Ask A Bi Dad: Can I really call myself bisexual?

By Lewis Oakley

March 12, 2023



Photo credit: Pexels/Andres Ayrton

Hi Lewis,

I identify as bisexual but I've never been in a same-sex relationship. I was raised in a strict, conservative, Catholic household, where sex negativity was the norm. I wasn't allowed to date until I was 18 and sexual attraction was (and still is) treated as the worst kind of sin. The only thing worse than that was being LGBT — even dating a bi man is seen as sinful. Dating people of the opposite sex is hard enough without the shame and fear I still live with getting in the way, but exploring my bisexuality has been worse. 

I never felt like I had the comfort or room to explore my sexuality. Not only did I fear rejection from my family, but also from other LGBT people. I know my feelings are more than simple curiosity, but I just can't get past my fear of messing up and having my sexuality invalidated (which happened once by a woman I had feelings for). 

I'm now in a relationship with a cis man and I love him, but I can't help but feel sadness for moments and experiences I never had. I don't know if I'll ever have a relationship with anyone beyond a cis man. Now I'm wondering if I just don't have the right to call myself bi. It's frustrating because I know no one would question me if I said I was straight. My LGBT friends have told me I'm bi enough no matter what, but I still feel unworthy.

Can I really call myself bisexual?


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Hi Pippa,

I’m so sorry to hear of your struggle, thank you for reaching out to me. Let me start by saying, YES, you really can call yourself bisexual. 

It’s not something you have to prove or have to tick off a checklist of people you’ve dated. You don’t need to have had sex with or even dated someone of the opposite gender. If you know, you know. And from your message, it's clear to me that you are bi — which means you certainly have a right to call yourself bi.

I understand that you feel fear and shame due to your upbringing, but it's important to remember that these feelings are not your fault, and you must fight like hell to not let them define you. This is much easier said than done. I think many of us, to varying degrees, feel that our parents made the idea of sex, attraction, and LGBT issues taboo. Childhood is so formative, there isn’t really a way to escape some of the messages that were programmed so early into our minds, but at least we now see that these messages are not the reality of the situation. 

As I read through your message, I noticed that you’ve struck a very common theme amongst the bi people that reach out to me, which is that of unexpressed bisexuality. Many message me talking about how they "missed their chance". They are now settled down and have huge regrets that they did not explore because they were too scared. 

With respect to this, these always come from people in relationships. So first off, congratulations on having found your person! Being in a loving committed relationship is hugely fulfilling and something that a lot of people spend their life searching for. So you’re already winning. 

Yes, should the relationship last (and if monogamy is important to you both) there are experiences you’re not going to have. But bisexuality isn’t all about the physical. You’ve been given the ability to find more than one gender attractive. That’s a gift, being able to notice all the sexy people walking around makes the world a more beautiful place.

There are also so many ways you can embrace your bisexuality without physical/emotional contact. Joining a local bi/LGBT group, forming friendships with other bi people, being an advocate of other bi people. Telling your story could also be hugely helpful to other bi people — and those who encounter them. Helping people understand that negative attitudes toward LGBT people can stifle us and make us nervous to embrace who we truly are. 

I also wanted to pick up on your point about the fear of rejection from other LGBT people. Exploring your sexuality is a personal journey, you must do it in your own time and your own way. It’s not on other LGBT to be the gatekeepers of the movement. You, as a bi woman, dating a cis man, without having had the opportunity to explore your bisexuality, have just as much of a claim to the movement and the community as a gay man in a same-sex relationship. 

Rejection and invalidation are hurtful, but there are some lovely people out there who will accept you and celebrate you. Don’t shut yourself off from these supporters because you’re worried about encountering some of the haters.

Remember, you should be your own advocate and not let other people's opinions define you.

You’re also not in this alone, open up to your partner if you can. Talk through your feelings and let him support you. 

Wishing you all the best.


What advice would you give to this reader? Give us your take in the comments below.

Lewis Oakley standing confidently and smiling against a brick building.

Bisexual people often have few other bi people to turn to for support or to ask questions. This means we often can’t build on the experience of other bi people and improve things for the next generation. Ask a Bi Dad is aimed at tackling this.

Lewis Oakley is one of the leading bi advocates and writers, campaigning to improve the public’s perception of bisexuality. Recognised by the Pride Power List 2021 and with various award nominations under his belt, Lewis has been successful in making bisexuality national news.

Lewis knows more than most how lonely being bisexual can feel, particularly in those early years. Now, confident in himself, his relationship, and a dad of two, Lewis recognises how rare and lucky he is. This is why he wants to help where he can by answering the questions of bi people from all around the world.

If you have a question that you would like a perspective on, email at [email protected]

*Lewis is not a licenced therapist, and the advice offered in this column is not intended to replace or substitute for any professional advice. If you have specific concerns or a situation in which you require professional, psychological, or medical help, you should consult with an appropriately trained and qualified specialist.


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