It’s a vicious cycle. Fewer bi folks come out, so there’s less bisexual visibility. The lack of visibility then causes fewer bi people to come out. This invisibility makes bi people feel alone and isolated, which leads to a slew of adverse mental health outcomes. Many studies report that bisexual people have equivalent or higher rates of depression and anxiety than their gay and lesbian peers. Those rates are already higher than those of straight people.

Actress Ana Paquin came out as bisexual shortly before marrying the male co-star of the HBO series, True Blood.  Recently, someone criticized her on Instagram.  In response to critics she asked, if it’s OK with my partner why should it be anyone else’s problem?

Recently, someone posted a rather nasty comment on her Instagram.  “I am getting tired of seeing ‘bi’ celebrities constantly advocate for it only to end up conventionally married to men with multiple children, living out the so-called white-picket-fenced live.”

Her response? “Ah, yes, you-aren’t-queer-enough BS.”

 

Ending the Cycle

 

It’s no wonder why many bisexuals choose to remain private.  Nor is it a surprise that they suffer more anxiety and depression than their LGBTQ counterparts.  Some go to the point of self-erasure think they haven’t earned “the right” to be part of a larger LGBTQ community.  Where others along the LGBTQ spectrum often share a sense of community, bisexuals tend to go it alone.

So, what’s the solution?

Writer and activist Zachary Zane suggests that more bisexuals need to come forward to create the supportive community they lack.

“So I’m making a request to my fellow bi people: If it’s safe for you to do so, come out, why don’t you? And, for whoever needs to hear this, yes, you are bi enough. We don’t just want you to join the bi community; we need you to — for our visibility, our community, and our well-being.”

Perhaps with a greater presence of an already large and growing group, acceptance will follow and a new norm acknowledged.   And, break a vicious cycle from invisibility to anxiety and depression.

Sources Available Upon Request