Bi Book Club: Bisexuality: The Basics

By Jamie Paul

May 21, 2024



Photo credit: Image/Jessica Kingsley Publishers

In his advice column, “Ask a Bi Dad”, bi advocate, writer, podcaster, and UK television/radio personality Lewis Oakley has been answering bi questions and offering guidance for years. In his new book, Bisexuality: The Basics: Your Q&A Guide to Coming Out, Dating, Parenting and Beyond (2024), which was inspired by Ask a Bi Dad, Oakley combines his years of experience as an advice columnist, commentator, and bi activist. It may be an exaggeration to say that Bisexuality: The Basics is the definitive, 360-degree bi Q&A guide to end all others — but not by much.

Published by Jessica Kingsley Publishers, Basics has a clear and efficiently laid out format consisting of a long series of advice-style questions and answers organized by category into a number of chapters. The book begins with an “about” section that briefly previews the chapters to come, before delving into all things bi — from defining terms to discussing labels, to coming out, to relationships, dating, sex, mental health, dealing with biphobia, parenting, family, self-consciousness, building community, and more. Perhaps most remarkably, Basics covers all this territory in a mere 156 pages, and with Oakley’s engaging and accessible style, the book can easily be read and absorbed in a single afternoon.


Many of the questions Oakley answers are ones he has been asked many times before, like “How do I prove to the haters that I’m not secretly gay?” and “I feel so isolated. How can I make some bisexual friends?” But others are questions many are too embarrassed to ask, such as “Is it wrong that I don’t like to use condoms with women?” and “How do I deal with paranoia after my partner came out as bi?” As Lewis told me when we sat down to discuss this book, he set out not just to summarize the most common questions he gets asked, but also to answer “some of the ones I don’t think are asked enough”.

In addition to straight-up advice, Basics also contains a fair amount of research interspersed throughout on subjects including domestic abuse, mental health, sexual health, dating, bi parenting, and funding for bi organizations. This isn’t just a book of “in my experience” personal advice — Oakley brings the receipts too.

A unique aspect of being bi is that even if someone is out of the closet, it’s not always obvious to others that they are bi. Often, they’re assumed to be straight or gay, usually depending on whoever they happen to be seen with. As such, bi folks have to come out over and over again. For this reason, Oakley takes particular care in his “Coming Out” chapter to cover virtually every angle. He has a section on coming out to family, coming out to partners, coming out to wives, husbands, same-sex spouses, friends, children, and parents, among others. No matter who you are, or who you’re coming out to, this book has you covered.

One feature of Bisexuality: The Basics I particularly appreciate is that there’s a chapter dedicated to people who are not bi. As a straight person who covers bi issues for a living, I come across many thoughtful writers, activists, and experts who provide helpful advice to bi people. But I also see a lot of preaching to the choir, in-group navel-gazing, and missed opportunities to reach the people who really need reaching — the rest of society. I’m not sure how bi advocacy can be properly done at all without speaking to non-bi audiences at least some of the time, and I’m glad Oakley acknowledges that.

Page for page, I don’t think you’re going to find a more comprehensive, nuanced, digestible, and useful guide to the basics of bisexuality than Bisexuality: The Basics. Lewis told me, “I just want bisexual people to have a resource where they think, ‘Oh my God, someone gets it!’” When it comes to bi issues, few writers “get it” more.

Image/Jessica Kingsley Publishers