What does it mean to be bisexual? All the answers to your burning questions
Ah, bisexuality. The unicorn of the LGBTIA+ community, this sexual orientation is often overlooked and misunderstood. But of course, not here at Kinky Karrot! In this article you’ll find everything you need to know about it, including a definition, the history of bisexuality and of course – how to tell if you’re bi yourself!
What does it mean to be bisexual?
If we’re talking hard definitions, basically it means to be attracted to both women and men. However, we can go deeper than that. Men and women here, naturally, include cis and trans folks, and bisexuals can be male, female, or anything in between.
There’s a separation between the term “bisexual”, meaning people who are attracted to both genders, to pansexual – meaning being attracted to all gender and everything in between. The two terms do have an intersection though, and if you want to know more about it, we have an awesome article here where you can get all the details!
But even the idea of being attracted to both genders doesn’t encompass the beautiful complexity of bisexuality. A lot of bi folks are often annoyed at questions like, “but which one do you like more, men or women?” or “which gender are you really attracted to?”
This annoyance is understandable, as it is a misrepresentation of what it means to be bi. So, to delve deeper we need to get into the concept of the Kinsey scale.
Kinsey scale: Sexuality as a spectrum
Alfred Kinsey published in 1948, along with a team of fellow researchers, a study that revolutionized the way we see sexuality. By studying different individuals, they noted that sexual preference actually happens on a spectrum, not a hard divide.
This means that there are people who are 100% homosexual, heterosexual or bisexual, yes – but they are the extremes of the spectrum. Most of humanity, according to Kinsey, actually falls somewhere in between – navigating more or less towards one extreme or the other.
How we fall on the Kinsey scale can also change during our lifetime, according to new fantasies and experiences.
So what Kinsey is really saying is that most of us is bi – at least a bit. And it’s the constrictions of society that makes suppress this – especially for the ones closer to the 100% heterosexual edge.
This helps us understand that all kinds of bisexuality not only exist but are valid – and it’s perfectly normal to fantasize and experiment with a gender you usually don’t have sex with.
Why does this matter? Well, unfortunately, bisexual people still get targeted due to their sexuality a lot – and understanding the concept of the scale can make people feel seen. But now that we have defined the meaning of bisexuality, let’s dive into what it is not.
What doesn’t mean to be bisexual – unfair stereotypes
Many stereotypes have been linked to bisexuality, and it’s time to set the record straight and address them one by one. First, connected to what we talked about above, there is the idea that bisexuality is not real, it’s just a phase before someone “decides” on their true sexual preference. Along with that comes the idea that if you are in a relationship with someone from the opposite gender it means that you decided on straight – and the contrary is also true.
Sadly, this erasure also comes from within the queer community at times.
It’s important to say, once and for all, that bisexuality is an entire sexuality and identity in itself, and who someone is dating at a certain time does NOT interfere with that.
Think of it this way; if you love chocolate cake and vanilla ice cream, just because you’re eating cake now does it mean you’ve stopped liking ice cream?
Another harmful stereotype is the idea that bisexual folks are somehow “greedy” and promiscuous; this comes from a notion that bisexuals are overly sexual and will always want “more”.
In fact, this can be a reason for people to break up with bisexual people which is quite sad to think about. Especially because there is no correlation whatsoever – the thing is just a myth.
It’s important to validate bi people, especially in the queer community, because the B in LGBTQIA+ is not just a letter!
The history of bisexuality
If you think that bisexuality is a behavior exclusive to humans, think again! Actually, bisexuality is spotted in many species across nature – including various mammals and us. In fact, there is a track record of bisexual behavior being recorded as early as the ancient history.
The thing is the clear distinction between homo and heterosexual people is fairly recent – dating back to the nineteenth century. Before that, there wasn’t really a clear concept definition of bisexuality.
Which doesn’t mean it didn’t exist!
In Ancient Greece, romantic and/or sexual relationships between people of the same gender were common – and it was also fairly common to see reports on people that would have lovers of both genders.
Even the gods were prone to bisexual behavior themselves, as there are tales of the almighty (and VERY sexually active) Zeus cozying up to a beautiful boy, proving these ideas were not sinful or reprimandable.
There are also records of bisexual behavior in a variety of cultures – especially the ones that were not under the influence of Christianity. Having relations with both sexes was common amongst Samurai in Japan and in Native Tribes of the American continent, for example.
Blame it on Freud
The term bisexuality was actually coined to mark it as a disease, as deviant. At the height of the psychologization of human behaviors, the idea of someone who could be attracted was considered an anomaly – along with many other normal needs. Who doesn’t remember Freud infamously dismissing female desire as hysteria?
It would take a long time for the term to be reclaimed by actual bisexual people – something that only started in the 1960s and has been consistently growing since then.
Nowadays, bisexuals have their own beautiful flag – with the colors purple, blue, and fuchsia – and their own international visibility day – the 23rd of September.
Bisexual characters in fiction
We know visibility matters, and there’s still a long road before bisexuality is adequately portrayed in the media. Most of bisexual characters are a gross misrepresentation of the spectrum – a lot of them being female who are on screen to be fetishized. Bisexual men are rare to come by.
But bisexual characters have been existing and resisting for a long time! Here is a list of some of the most famous ones:
Vampires Vampires in fiction tend to be overt sexual creatures, and there has been a bisexual innuendo along the way. Take a look, for example, at the portrayal of vampires in Anne Rice’s The Vampire Chronicles. But even before that, Lucy, one of the first vampires to ever show up in fiction in the Middle Ages, was biting the necks of both boys and girls.
Dorian Gray Dorian Gray, the beautiful and vain immortal character created by Oscar Wilde, was famously bedding both men and women.
Harley Quinn While Harley mainly has eyes only for her Mister J., in the comics she’s confessed to also like girls.
Atomic Blonde Most recently, Lorraine Broughton, played by Charlize Theron in Atomic Blonde is also into boys and girls – and has a romance with a charming female spy.
B is for beautiful
To sum up: Bisexuality is a vibrant community, and some would even go far as to say it contemplates most of us. It’s very important to spread information about how it works, validate bisexuality in all its forms and celebrate bi people!
How do I know if I’m bisexual?
The short answer is, you are considered bisexual if you feel attraction to both genders – even if you’re more inclined towards one or another, or if that changes with time.
The long answer is sexual preference and identity are extremely personal matters, only you can say if you feel you fit with the label – or if you need a label at all. Just know that however you feel; your sexuality is seen, and you are part of the queer community.
How did YOU find out you were bisexual? What is YOUR favorite bisexual character? We would love to hear more about your experiences on this topic – you can write us in the comment section on the very bottom of this page!