Bisexuality is an attraction to more than one gender. Those who identify as bisexual feel a sexual and/or romantic attraction to people of a different gender as well as their own.
While this offers a basic definition, bisexual people are a diverse group. Each individual perceives their sexual orientation differently. Some may be equally attracted to both men and women, while others have a stronger attraction toward one gender over another.
A bisexual person may be in a long-term same-sex or heterosexual relationship, or they may alternate between the two.
What Is the Difference Between Pansexual and Bisexual?
Bisexuality is often confused with pansexuality, which is when someone is attracted to all genders, including cisgender, transgender, agender, non-binary, and other gender non-conforming individuals.
These definitions may seem very similar, but there is a distinct difference. Bisexual means attracted to multiple genders, while pansexual means attracted to all genders.
For many in the LGBTQ community, these terms may overlap. Some people may identify as bisexual but still feel an attraction for all genders. Identifying as bisexual versus pansexual mainly comes down to the preference of the individual.
Myths and Misconceptions About Bisexuality
Bisexual people often face misconceptions about their identity. These misconceptions can lead to prejudice, known as biphobia. It can happen within or outside the LGBTQ community.
Myth: Bisexual people date only cisgender men or women.
While the prefix “bi” may literally mean two, bisexuality does not mean attraction to only two genders. For many bisexual people, the “bi” indicates an attraction to their same gender as well as other genders.
Myth: Bisexual people are confused or in denial.
One pervasive misunderstanding about bisexuality is that it’s a phase — and that bisexual people will eventually come out as gay or lesbian. But bisexuality is not transitional or experimental. It is a valid identity.
One study found that only 18% of LGBTQ youth who initially came out as bisexual later came out as gay or lesbian. So while some may come out as bisexual first before identifying as gay or lesbian, this doesn’t mean that bisexual identities aren’t valid.
Myth: Bisexual people are more likely to cheat.
Sexual preference is not linked to promiscuity. There’s no evidence that bisexual people are more likely to cheat on their partners than people of any other sexual orientation.
Myth: Only women are bisexual.
Men can be bisexual, too. But they may be less likely to be open about it. In one study, only 12% of bisexual men said they were openly bisexual, compared to 28% of all bisexuals and 77% of gay men. The survey found that this disparity may stem from the fact that 33% of respondents perceived social acceptance of bisexual women, while only 8% said the same for bisexual men.
While there may appear to be fewer bisexual men than women, this may be due to the social stigma around coming out as a bisexual man.
Helping Your Loved Ones Understand Bisexuality
Due to some of the myths about bisexuality, it can be challenging to come out to family, friends, or a partner as bisexual. You don’t have to tell anyone about your sexual orientation unless you are ready. But some people find that having a conversation with loved ones about it is helpful.
If you decide to tell others, your friends and family members may have a lot of questions after you come out to them. It may help to put together a few online resources about bisexuality that you can share. This will help answer their questions, fight any misconceptions they’ve heard about bisexuality, and will take some of the burden of explanation off of you.