I'm Still Bi, Even If I've Only Been With One Gender

By Sky Lea Ross

October 13, 2020



Photo credit: Unsplash/Jeffrey Keenan

I have recently heard that some bis are facing a form of discrimination in which their bisexuality isn’t taken seriously or is deemed invalid if they have only dated or had sex with the one gender. If they have only been in monogamous relationships with the opposite gender or the same gender, then they are being treated as if their bisexuality isn’t “real," and they’re just trying to be “special” or use the label to get more attention.

There seems to be a sort of cognitive dissonance around the label of “bisexuality” in general. As humans, we do have a tendency to classify things. It’s how we interpret and make sense of the world around us. It’s within our nature. But because of this classification habit, we tend to like dichotomies as they are simple. Bisexuality and other fluid or non-monolithic identities challenge this notion. People tend to be averse to the shade of gray, the middle ground, or multiplicities.

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This makes me curious; if you love a certain make of car, but you’ve never owned it, driven in it, or ridden in it before, does your love for that car suddenly disappear? Let’s say you love a silver Mercedes-Benz, but you’ve only ever owned and driven a Toyota Camry. Or perhaps you’ve only been a passenger in a Toyota Camry. Does your desire to own a Mercedes magically go away? Or do you lose interest in it? Does its appeal become lost on you simply because it’s not within your possession, or you can’t access it?

If you think these questions are nonsensical, then you probably see the point I’m trying to make. Our attraction to more than one gender does not become moot simply because we have only had experiences dating or engaging in sexual activities with one gender. That simply isn’t how attraction works.

One of the ways we can break down this misconception is by changing how we understand orientation. When we insert the word “sexual” before the word “orientation," this makes it seem as if there has to be sexual activity in order for the attraction to be considered valid. Instead, it makes sense to understand orientation in an affectional sense. Not to be equated with our behaviors or actions, necessarily, but through our physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual bonds towards others, or our admiration for them, as referenced in the Journal of LGBTI Issues in Counseling, 2013. This way, it doesn’t become as convoluted or reduced down in a way that’s problematic.

Also, let’s not forget that we all experience different forms of attraction (i.e., sexual, romantic, platonic, etc.). Just because we may experience attraction to somebody on any one of these levels doesn’t mean we necessarily act on it. But it’s still there, within our awareness.

Another reason why a bi person may only date one gender is due to heteronormative social pressures or a lack of accessibility to other potential mates. A recent study found that 84% of bisexual adults are in monogamous, opposite-gender relationships.[1]

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And this is largely due to the convenience of finding a partner of the opposite gender, the overwhelming societal acceptance and benefits that come from a heterosexual marriage, and/or the lack of dating partners of different genders available. Add to this the real possibility of rejection from certain potential partners who hold biphobic views. So this doesn’t mean that by committing to one gender, a bi person loses the capacity to be attracted to others. There’s just a lack of availability or freedom to date different genders, as well as the prevalence of societal stigma working against them.

It’s the same as being inexperienced. If a monosexual person (gay or straight) hasn’t ever dated or had sex with someone from their preferred gender, do they suddenly lose all attraction to people from that gender? No!

Or even if they are experienced, they’ve had relationships or sexual encounters with the gender they’re attracted to, and now they’re in a committed relationship: do they suddenly lose attraction to all people of the gender aligned with their orientation? No! So isn’t this a double standard?

Suggesting that a bi person is no longer attracted to another gender simply because they haven’t been with others or are in a committed relationship is limiting and further perpetuates bi erasure. Let’s just give people the benefit of the doubt. They are who they say they are. If they identify as bi, they’re bi. And being or not being with other people is not going to change that.

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Sure, being with a different gender can definitely validate and confirm one’s orientation, but it isn’t necessary. The capacity for attraction is still there, regardless of one’s dating or sexual history.