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Why Celebrate Bisexuality?

Perhaps as many as one-quarter of the population is bisexual.

Key points

  • Our knowledge about bisexuality is based on a small percentage of those who have attractions to multiple sexes.
  • Many of our stereotypes about bisexuality may need to be altered or modified.
  • We may be experiencing a post-identity revolution in which traditional sexual categories are problematic for youths.
Source: Caitlin Childs/CC BY-SA 2.0
Source: Caitlin Childs/CC BY-SA 2.0

As I write this, it is Bisexual Awareness Week that extends from September 16 through September 23. The final day of #BiWeek is designated as “Celebrate Bisexuality Day.” Bisexual+ Awareness Week seeks to accelerate acceptance of the bi+ (bisexual, pansexual, fluid, no label, queer, etc.) community and to draw attention to the resiliency of the bisexual+ community. I expanded and deepened my knowledge about bisexuality during the last several years by extensively reading research about bisexuality and by conducting interviews with young adults who have sexual and/or romantic attraction to multiple sexes. I summarized what I learned in a recent publication that explores critical issues on bisexuality.

During a recent media interview, an opening question was, “Why celebrate bisexuality? Why don’t we have a Straight Awareness Day to celebrate?” I didn’t take it as an aggressive question, though I did sidestep the softball question with the tautological question, “Isn’t every day a day in which we celebrate straightness?” My task here is not to promote bisexuality or to assume a moral stance regarding sexual categories but to share what I learned.

Common Questions

The online Bisexual Resource Center poses several vexing questions that they have fielded in their outreach program. Although conclusive answers cannot be universally applied in all situations, we now have solid leads.

1. Is bisexuality defined by identity, behavior, attractions—or some combi­nation of these?

a. All of the above in terms of both sexual and romantic domains.

2. Human sexuality is a continuum and thus bisexuality falls in the middle, but where?

a. Everywhere in between exclusively straight and exclusively gay/lesbian.

3. Does bisexuality refer only to the middle point, or 50/50 attraction?

a. It refers to all degrees of attraction from 99% straight to 99% gay/lesbian.

4. Does bisexuality encompass people whose attractions change over time?

a. Yes, and this is fairly common.

5. If you are once bisexual, are you always bisexual?

a. Very likely, though the expression of bisexuality may change over time.

6. If you are in a long-term relationship, do you stop being bisexual and “become” gay or straight?

a. No.

Who Is Bisexual?

A bisexual is an individual who has sexual and/or romantic attractions for or behaviors with multiple sexes or who identifies as bisexual or some other proximate term. Implicit in this definition is no stipulations about the degree to which one is attracted to multiple sexes, whether it be 90/10 or 50/50.

How Many Bisexuals Are There?

If we rely on national surveys that ask one question about sexual identity or orientation with no clear definition of either term and that provides only three or four options (straight, bisexual, gay/lesbian, don’t know), 3% to 5% answer “bisexual.” If, however, we were more inclusive (see below) and include those “lost to researchers,” my best guess is a prevalence ranging upward to 25% of the general population (especially among millennials and Gen Zers) for both sexes. If one were to argue that this is an undercount, I would not disagree.

Those who are frequently not counted but should include those who:

  1. Are sexually and/or romantically attracted to multiple sexes.
  2. Engage in sexual and/or romantic behavior with multiple sexes.
  3. Insert an alternate descriptive term (e.g., pansexual) on surveys that reflects multiple sexual and/or romantic desires.
  4. Are fluid in their sexuality and/or romantic attractions over time or context.
  5. Refuse to answer or skip the question for unique reasons (e.g., to conceal, do not trust researchers, do not understand the question, are uncertain or question their sexuality).
  6. Identify as trans*, kinksters, polyamorous, or some other identity outside the listed ones.

Once these individuals are included, our traditional assumptions and findings about bisexuality will drastically change. For example, the following might well be true:

  1. Men are no less likely than women to be bisexual.
  2. Bisexuality is as likely to exist regardless of ethnicity, race, social class, geography, or historic time—although the expression of bisexuality is influenced by these aspects of life.
  3. Bisexuals are as physically, socially, and emotionally healthy as straights and gays/lesbians.
  4. Biphobia is drastically decreasing.
  5. Bisexuality is readily acceptable among millennials and zoomers and, increasingly so, among older adults.
  6. We are moving toward a time in which sexual identity is less significant, sufficient evidence of a post-identity revolution among the young.

References

Bisexual Resource Center, https://biresource.org

R.C. Savin-Williams (2021). Bi: Bisexual, Pansexual, Fluid, and Nonbinary Youth. New York: New York University Press

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