How to Know If You Are Actually Bisexual: A Guide for Coming Out to Yourself
It’s not uncommon to question your sexuality at some point in your life, especially during adolescence and early adulthood. With all the discussion of the LGBT+ community going on in the media today, you might not be sure if certain feelings you are experiencing are real or not, especially if you sometimes find yourself attracted to people of multiple genders. How can you really be sure if what you are feeling is real?
You may have noticed that you feel attraction toward men, women, and possibly to people who identify outside the gender binary, but you aren’t quite sure if your attraction is strong enough to qualify you for the “bisexual” label. How can you really be sure if you are bisexual? The short answer is that only you can determine what label best describes your sexual orientation. If you identify as bisexual, then you are bisexual. However, if you are reading this article, you probably want a more in-depth explanation to help you to answer this very personal question.
What Is Bisexuality?
There have been many different proposed definitions for bisexuality. Bisexuality is commonly defined as attraction to people of both genders. This definition doesn’t quite cover the broad range of attraction that bisexual individuals may experience, as it is quite possible for people who identify as bisexual to be attracted to people who identify outside of the male/female binary or to be attracted to different genders in different ways. This definition doesn’t account for different levels or types of attraction that bisexual people may experience toward different types of people.
It is also common for people who are unsure of their sexual orientation to wonder if they can actually be bisexual if they are not equally attracted to both men and women. Many people wonder if they are bi if they are usually attracted to men, but find themselves interested in one particular woman or vice versa. A sudden interest in someone outside of your normal “type” can be a confusing experience.
A commonly agreed upon best definition for bisexuality in the bi community comes from prominent bisexual activist Robyn Ochs. Robyn Ochs describes her sexual orientation thus:
“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.”
It is very possible to identify as bisexual, even if your attraction to different genders differs in some way. Many bisexuals describe themselves as being attracted to different characteristics in different genders or individuals, as opposed to people who identify as “pansexual,” who experience attraction patterns similar to bisexuals, but tend to describe themselves as being attracted to people regardless of gender. People who identify as pansexual rather than bisexual are generally accepted and included in the overall bi+ community.
Proposed “Types” of Bisexuality
Researchers have proposed several different “types” of bisexual individuals, based on the different ways in which bisexual identified individuals experience attraction. Some bisexual people may be more attracted to one gender or another, or be attracted to different sexes in different ways. The sex and sexuality researchers Martin Weinberg, Colin Williams, and Douglas Pryor identified three different types of bisexuality in their book Dual Attraction: Understanding Bisexuality. These three types include:
- “Heterosexual-leaning” – Bisexual individuals who consistently experience greater physical and emotional attraction toward people of the other sex.
- “Homosexual-leaning” – Bisexual individuals who consistently experience greater physical and emotional attraction toward people of the same sex.
- "Varied type" – Bisexual individuals who consistently experience greater emotional attraction toward one gender and greater physical attraction toward the other sex. Experiencing this type of bisexuality can be particularly confusing, since society generally expects a person’s emotional and physical attraction to match.
These types are not completely inclusive of every possible bisexual person, however. Many bisexual individuals may also be physically and/or emotionally attracted to people who identify outside of the gender binary. While it is a myth that all bisexuals experience equal attraction to men and women, there are some bisexual individuals who do experience a nearly even 50/50 split between their attraction to men and women.
Attempts to identify specific types of bisexual individuals may not be entirely useful, as there are as many different ways to experience bisexuality as there are bisexual individuals. We are all unique individuals, despite having some shared experiences and similar patterns of attraction. The only thing we really all have in common is being attracted to people of multiple genders.
This book takes a scholarly look at bisexuality and people who identify as bisexual through intensive interviews and research into the lives of many bisexual individuals. This book may be a little dry to some readers, but it does offer an academic look at sexual orientation that you don't see very often. I highly recommend it for anyone who is looking for more information about sexual identity, especially if you identify as bi or suspect that you might be. It is also a great resource to start with if you are doing any serious academic research about sexuality.
The Kinsey Scale
No discussion of bisexuality would be complete without mentioning Dr. Alfred Kinsey’s research and what is known as the “Kinsey Scale.” Dr. Kinsey was a leading sexuality researcher who was heavily involved in research regarding sexual behavior and attraction in men and women. The Kinsey Scale, also known as the “Heterosexual–Homosexual Rating Scale,” is a tool Kinsey developed based on his observations of human sexuality. Kinsey found that most people are not exclusively heterosexual or homosexual, but rather, fall somewhere in between on a spectrum. The Kinsey Scale was first published in Sexual Behavior in the Human Male in 1948.
The scale identifies individuals as fitting into the following categories, based on their sexual behaviors:
Predominantly heterosexual, only incidentally homosexual
Predominantly heterosexual, but more than incidentally homosexual
Equally heterosexual and homosexual
Predominantly homosexual, but more than incidentally heterosexual
Predominantly homosexual, only incidentally heterosexual
No socio-sexual contacts or reactions
There is some debate as to which “scores” on the Kinsey scale qualify as bisexuality. Some people insist that only Kinsey 2-4’s are bisexual, whereas others consider everyone who falls within 1-5 to be bisexual. The Kinsey scale is only meant to be used a general guideline for categorizing sexual orientation. There isn’t an official test you can take to determine your Kinsey score, though several websites do offer their own versions of a Kinsey scale test. Where you fall on the Kinsey scale is determined by your own interpretation of your attractions and sexual behavior. Only you can decide how you feel comfortable identifying.
So Am I Bisexual or Not?
If you feel attraction toward people of your own and other genders, you can wear the bisexual label with pride! However, if you feel a different label better reflects your sexual orientation, that is okay too. The purpose of using different labels to identify your sexual orientation to others is simply to make it easier to tell people a little bit about who you are. Only you can determine what label, if any, best applies to you. Many LGBT+ individuals, including bisexuals, feel a great sense of freedom upon coming out. Proudly wearing the bisexual label can help you to find a sense of community within the bi+ community. There is still the problem of bi-erasure and biphobia even within the LGBT+ community as a whole, but the benefits of being true to yourself may outweigh any negative experiences you may encounter after accepting yourself for who you are.
How do you identify?
Questions & Answers
© 2017 Jennifer Wilber