So You Just Met a Bisexual: a Guide for Allies (and “Allies”)

Congratulations! You just met your very first bisexual! Isn’t it exciting? I’m sure you’re brimming with questions about everything from your new friend’s sex life to whether or not it’s true that they’re invisible. (They are. All bisexuals have the ability to disappear whenever they like.) Before you draw up a list and start the interrogation, however, let me preempt a few of the questions you’re most likely to ask – and explain to you why you probably ought not ask them.

Here are some things you don’t know about your new bisexual friend:

You don’t know how many sex partners they’ve had. They could have had one or a hundred and one (go them!) or none at all. They might have sex with multiple partners over a year long period, or they might be into long-term relationships. Bisexuals, much like what I’m going to call “non-magical folk” (that’s you), haven’t necessarily all slept with the entire football team and all the cheerleaders (though, again, if they have – damn, your new friend has got some game!). Bisexuality does not automatically correlate with promiscuity. (And if it does – so what? You’re not one of those terrible people who thinks that someone who sleeps with a lot of partners is immoral, are you? Are you?)

Speaking of which, you don’t know what their sex drive is like. Some bisexuals are like me and would have sex ten times a day if they could. Some like sex very rarely, some once every couple of days. Some like sex a lot with a particular partner but not at all with other people. Kill the myth that every bisexual is a sex addict. We’re human, you know. We can control our libidos just as well as you can (or better, if you’re a straight dude – YEAH, I SAID IT).

You don’t know if they’re polyamorous, monoamorous, in an open relationship or happily single. Some bisexuals are poly. I know lots of poly bisexuals! But I also know lots of monoamorous bisexuals (I don’t like the word “monogamous” because it refers specifically to the number of a person’s wives, which is kinda sexist and useless). For example, I’m married to just one other person. Truly, I am! He grows a fantastic beard and makes a cute giggling sound when I tickle him. Lots of people are surprised by this, because for some reason, they think all bisexuals are either poly or not in relationships at all. I guess I was single at some point in my life, and many of my bi friends are single now or in open relationships, but bisexuality does not somehow preclude monoamory or other kinds of long-term relationships.

On that note, you don’t know if they’ve ever cheated. No, shut up. You really and truly don’t. Thanks to television, people assume that bisexuals are incapable of forming commitments or keeping to them afterwards. The reasoning seems to be, “well, you’re attracted to everyone, so you’re bound to cheat sooner or later.”

Really? Let’s break that down.

You, the monosexual reader, are attracted to one gender, correct? It might be your own, or it might be another. I don’t know your life. Whatever. The point is that there is a group of people to whom you are attracted.

Are you attracted to every single member of that group?

No?

Neither are we. It really is that simple.

Which brings me to my next point…

You don’t know if they’re attracted to you. To be fair, this is something gay people get as well (holla, fellow queers!), but bisexual people seem to get it twice as bad, partly due to the fact that as I said above, everyone thinks we’re untrustworthy cheaters. Let me tell you right up-front: I am not attracted to people who aren’t attracted to women. I’m just not. Straight girls? Turn-off. Gay dudes? HUGE turn-off. Non-binary people who do not dig women? Sorry, but nope. If you’re not into me, I am most definitely not into you. So relax – you can be in the locker room together. They’re not checking you out. You’re probably not their type anyway, so don’t flatter yourself. If they were into you, you’d know.

Actually, while I’m on this topic, you don’t even know the genders to which they’re attracted. “Bisexual” means different things to different people. Sometimes it means “attracted to both men and women”. Sometimes it means “attracted to both cisgender men and cisgender women”. Sometimes it means “attracted to both my gender and other genders.” Some of the latter group identify as pansexual, but some don’t, and it’s absolutely zero percent your job to tell people which labels to use. If your bisexual friend is attracted to men and people-who-aren’t-men, that’s cool. If your bisexual friend is attracted to binary people and non-binary people, that’s also cool. If your bisexual friend is into both men and women but mostly likes women, that’s cool too. (Also, can I get her number? She sounds rad.) We choose how we identify – not you, not anyone else, but us.

So it turns out you don’t know much about your new bisexual friend, do you? All of your preconceptions are useless, and you’ll only embarrass yourself by blurting out questions like, “how are you married to a dude if you’re bi?” (I get this in bars a lot) or, “why don’t you have a girlfriend too?” (I also get this in bars a lot). Bisexual people vary as much as monosexual people do. We have sex a lot or not at all. We have a partner or three partners or a rotating roster of partners or no partner at all. We are attracted to men or women or non-binary people, and not always equally. Some of us cheat because people cheat sometimes, but most of us don’t because most people don’t. And don’t think you can pick us out of a crowd, either – in terms of appearance, we run the gamut from roller derby girls with pink spiked hair to belles with long, dark curls and killer red lipstick to gym-going dudes with buzzcuts to quiet, skinny guys in Zelda t-shirts to non-binary femmes or androgynes rocking suit jackets with their Converse. We’re not a monolith any more than any other group is.

So, what do you know about your new bisexual friend?

You know that they’re bisexual, and now you know not to irritate them with asinine and offensive questions. And most importantly, you know that they’re human, so treat them that way.

