Multiple times a month, I receive emails or messages via social media from people telling me that they like both men and women to varying degrees but don't feel comfortable identifying as bi (or pansexual or queer).
Whenever I receive messages like these, I always respond with the same question, "Why do you think that's the case?"
The answer, more often than not, is, "I'm not sure." However, there's something about the label itself that they find off-putting and/or daunting.
Trust me, I get it. That's why it took me five years of making out with guys (and doing a lot more than that) to finally embrace the bi label. And while I would never want you to feel as if you must identify as bi (or any other label for that matter), for many, identifying with a label gives them a sense of stability and community. I know I'm one of those people. I spent a number of sleepless nights wondering what my sexual identity was. For a while, I did indeed say that "I don't do labels." But that didn't bring me any peace of mind. It didn't give me a sense of closure about my identity, which at the time, I so desperately needed.
But Lord knows I have plenty of friends (who are under 35) who shun labels altogether. When they do identify as something, instead of feeling liberated, they feel restricted. If you're one of those people who feel that labels do more harm than good for you, then, of course, you shouldn't feel compelled to identify as anything. That said, please do remember that you're still part of the sexually fluid, bi+ community.
This article really isn't for the people who gain confidence and closure from not identifying with any labels. (I know those aren't the people who are messaging me anyhow.) These are for the people, like myself, who could benefit from identifying proudly as bi but are having a few mental blocks inhibiting them from doing so.
So here are 6 ways to help embrace the bi label and make it feel less daunting.
1. You can change labels at any time.
I was almost hesitant to write this because I in no way want to imply that being bi isn't a stable sexual orientation. It is not something the vast majority of bi people "grow out of." You don't lose your sexual orientation once you're in a monogamous relationship, and so on and so forth. However, the permanence of anything, especially something used to describe your own identity, can feel incredibly daunting. So know that things can change. You can love the bi label today but hate it tomorrow, preferring no labels, queer, or pansexual. That's completely fine!
2. You can have multiple labels.
I'm attracted to all genders and identify as bi, pansexual, and queer. You don't have to feel as if you're bi and only bi. You are more than welcome to identify with multiple sexual identity labels.
3. Your identity doesn't disappear when in a (monogamous) relationship.
I've known people who say it's not worth it to identify as bi because they're married to one person monogamously. If you feel that way, sure, go ahead and keep calling yourself straight or gay. But also know that your sexual orientation does not disappear simply because you're in a monogamous relationship. You have been and will continue to be bi. And you may feel more connected to the LGBTI community if you embraced the bi label.
4. There's nothing limiting about the bi label.
This is huge! Bisexual doesn't perpetuate the gender binary. It doesn't mean you're only attracted to cisgender men and cisgender women. It means you're attracted to two or more genders. Being bi doesn't mean that you like men and women the exact same amount. It doesn't mean that you have to be emotionally and physically attracted to two genders. You can be only sexually attracted to men and emotionally and physically attracted to women. The bi label allows for fluidity and growth. There's nothing restrictive about the bi label.
5. Throw away all the (negative) connotations associated with the bi label.
I know this is easier said than done. And while I hate to give advice without ways to implement the advice, to be honest, I'm not exactly sure how to get yourself to fully throw away all the negative connotations that come with a bi+ label. That said, you must try to. Keep telling yourself over and over that being bi doesn't mean you're confused, in denial, deceitful, and incapable of monogamy.
6. Remember, you're not alone.
Bi+ individuals actually compose the majority of the LGBTI community! Research has also indicated that more and more millennials are identifying as sexually fluid than ever before. A YouGov study indicated that a third of millennials in the United States don't identify as exclusively straight, and that number goes up to 50% for millennials living in the UK. You guys, we're slowly taking over the world!