Many people know that the “B” in LGBTQ refers to bisexual, but there’s still confusion around what it means to be bi. For many people who are still figuring their sexuality, bi erasure and stigma can make it hard to realize you’re bisexual. But identifying a label that feels like home to you — whether that’s bisexual or another term — can make it so much easier to feel confident, happy, and comfortable in your own skin.
The term bisexual refers to a person who’s attracted to two or more genders. According to the Human Rights Campaign, research has suggested that nearly 50% of people in the LGB community identify as bisexual. Additionally, as GLAAD reported in 2017, a survey found around 15% of trans folks are bi, though there are no clear stats on how many nonbinary people identify as bi.
Though bisexual folks make up a large portion of the LGB people, they are often face stigma from inside and outside the community. Bi people are often labeled straight or gay if they make a relationship official, or they’re seen as “greedy” if they choose to date casually since they are attracted to multiple genders. The list of misconceptions surrounding bisexuality — including that it’s a phase, that bi people cheat more often, and that men can’t be bisexual — goes on. These myths can make it even more difficult for people to realize that bisexual is the identity that fits them best — and that can lead to years of frustratingly searching for other labels that never seem to feel or fit quite right.
That’s why Amy Quichiz, a writer, community organizer, and the founder of Veggie Mijas, says that openly celebrating her bisexuality is empowering. Quichiz tells Bustle via email, “Being bisexual to me means being powerful. In such a heteronormative world, being bisexual is fearless — a society that keeps putting me into their toxic boxes cannot touch me.”
In spite of bi erasure, bisexuality is a valid orientation, and one that makes many of us in the LGBTQ community feel seen, and, dare I say it, proud. Here’s how seven women and nonbinary people came to the realization they were bisexual throughout their lives, because not everyone knows they’re bi right away — and that’s OK.
"I remember I was seven years old when we passed by the gay parade in Jackson Heights. I saw the rainbow flag and women holding hands for the first time, and all of [the] sudden, I got this feeling of butterflies in my stomach," Quichiz explains. "Then, when I was 11, I held hands with a girl for the first time, and it just felt right."
"In 2006, I was 13, and saw the Cassie video for ‘Me and You,’ and just knew I was bisexual. I started to identify as bisexual in middle school — and it was an ‘of course you are!’ feeling," she says. "It never felt out of place; it always felt so comfortable."
"I realized I was bi when I came to accept my attraction to everyone but cis men. Bisexuality — the cishet definition — has been widely [and] falsely claimed to be attraction to two cis genders (men/women), so I never felt like I fit into that definition," Camille says. "When I did more research of bisexuality, and learned the true meaning (attraction to two or more genders), is when I realized I am bi."
"I do usually say I’m queer or gay though, because people still falsely believe [bi is] a binary attraction, and I don’t want cis men thinking I’m attracted to them," they explain.
For Becca, there was never a single moment she realized that she was bisexual. "I’ve always been attracted to both women and men. I don’t guess I ever thought much about being bi."
"It never seemed to fit exactly though," she says. Finding the term demisexual, which is when someone does not experience sexual attraction until they form an emotional connection or bond with another person, was the "’ah hah’ moment" for her.
"For me, and maybe this is unusual, but I had crushes before I knew anything about orientation labels. I had a crush on a girl in kindergarten, and then a crush on a boy in first grade," Sophie says. At 15, she explains that looking back on these memories helped her know that she was bi. However, she wasn’t out about her bisexuality until she was an adult because of her religious upbringing.
Anna says that, "I first realized I identified as bisexual when I fell in love with a woman [at 20 years old, after dating men for a couple of years]. I had suspected it, but was sure once I realized I had romantic feelings for her, and was sexually attracted to her."
"I announced to my friends that I was bisexual when I was 13, following a break up with a boy from the U.K. who I had been dating long distance. I don’t know if I even believed it myself at that point; it was kind of reactive and impulsive," Beth says.
However, not too long after, she explains that she met a girl in an outpatient program she became completely "enamored" with, and 18 months later, they started dating. "It was then that I knew for certain that I was bisexual," she says.
"I thought I was straight until I was 25 or so. Even though I’d kissed girls and definitely had a crush on more than one, I didn’t think actually liking more than one gender was an option," Cakelin says.
"It was actually Callie Torres on Grey’s Anatomy that convinced me otherwise," they say. "Watching her come out as bi and start dating a woman, who then broke up with her because she wasn’t gay, was so relatable for me."
Realizing you’re bisexual doesn’t have to look a certain way, and doesn’t have to happen at a certain time in your life to be valid. Being bi — and everyone’s journey to (re)claiming the term — is unique to each person, which is just one reason why bi visibility is so important all year round. Finally having a label that you can wholly identify with can be a life-changing, empowering experience.
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