When I came out as bisexual, my friends had questions. That’s not necessarily a bad thing—after all, asking things is how you learn, and the people in my life that love me were curious and careful, hoping to be supportive while allowing me to talk about the coming out process.
But along the way, I found that there were some questions I’d rather not answer. No, being bi doesn’t just mean you’re attracted to everything that moves, and I don’t think that people who identify as bi are trying to have it all. There are some misconceptions about being bi, even around the LGBTQ community, that people are still working to dispel.
A good rule of thumb is that if you wouldn’t ask your straight friend that question, then it’s probably wise to reflect on why you’d ask your bi friend that. Again, I’m not trying to shame anyone here—curiosity is perfectly natural, and I’ve had so much support along the way—but here are a few things I wish that my friends understood when I came out as bi.
Please don’t ask which gender I prefer
This question plays into assumptions we have about a gender binary, which excludes people that don’t identify as male or female. Bisexuality can include being attracted to a whole range of people, all over the gender spectrum. And yes, some people do have a preference when it comes to gender—maybe they’re attracted to mean, women, and other points along the gender spectrum, but really only want a romantic relationship with women. That’s absolutely OK, and it’s also completely OK for that to change. Sexuality can be fluid
But it’s also the kind of question that is a really personal. If we’re good friends all talking about our love lives and we’re cool about you asking us about our sexuality, you might want to word it like, “Which genders are you attracted to?” Most likely if we’re comfortable with you, we won’t mind talking about it. But as a subject, it’s delicate, and should be treated as such.
Monogamy and sexuality are two different things
A human’s ability or desire to be monogamous is an entirely separate quality from their sexuality. Plenty of straight and gay people don’t like or aren’t good at monogamy, and plenty of bisexual people (myself included) want a long-term monogamous relationship. Plenty also want a long-term polygamous relationship, or another variation where you have a long-term partner, but are allowed to see other people under certain circumstances. There are plenty of straight monogamous people who cheat and plenty of bisexual people who don’t. Coming out as bi doesn’t say anything about monogamy; it’s a whole separate issue.
Personally, I prefer monogamy. I would rather have a closed relationship. That’s not true for everyone, of course! But it’s also not fair to equate sexual orientation with what kinds of romantic relationships you have.
It doesn’t mean I’m attracted to everyone
Yes, I might be attracted to more than one gender. But no, it doesn’t mean that everyone qualifies as someone I’m attracted to. Just like anyone else, I take things into account likepersonality, values, intellect, and generosity. The number of people I’m attracted to is actually a pretty small number, it just happens to include a variety of genders. (After all, if you’re a straight woman, are you into every single dude? Probably not.) Who we date can be as complex a process as it is for anyone else. What we want out of a relationship can be as different from bi person to bi person as straight person to straight person. No two bi people want the same things. Everyone has different standards.
It’s unfair (and untrue) to assume that bi people are “greedy”
This is a weird stereotype that floats around: The idea that because you’re attracted to more than one gender, you’re greedy or selfish. I don’t even need to tell you that it’s completely off base, right? Nobody chooses their sexuality or their desires. It’s not like one gender wasn’t enough so we decided to switch sides. It doesn’t work that way.
Even if you settle down with one person of one gender, it doesn’t mean you stop being bi
One of the weirdest thigns about being bi is that from the outside, if you’re a person who identifies as a woman dating a person who identifies as a man, it can look like you’re part of a heterosexual couple. But the truth is often so much more complicated—and more interesting!—than that. Bi erasure is a real thing, because it’s less visible than being gay or straight is. It’s one of those things that reminds you not to make assumptions: Just because you think what’s going on in a couple doesn’t mean you actually do.
What gender we “end up with” has more to do with a person’s character, not their gender. And if we decide to get married to a person of the opposite sex some day, it does not erase our sexuality. There are a lot of assumptions out there about bisexual people, but the more we work to fight those stereotypes and assumptions, the more people with different sexualities will be accepted and treated with humanity. And that’s something all of us deserve.
(Image via iSTock)