At some point in their lives, most bisexual people will have asked themselves, ‘How do I know if I’m bisexual?’. You might be asking yourself this question right now. Often the implication of the question is ‘Am I a ‘true’ bisexual?’, as if there’s a gold standard or generic way of being bisexual.
For some, being a ‘true’ bisexual may mean experiencing equal attraction to men and women, or if not equal attraction, then a fixed and clear attraction that doesn’t change over time. If we don’t match up to the gold standard, then we can feel we don’t qualify as bisexual.
The reality of bisexual experience is that it’s diverse and hard to pin down in simple categories. There is no gold standard, just like there’s no gold standard for heterosexuality or homosexuality. Bisexuality can be fluid and variable. Levels of attraction can change and fluctuate, as well as respond to circumstance and who is around you at a particular time. Many bisexuals, therefore, find it very hard to say whether they prefer men or women.
Some bisexuals will have felt attraction to men and women since puberty or earlier, while others find themselves first attracted to members of both sexes later in life, having experienced only straight or gay attraction up to that point. Some bisexual people are also attracted to transsexual and transgender people.
Uncertainty about whether we are bisexual usually arises not because we don’t know what our sexual desires are, but because we live in a society which doesn’t yet have an established, shared understanding of what bisexuality is. In fact, society throws out a range of confusing and negative messages about bisexuality.
Sure, the idea that a bisexual is someone who is sexually attracted to men and women is widespread enough, but along with that idea come a host of myths and stereotypes which serve to invalidate bisexuality as a legitimate identity and way of being.
Among the negative messages about bisexuality prevalent in our society is the idea that bisexuality doesn’t exist as an ongoing sexual identity. This idea suggests that bisexuality is just a developmental phase or a period of confusion that ends in hetero or homosexuality. Sometimes identifying as bisexual is seen as a cover story for insecure gay people or straight people trying to be edgy or cool.
Bisexuals have to put up with other misguided beliefs including the notion that bisexuals are sexually voracious and promiscuous, incapable of monogamy and unable to be satisfied without simultaneous male and female partners.
So, how do you know if you’re bisexual? Here are some helpful things to remember:
- There is no such thing as a ‘true’ bisexual. There are many different ways of being bisexual.
- You do not need to have had sex with members of both sexes to be bisexual. The key factor is attraction. A celibate monk who has never had sex, and a porn star who has had a lot of sex can both be bisexual.
- You do not need to be attracted to both sexes in exactly the same way and to exactly the same extent. You might prefer men, you might prefer women, you might not have a preference, or your preference may change over time – it doesn’t matter, you are still 100% bisexual.
- It is absolutely fine to be bisexual and unable to say whether you prefer one sex or another. Heterosexual and homosexual people are not required to say whether they prefer short or tall partners, or blonds or brunettes. Likewise, you are under no obligation to clarify your sexual preferences for others.
- Ultimately, if you are capable of sexual attraction to both men and women to any degree, at any time, then you can choose to identify as bisexual. Choosing to assertively identify as bisexual is one of the most powerful things you can do to build self-esteem and confidence in your bisexuality.