Jennifer Wilber is a writer, teacher, and bisexual rights activist from Ohio.
Wait, There Are Different Types of Bisexual People?
The simplest definition of bisexuality is a sexual orientation in which a person is attracted to both their own and different genders. Though all bi people are attracted to more than one gender, different bisexual people experience their attractions in different ways and in different intensities. The most commonly agreed upon definition of bisexuality in the bi community is the one written by the prominent bisexual activist Robyn Ochs, who often describes her sexual orientation in this way:
“I call myself bisexual because I acknowledge in myself the potential to be attracted, romantically and/or sexually, to people of more than one sex, not necessarily at the same time, not necessarily in the same way, and not necessarily to the same degree.”
You may identify as bi, even if your attraction patterns to different genders differ considerably from those of someone else who identifies as bisexual. Not everyone who identifies as bisexual experiences their sexuality in the exact same way, however. There are as many different ways to be bisexual as there are bi people. Though sexuality is much too complex to define specific categories that completely encompass every person on the planet, sexuality researchers have proposed several different “types” of bisexual individuals, based on the different ways in which bisexual identified individuals experience their attraction to people of different gender identities.
Some bi people may find that they are more attracted to one gender or another or that they experience attraction to different genders in different ways. The sexuality researchers Martin Weinberg, Colin Williams, and Douglas Pryor identified three different types of bisexuality in their book Dual Attraction: Understanding Bisexuality:
- Heterosexual-leaning type
- Homosexual-leaning type
- Varied type
There may also be two other types, which I proposed in an article, How to Know If You Are Bisexual: A Guide for Coming Out to Yourself. These are:
- 50/50 type
- Outside-the-binary type
Because sexual orientation is so complex, some bi individuals may find that they relate to more than one of these categories, while others may find that none of these categories completely fit their unique experiences and identity. These categories may be helpful for some people who identify as bi, however, to help them to better understand their own experience of bisexuality.
1. Heterosexual-Leaning Bisexual
Bisexual people who consistently experience greater physical and emotional attraction toward people of the other sex can be described as “heterosexual-leaning bisexuals.” These people find themselves closer to the “heterosexual” side of the Kinsey scale, but do still sometimes experience attraction to their own gender.
Heterosexual-leaning bisexuals often feel that they aren’t “bisexual enough” because their main attractions appear to be heterosexual, but the labels “heterosexual” or “straight” don’t feel right for them, as they do still experience same-sex physical and/or emotional attractions. Some may assume they are straight until they realize that they are also attracted to the same sex later on in life.
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2. Homosexual-Leaning Bisexual
Bisexual people who consistently experience greater physical and emotional attraction toward people of the same sex can be referred to as “homosexual-leaning bisexuals.” These bisexual people identify closer to the “homosexual” end of the Kinsey scale, but still experience heterosexual attraction sometimes.
Some homosexual-leaning bisexuals may feel that it is easier to simply describe themselves as “gay,” while others proudly acknowledge their bisexual identity. Similarly, to heterosexual-leaning bisexuals, some homosexual-leaning bisexuals may think that they are gay before eventually realizing that they are, in fact, bi later on in life.
3. Varied Type Bisexual
Though it is commonly taken for granted that a person’s sexual and emotional orientations match, it is possible for people to experience sexual attraction to one gender and emotional attraction to another. Bisexual people who consistently experience greater emotional attraction toward one gender, but a greater physical attraction toward the other can be described as “varied type bisexuals.”
People who experience this type of bisexuality may feel be particularly confused about their sexual orientation because there is a cultural expectation that a person’s emotional and physical attraction will always match. It’s not uncommon for varied type bisexuals to be confused about their sexuality and have a difficult time determining if they are gay, straight, bi, or something else entirely. They may place greater emphasis on their sexual or emotional attractions before eventually coming to the conclusion that both are equally valid and that they are bisexual.
4. 50/50 Bisexual
There is a common and persisting myth that all bi people experience equal attraction to men and women. While this doesn’t describe the majority of bisexual people, there are some individuals who do experience a nearly even 50/50 split between heterosexual and homosexual attraction.
These bisexual people are nearly equally emotionally and sexually attracted to both their own gender and other genders (e.g., men and women). Some people may find that at some points in their life they are more 50/50 in their attraction, while at other times they may identify more closely with one of the other categories.
5. Outside-the-Binary Bisexual
Many people who identify as bi find that a potential partner’s gender expression is unimportant, and more interested in a person for their personality. These individuals can be described as having an “outside the binary” bi orientation. These people are just as likely to be physically and/or emotionally attracted to people who identify outside of the gender binary, in addition to men and women. These people may also identify as "pansexual." Pansexuality is a similar orientation to bisexuality that may have some overlap with bisexuality. Some people may identify more strongly with one label or the other. Others may use both labels interchangeably.
How to Determine What Type of Bisexual You Are
Admittedly, attempts to identify specific types or categories of bisexuality may not be entirely useful to everyone who identifies as bisexual. There are as many different ways to experience bisexual attraction as there are bi individuals. We are all unique, despite having some shared experiences and similar patterns of attraction. The only thing that all bi people really all have in common is being attracted to people of multiple genders.
Questions & Answers
Question: I am attracted to both males and females (and have had a girlfriend and currently have a boyfriend). I felt like I wanted to have sex with my girlfriend but I don't have the same feeling towards my boyfriend. Am I really bisexual or is there another word to describe what I am?
Answer: You are the only one who can answer that. Maybe you are bi, and just aren't attracted to your current boyfriend. Maybe you are a lesbian, and aren't attracted to any men. This is something you need to find out for yourself. If defining your sexuality is causing you too much distress, don't feel like you need to put a definite label on it. Just do what feels right to you.
© 2019 Jennifer Wilber