This Is What Being Bisexual Really Means (To Me, At Least)

It's not a "one-size fits all" kind of thing.

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Am I bisexual? It's something I always wondered, because I have been attracted to both men and women for as long as I can remember.

When I was a teenager, I found it confusing at first as my other friends gravitated to one or the other. One of my first relationships was with a boy who came out as gay during our relationship. David and I spent lots of time talking, helping me to define my attractions more clearly.


Back then, I didn't know anyone who was bisexual and had never heard of bisexuality. In university, however, I met a number of men and women who identified as bisexual.

And the first thing I noticed was that we each saw being bisexual differently.

I was always most attracted to the energy of a person. If the connection was right, gender and physical presentation became much less relevant.

This remains true today. When I enjoy someone and connect well with them, I usually am attracted to them. I quickly learned that to many people this was unacceptable. People wanted me to choose a side.

What does bisexual really mean?

Merriam Webster's second definition of bisexuality is the most inclusive. It defines bisexual as "of, relating to, or characterized by sexual or romantic attraction to people of one's own gender identity and of other gender identities."


Although the perception of bisexuality has come along way, there is still stigma attached to the identity. That's why I stopped using the term some years ago.

RELATED: 9 Lies People Tell You When You Come Out As Bisexual

I became tired of watching the eyes of straight men light up as they fantasized about threesomes or watching me with my girlfriends. And I was tired of listening to women who identified as lesbian tell me that I just had not met the right woman and then proceed to try to convince me that the right one had just come along.


I have frequently been "educated" on the queer experience as if I have no understanding or knowledge of issues relating to HIV/AIDS, AIDS activism, and the fight for equal rights simply because I'm bisexual.

But for people who don't quite understand, some things are clear about what being bisexual does — and does not — mean.

Bisexuality is not about "either-or" or "all-or-nothing."

Sexuality is a moveable feast. Though we may be born this way, it's my clinical and personal experience that many people move across a continuum during their sexual lifetimes with heterosexual on one pole and homosexual on the other.

In addition, orientations change over time — sometimes temporarily and others permanently.

Even people who identify as strictly homosexual can find themselves in a situation in which they are aroused by heterosexual images or by a heterosexual experience. I have been to gay male clubs where lesbian women were watching gay male pornography and clearly expressing arousal. I have been in situations with gay men who happily brought a woman into a sexual experience.


Some people are 100 percent homosexual. They only find people of their own sex attractive. They only fantasize about people of their own sex.

But in my experience, this is relatively rare. Most people will fantasize about genders and sexual experiences that they would not actually physically enjoy in reality.

Then there are the people who identify as homoflexible. These people are almost always sexually attracted to people of their own sex, but there are certain situations in which they might be attracted to those of another sex/gender and there are certain types of activities they might be willing to engage in when this happens.

For example, the gay male couple I mentioned above were occasionally interested in having a woman join them for a threesome.


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For some of us, bisexuality means our sexuality and/or gender are flexible.

There are those who identify as bisexual who lean toward one pole or the other and tend to confine their serious relationships to either homosexual or heterosexual but have shorter-term liaisons or relationships with people falling toward the other pole.

In the middle are those of us who are closer to 50/50 in our orientations. We come close to equally preferring partners of our own sex and partners of another gender.

People often assume that bisexual individuals always have a 50/50 balance in relationships, but that is simply not the case. 

Many of us find that it is the energy and connection that determines the large part of our attractions. Some of us find monogamy very difficult as a result since we are not able to get our needs met physically when we're in a monogamous relationship.


There are those whose gender orientation is fluid as well, and this interacts with sexual orientation.

Fluid gender orientation means that the person does not identify as strictly one gender all of the time. He may identify as male some of the time, female some of the time, feel like a mix of the two some of the time, or identify as being without gender.

There are people that identify as heteroflexible. They are primarily attracted to people of the opposite sex, but on occasion, they may have a sexual interest or encounter with someone of the same sex.

This is trendy particularly for women since celebrities have made experimentation more popular. I have worked with women who would occasionally become sexually involved with other women but who would not have a full romantic relationship with another woman.


Finally, there are people who identify as completely heterosexual who are only attracted to people of the opposite sex in fantasy and in reality. This is also rare. More often than not, people have much more flexibility in their fantasy lives even when they do not experiment physically.

Understanding what bisexuality means requires thinking outside of the box.

So many factors play into our sexual arousal at any one time that rigidly defining sexuality and sexual orientation is not only difficult but potentially damaging to our physical and mental health. Rigid definitions lead to exclusion and isolation for people who don't fit the mold.

They lead to people repressing sexual desires, being secretive, and not taking care of their own needs or the needs of others. Rigid definitions lead to the spread of disease, psychologically in the forms of depression and anxiety and physically in the form of sexually transmitted diseases.

One of my goals as a relationship coach is to facilitate a deep exploration of sexuality that encourages clients to be flexible in their thinking.


Learning to talk about sexual health to new partners is a different experience for people who identify as bisexual.

Dating protocols are also different. For example, when do you let someone know that you are bisexual? Is it cool to go to a gay or lesbian bar to meet people if you identify as bisexual?

I encourage people who identify as bisexual to become more visible and talk more in public about their relationships and sexual lives.

This is the only way we will gain the equality and acceptance we seek in the LGBTQ community and in the community at large. The more visible we are, the less stigma there will be.

The truth is, being bisexual means something different for each individual.


Am I bisexual?

If you're wondering if you are bisexual, try asking yourself these questions, based on the OBI model:

1. Orientation

Which genders do you find yourself naturally inclined toward? Which genders do you tend to be attracted to or have crushes on? Who piques your interest?

2. Behavior

Which genders do you tend to have romantic and/or sexual relationships with? When actively dating, who are you searching for? Which genders do you fantasize about?


3. Identity

How do you describe your internal sense of sexual self? Which words feel fitting to you and do you feel comfortable donning (even privately)? How do you see yourself as a sexual person?

What does it mean to be emotionally bisexual?

If you are emotionally attracted but not sexually attracted to more than one gender, you might be emotionally bisexual, or biromantic. For example, a lesbian woman might define herself as biromantic but not bisexual because she experiences romantic attraction towards men.

What is the new word for bisexual?

You may have noticed that some bisexual people are also gravitating away from the term and using something new to define their sexual orientation. "Pansexual" is a term that means the sexual, romantic or emotional attraction towards people regardless of their gender identity.

Pansexual people might say their attraction is "gender-blind." A bisexual person may feel the same way, but may continue to use the term bisexual because it is not as obscure (and because they get tired of hearing the joke about having sex with pans).


Since "pansexual" has been popularized as a term for an all-encompassing sexual identity, there has been some Internet discourse out there in the bisexual community about whether or not bisexuality includes attraction to transgender and nonbinary people. The answer is yes, of course, it does. 

Pansexuality isn't more inclusive than bisexuality; it is simply saying "Your gender isn't a factor in my attraction to you," while bisexual might be taken to mean "I am attracted to you because you are either the same sex or one of the other gender identities I find myself attracted to."

Some people also break it down like this: "pan" means all, meaning attraction to all gender identities, and "bi" means two or more.

RELATED: What Does 'Cisgender' Mean? Sex Vs Gender Explained


Dr Lori Beth is a sex & intimacy coach, psychologist, public speaker and author who works with individuals, couples and polyamorous groups during discovery sessions to help them create and sustain healthy exciting relationships. She is also the host of two weekly podcasts, The A to Z of Sex® and Sex Spoken Here.