What to Say When Someone Asks How Bi You Are

By Mandy Shunnarah

July 15, 2021

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Photo credit: Bigstock/Milkos

I feel so fortunate to be bisexual because being able to fall in love across multiple genders has given me life-changing relationships and has allowed me to meet some of the best people. However, sometimes people who aren’t bi don’t quite understand what bisexuality means to those of us who are.

No matter who I was dating, whether my partner was a man, woman, or nonbinary person, someone always wanted to know exactly how bisexual I was.

People didn’t come out and ask directly, “Just how bisexual are you?” but that’s essentially what their questions boiled down to. People both queer and straight would ask:

  • “Do you mostly date men?”
  • “So you’re basically a lesbian?”
  • “Who are you most attracted to? Or is it really like 50/50 men and women?”
  • “Aren’t you really only bi if your attractions are split evenly between the genders?”
  • “If you had to pick one gender to date, who would it be?”
  • “What’s wrong with admitting you’re lesbian/straight? Are you sure you’re not actually lesbian or straight?”
  • “How do you know you’re not just experimenting?”
  • “What are your percentages? Like, are you 80% men and 20% women or what?”
Group of multiethnic young women talking to each other after fitness exercising at park.
Bigstock/Rido81

I’ve been asked all these questions and more like them.

Not only are questions like these invasive, but they’re also invalidating. Questions like these ignore the experiences of bisexuality because the underlying assumption is that bisexuality is a phase or an intermediary point between straight and gay and that all bi people are just gathering information and waiting to decide which one they are.

The last question, the one about percentages, acknowledges that bisexuality does indeed exist, but it assumes that bisexuality can be easily quantified — and that you owe the asker an easily quantifiable explanation. You shouldn’t have to calculate statistics to satisfy someone’s nosiness.

The “just how bi are you?” questions also tend to ignore attractions to nonbinary people and assume (incorrectly) that there are only two genders. The “Are you attracted to men and women equally? Is it really 50/50?” type of questions don’t account for partners or crushes who are nonbinary, genderqueer, and/or genderfluid.

People asking questions that attempt to minimize bisexuality is a form of biphobia, which is a facet of homophobia — even when it comes from other queer people. Biphobia shouldn’t be ignored, tolerated, or normalized just because it sometimes comes from others in the LGBTI community.

I love being bisexual and having the freedom to fall in love with a person, regardless of the genitals they have or gender they’re most comfortable expressing. I didn’t understand why people who asked so many questions about my bisexuality couldn’t see what a beautiful identity being bisexual is.

Due to biphobia, many bi people have had the experience of not feeling queer enough — especially bi people who are monogamously partnered with someone of the opposite sex. For years after I came out, I’d answer every nosy question lobbed at me. In the early days of my coming out as a bisexual person, I felt pressured to justify my dating decisions and prove that I really did belong to the Bs in LGBTI.

Image of several friends of different ethnicities sitting on a couch together with their coffee mugs asking questions to the blond haired woman on the right.
Bigstock/Milkos

But I noticed that even when I gave my best, well-thought-out answers, the people interrogating my choice of partners were rarely satisfied. Answering one of their nosy, invasive questions just led to more nosy, invasive questions. Because talking about sex is normalized in the LGBTI community, I’ve even encountered people who thought it was appropriate to grill me on the details of my sex life. Eventually, I learned it was better not to take the bait because the whole point of the interrogation was to essentially prove that I wasn’t queer enough.

This begs the question: queer enough for who? I felt queer in my body and in my romantic and sexual attractions. I was clearly queer enough for myself, so why was I trying to meet some unattainable goal of being “queer enough” for a person who didn’t seem to think anyone bi was sufficiently queer?

These days when someone asks me judgmental questions about my bisexuality, I have a couple of responses:

  • “You’re asking the wrong question. Why don’t you ask me what I like about this person I’m dating/what I like about having partners across multiple genders?”
  • “Why do you need to put me in a box?”
  • “I like who I like, and it’s as simple as that.”
  • If you’re feeling snarky: “That’s a personal question.” or “I usually only get that deep with my best friend.”
  • “Let’s unpack why you think that’s something you need to know.”

And, of course, the classic catch-all: “That’s none of your business.”

I’ve used all of these, and unless the person is especially rude, it tends to put a stop to the interrogation. The person might be annoyed that you’re dodging their questions, but if you setting a boundary that requires them to respect you is annoying to them, you probably don’t want this kind of person in your life. Do you really want being interrogated about your bisexuality to be a condition of your friendship? The best and most supportive queer communities are the ones built on mutual respect.

You can be who you are and love who you love without having to keep score, categorize your attractions, or change your identity to make others more comfortable. Having a bi-friendly queer community can make all the difference. If your queer community is biphobic, I encourage you to find another. Nowadays, there are bisexual support groups online and bisexual-specific queer groups that host meetups and other events.

Bisexuality is real, you are queer enough, and you don’t owe anyone an explanation.

Image of an attractive man and woman of mixed ethnicities standing side by side with their arms crossed and a white tshirt, smiling against a purple background.
Bigstock/deagreez

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