Members of the LGBT community fight a constant battle to be understood and accepted for who they are. Despite the significant progress we’ve made in the country and throughout humanity as a whole over the past few decades, LGBT individuals are still being misunderstood, judged and alienated today.
In particular, bisexual people are fighting a unique battle — one that leaves many of them feeling like they don’t belong and aren’t accepted by the gay nor the straight communities. Bisexual individuals are also often misunderstood by other people who identify as being bisexual because there are so many different definitions for this label. Since being bisexual means a person is attracted to more than one gender, there can still be many variations from person to person even within the bisexual community in terms of their relationship preferences.
Types of Bisexuality
Sexuality is incredibly complex, and not every person will fall under one specific category or label. Understanding bisexuality can be challenging for some, because even though two people may both be bisexual, they can still have different preferences and interests. Many types of bisexuality exist, including:
- Heterosexual-leaning: Heterosexual-leaning bisexual people are typically more attracted to those of the opposite gender, but they may also occasionally have feelings for a person of the same sex. These people may spend their early lives feeling like they aren’t “bisexual” enough but also that the term “straight” doesn’t feel right since they also have emotional, physical and romantic attractions to people of the same sex.
- Gay-leaning: On the opposite end of the Kinsey scale are gay-leaning bisexual individuals, who typically find that they are more often attracted to people of the same sex. They might go through most of their lives assuming they are gay, but find out later that they’re also interested in people of the opposite sex.
- 50/50 type: While the most common picture or understanding of a bisexual person is that they’re attracted to both men and women equally, this category doesn’t describe most bisexual people. That said, some people will, in fact, have an equal, 50/50 interest in both genders.
- Varied type: Sexual and emotional attractions are two very different things, and it’s possible that a person’s preferences may not match up perfectly to one gender. For example, maybe a woman is attracted to men physically but she finds it easier to communicate in relationships with women. If a person is more sexually attracted to one gender and more emotionally attracted to the other, they may be even more confused about their sexuality. These individuals will typically identify as bisexual, falling under a “varied” category.
- Outside-the-binary type: People who identify as outside the binary believe that gender expression as a whole is unimportant to their relationship preferences, as they are more interested in connecting with someone based on their personality. These people can still identify as being bisexual, but with the stipulation that they are just as likely to be attracted to someone who identifies as a man as they are to a woman or someone else who identifies as being outside the binary. This type of bisexuality may also be called pansexuality.
Again, since sexuality is such a complex topic, a bisexual person may fall into more than one of these types of bisexuality, or they may identify as something completely different. Everyone’s preferences will be different.
Understanding Bisexuality in the United States
As citizens of a country where gay marriage is now legal and members of the LGBT community have fought hard to earn equal rights, Americans should prioritize understanding bisexuality and other types of sexuality in order to be educated, empathetic members of society.
Here are three things to know about bisexuality in the United States.
1. There Are More Bisexual People Than Gay and Lesbian
According to statistics from a 2011 study, the LGBT community makes up about 3.5% of the total U.S. adult population — that comes out to roughly 8 million people. Of that 3.5%, bisexual individuals make up the majority, at 1.8%, compared to the 1.7% of people who identify as either gay or lesbian. More women than men identify as bisexual, but men may be catching up as different types of sexuality are becoming more accepted.
2. Bisexual Individuals Are Significantly Less “Out”
Statistics from a 2013 study show that the number of bisexual people who come out to family members and friends is significantly lower than the number of gay and lesbian people who do so.
Specifically, 96% of gay men say they have told at least one close friend about their sexual orientation, along with 94% of lesbians. For bisexual people, the number is much lower — 79%. Similarly, 77% of gay men and 71% of lesbians say most of the important people in their life know about their sexual orientation. Only 28% of bisexual people could say the same.
3. Bisexual People Often Feel Unaccepted or Threatened
One reason bisexual individuals may be less out to their friends and family members is because bisexuality is often not accepted well by heterosexuals, but also by some in the gay community as well. Heterosexuals may feel threatened by bisexual people because they’re still somewhat “gay.” On the other hand, gay and lesbian people sometimes have difficulty accepting bisexual people because they “blur the line” of sexuality.
Gay and lesbian people sometimes also find it difficult to be in a relationship with a bisexual person due to the fear of being left for someone else, since there is theoretically a larger pool of possible partners to choose from for a bisexual person. However, bisexuality is often misunderstood this way — bisexual individuals have preferences, “types” and standards just like anyone else. They don’t necessarily want to have a relationship with just anybody that comes their way just because they’re attracted to more than one gender.
Accepting Your Own Sexuality and the Sexuality of Others
As we’ve stated throughout this article, sexuality is a complex topic that has a lot of exceptions and not so many rules. Whether you want to understand the meaning of your own sexual and emotional desires or are educating yourself to be a more informed member of society, you’ll find that it’s valuable to understand sexuality so that you can be respectful of yourself and others.
By taking the time to learn about the different types of bisexuality and realizing the importance of understanding bisexuality, you’re contributing to the important task of accepting all members of the LGBT community for who they are.