See? That was easy! Think of how much time I’ve saved you.

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23 thoughts on “So You Just Met a Bisexual: a Guide for Allies (and “Allies”)

  1. I just noticed you said “Monogamous” is about wives. But gamous is partner, not wives. Like in polygamous which can be polygynous (womens) ou polyandrous (mens), monogamous is about partner, isn’t it ?

  2. At my college most of the women I met said they were bisexual. The only question was, “What, you’re not, Bi?”

    • If they said they were bisexual, it’s not really anyone else’s place to claim they’re lying. People experiment with their sexualities. That’s very normal, and it’s very telling that only young women are routinely mocked for it.

      • I’m not mocking anyone. I went to Sarah Lawrence College when it was still cool. It was open minded and people weren’t boxed into gender roles. Located in Bronxville but surrounded by Yonkers we got a lot of homophobic remarks and scrutiny from communities but that didn’t harm the supportive LGBT or straight people. Yeah, people experiment and humans get to love who they love no matter who says not to. And sex has absolutely nothing to do with it. Sexuality is human. A part of being human… so I’m not arguing with your rant or right to be irritated by excitable people who discover they know Bi-people. I know Bi people aren’t liars and cheaters and that they get married and are capable of keeping their partners like anyone else. I’m never going to be someone on your blog, mocking you. Not that it matters, but I’m Bi and married to a man. So I get it.

  3. Thank you for this post, with a special smile for the section on how “bisexuality” means different things for different people. I reached me, as someone who used to identify as bi, then pansexual, and now am coming back to using the bisexual label for myself but constantly feels like I have to explain myself for it.

  4. Hi, I was going to reblog this until I saw this “attracted to both cisgender men and cisgender women”. This definition of bisexuality is a transphobic one because it others trans people from cis people. There really is no difference between these two groups or anything markedly specific to trans people that distinguishes them from cis people other than their trans status. There is literally no way to tell for sure if someone is trans or cis a lot of the time so saying that you aren’t attracted to trans people is saying that you are expressly not attracted to them because they’re trans.

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  6. Generally pretty good stuff. Many times people feel like they can create it out of whole cloth out of a belief it does not exist but it does. It should also come as a relief that bisexual people have been thinking about how to be non-binary in our approach to understanding and thinking about our sexuality for several decades. Bisexual erasure of our history negates that truth and gay and lesbian communities continue to spread these misconceptions frequently telling young people they should identity as pansexual in order to not be “gender binary” even while holding on to terms such as gay and lesbian which are FAR more binary than bisexual 😉

    In 1991, black bisexual theorist and poet June Jordan called the bisexual movement a “mandate for revolutionary Americans planning to make it into the twenty-first century on the basis of the heart, on the basis of an honest human body, consecrated to every struggle for justice, every struggle for equality, every struggle for freedom.”

    A year before Jordan’s statement, “The Bisexual Manifesto” was published in Bay Area Bisexual Network’s national magazine, Anything That Moves. It reads in part:

    “Bisexuality is a whole, fluid identity. Do not assume that bisexuality is binary or duogamous in nature: that we have “two” sides or that we must be involved simultaneously with both genders to be fulfilled human beings. In fact, don’t assume that there are only two genders. Do not mistake our fluidity for confusion, irresponsibility, or an inability to commit. Do not equate promiscuity, infidelity, or unsafe sexual behavior with bisexuality. Those are human traits that cross all sexual orientations. Nothing should be assumed about anyone’s sexuality, including your own.”

    Bisexual people have had a long history of identifying their sexuality in non-binary ways, many times because their sexuality is experienced in complex ways which is reflected in gender/sexualities expert Robyn Ochs’s commonly used definition:
    “Bisexuals are people who acknowledge in themselves the potential to be attracted – romantically and/or sexually – to people of more than one sex and/or gender, not necessarily at the same time, not necessarily in the same way, and not necessarily to the same degree.”

    There are many ways people along the bisexual spectrum choose to identify themselves and some commonly used terms include bisexual, pansexual, fluid, queer, multisexual, non-monosexual, omnisexual, and polysexual. In fact there some who prefer no labels. Personal identity labels can vary depending on the region, generation, and/or cultural background. Sometimes personal identity labels are also used to indicate a particular approach to critical theories on race, gender and sexuality. The term bisexual can be used both as a political identity and a label for the entire community aka “The B in LGBT.”

    ~Faith Cheltenham, BiNet USA President. Join us on facebook.com/groups/binetusa if you haven’t already!

  7. I can’t offhand remember the interviewer OR the celeb in question I’m afraid – not very up on contemporary pop culture unless it’s related to a fandom I care about – but I remember recently seeing snippets from a recent interview with a female, out, bi actress who’s married to a man, and the interviewer asked (in at least two different ways, as I recall) about how she ‘used to be’ bisexual. *deaddesk*
    From what I saw/remember, she was quite incredibly gracious about it while also pointing out how utterly ignorant he was being.

    • You’re thinking of Anna Paquin. The interviewer was the guy in the suspenders,i dont remember hs name, maybe Larry Something? Ive only ever watched one of his interviews and wow what a jerk (Ive only read and seen gifs of the interview with Paquin)

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