Ask A Bi Dad: I'm pansexual and I worry about my partner's need to publicly identify as bi

By Lewis Oakley

September 15, 2022

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Hi Lewis!

I have been in a monogamous relationship with a man for 10 years. I am a woman who identifies as pansexual and he identifies as bi.

A little "btw" — he is a handsome, fit man and receives plenty of attention from both men and women.

I am perfectly fine with our cis-appearing relationship, and it is my preference. Unless the topic comes up naturally, I do not feel the need to "announce" myself as pansexual, or wear the identity on my sleeve. However, he frequently makes reference to being bi, and it seems that it's important to him that people around him, even those outside of our circle, know that he's bi.

I don’t understand this. I have asked him, but it seems to be a sensitive subject for him, and I don’t really get an answer. It seems to me that a bi individual, in a traditional man — woman relationship, would not need to have their bi status known.

It seems that only when one is looking for a partner, should they need to identify their preference in such a manner. Such as in an online dating profile, to attract their crowd of interest. Otherwise, it almost feels like trolling for other (male) partners to me.

As far as I know, he is faithful, as am I. We have talked at length about both of our needs for this, over the years. It has been important for us, as we both experienced sexual abuse as children and the abuse resulted in poor sexual boundaries when we were young.

So, my questions:

1. Are my view about his need to publicly identify as bi antiquated? Misguided? I need some insight and clarity.

2. Are bi men truly able to settle for one sex partner over the other? Maybe they need both? (I feel stupid even asking that question, as it seems like the obvious answer would be "of course". But is it really that simple?)

Thank you, again, for any help you can provide.

Trish

An Asian couple lay on the grass having a picnic together and laughing.
Pexels/Mental Health America

Hi Trish

Thanks for the question. How great that I get to answer your letter during Bi Visibility Month.

Whilst I don’t know your boyfriend personally I can add some context as to why he might feel the need to constantly be coming out as bi.

For many bi men, being bi can be a source of panic or shame, something they feel society forces them to hide. When they reach a point of being proud and open about who they are, often there is no going back because they genuinely are proud of who they are and want to share that with the world.

His bisexuality is as much a part of his identity as anything else, just like dating you is part of who he is. Often times bi people feel that their sexuality should be non-negotiable. They’d rather let people know and have them reject them straight away than let anxiety build over the fact that their sexuality might be an issue for the new person they are interacting with.

Being open as a bi man in a "cis-appearing relationship" is also about giving back. As young bis, we often don’t see other bi people around or have them as role models. It is a lonely existence to feel like you’re the only one of your kind. Bis often appear gay or straight in a relationship, and the only way to overcome that is to be visible and let people know that you're bi. The power this can have to inspire young bi people and to challenge the stigma that "all bis chose a side eventually" is incalculable.

My advice is to encourage and celebrate your partner's bisexuality with him. It’s clearly important to him and seeing you be as passionate about his visibility as he is will mean the world to him.

To answer the second part of your question "are bi men truly able to settle for one sex partner over the other?" The answer is simply — Yes. Most bis do. So long as they are getting what they need from the relationship. I’m sure that you can relate to this yourself, as a pansexual (an identity that falls under the bi umbrella). Many pansexuals have the capacity for monogamy despite the stereotype that pansexual people are all nymphomaniacs. It’s important that we as bi and pan people support each other and not further any bad stereotypes. 

Thanks for the question.

Lewis

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.
Image/thegayphotographer

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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