Mythbusting Monday: Bisexuality Does Not Exist

Hello, bisexual person sitting right here? I wish I could end the post there. Okay, hello, I exist, done. But that doesn’t appear to be good enough for some people, including people who themselves do not identify as straight. I think all bisexual people have heard the same things at least once, “you’re just confused”, “you need to just pick one”, “this is just a stepping stone to you coming out as gay.” No, no, and no. At first, hearing people constantly denounce my sexual identity was demoralizing, hurtful, exhausting to defend. Now, I think as I’ve become weary of dealing with it, it’s just kind of funny. If bisexuality doesn’t exist, then what am I even doing here?

The denial of the existence of bisexuality is called “bisexual erasure” and is a manifestation of biphobia. (Other aspects of biphobia are stereotypes, like all bisexual people are promiscuous and just want to have sex with everybody! Tell me how I’m supposed to do that when I don’t even exist?) And it occurs both within the queer and straight community. For someone who is bisexual, it can feel like you don’t fit anywhere, like the community that you thought would accept you actually never will. As a society, we think in binaries, and when confronted with someone who does not fit the binary, someone who is bisexual, or someone who is trans*gender, we just reject it altogether. It’s easier to deny the existence of something than to realize we should change our whole system of thought.

In reality, however, sexuality, like gender identity, is entirely fluid. Alfred Kinsey was one of the first researchers to quantify the idea that there is a scale of sexuality, not two boxes (gay or straight). His scale is called the Kinsey scale, and while not perfect, it is a useful tool to understand the way sexuality works. Kinsey’s scale codes 0 as “exclusively heterosexual” and 6 as “exclusively homosexual” and notes that most people fall somewhere in between. Three is “equally heterosexual and homosexual”, which is really what most people think of when they think about bisexuality (before they go ahead and tell you you don’t exist to your face, of course). Bisexuality doesn’t always work that way either. My favorite definition of bisexuality comes from Robin Ochs, a bisexual speaker and activist (who has been to JMU twice):

I call myself bisexual because I acknowledge that I have in myself 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.”

Her definition works to counter other myths about bisexuality: no, we don’t want to have sex with everyone all at once (although there is nothing wrong with a) polyamory, which may go hand-in-hand with bisexuality; or b) sleeping with many people). But I think it also gets to the heart of issues about sexuality: I get to define how I identify, and I get to determine where I fit on the Kinsey scale, or what have you.

Bisexuality Pride Flag

Image via.

Some people hold the belief that bisexual individuals are just unwilling to come out as gay, that identifying as bisexual is somehow easier. I would dispute that, it’s not easier to be excluded from a community that you support that should always support you too. It’s hard to be rejected from a community you think you belong to. And I am also harmed by homophobia and biphobia. I’m harmed when my relationships with women are not considered to be valid, and I’m harmed when I’m fetishized for my sexuality (you see, bisexual women only exist when men can get pleasure out of it). I’m harmed when I am not allowed to dicate my own sexuality, and when people make assumptions about it based on who I am dating at the time. People’s assumptions that I am straight or gay depending on who I date revokes my capacity for self-determination and that can be a serious struggle. So, I’m not unwilling to come out as gay, it’s just that I’m not gay, and that bisexuality isn’t that much easier. I’ve been told by someone who identified as gay that I was only bisexual because I’m a feminist. My bisexuality, like other sexual identities, is not a choice. It’s not a political action, in and of itself. Now my feminism is partially contingent on being bisexual – because I understand the intersection of oppressions and how I am oppressed not only as a woman, or a person that is bisexual, but as a bisexual woman. Politics do not beget my sexual identity, but my sexual identity may have to do with the evolution of my politics.

A study came out this past summer confirming what all bisexual people and bisexual men, in particular, already know: we exist! Thank you, science, for confirming my existence as a human being, I love it when that happens. But really, it’s upsetting that people thought this was necessary in the first place. It seems obvious to me, but I suppose it bears saying again: no one should tell another person how to identify sexually, or otherwise. If I tell you I am bisexual, that should be evidence enough that bisexuality exists. You need to accept it, and move on, and understand that coming out can be difficult and informing me that my existence is not possible really does not help. (Of course, this is all a discussion about an ideal world, right?) Seth Fischer, a writer at, wrote a great piece called “Notes from a Unicorn” on his struggle with identifying as bisexual and dealing with bisexual erasure. It is a piece I found particularly poignant and relatable.

At this point in my life, I’m tired with dealing with people being dubious of my sexual identity. And if scientific studies can’t prove to people that bisexuality exists, or, you know, the fact that they’re talking to a real-life bisexual does not confirm that to them, I’m not really sure what else I can do. What I hope to accomplish with this mythbusting is to reiterate that, beyond bisexual erasure not being okay and being incredibly damaging to the psyches of those people who identify as bisexual, people determine their own sexual identities. I would never think to tell a straight person or a gay person or any person that their sexual identity does not exist. Who am I to police the identities of others? Sexual identity is fluid, as is gender identity, and that is something that absolutely needs to be respected.

Edited at 9:53 p.m. to change “transgendered” which is incorrect to “trans*gender”. Thanks to L for correcting this!

10 thoughts on “Mythbusting Monday: Bisexuality Does Not Exist

  1. I love that you used “In and Out” I was going to use that song for when I did a Queer Gardens piece on Ani DiFranco but you beat me to the punch!


    1. It’s such a fantastic song… we can always have it posted more than once, right? (Also, I am so looking forward to that post!)


  2. A great post; I love it. Just a note — the word is “transgender”, or is often spelled as “trans*gender”; transgendered is incorrect.


    1. Thank you for correcting me on this! I’m going to edit the post to reflect your comments. I really appreciate it, I wouldn’t want to offend anyone.


  3. straight male here, fwiw. I get the sense that bi folk simply can’t win, even in the eyes of some portion of the gay community. If you become part of a commited lifelong straight relationship, then you just took the easy path, and (especially if you’re a man) you’re just going to sneak around anyway, while denying your true self as much as a gay Catholic priest. On the other hand, if you become part of a committed lifelong gay relationship, then you are just like all the other Kinsey-sixes who used “bi” as a socially acceptable stepping stone, and you’re just unwilling to admit that you did so. (and you’re also going to sneak around anyway. So basically you have to alternate without commiting, or else you’re not sufficiently bi. And if you have enough partners, then guess what, you’re fulfilling another stereotype (and maybe bi folks will hate you for that)!

    an argument that really bugs me is “well, at least you can get married.” first of all, by this standard, they should resent straight people, including allies. Secondly, this assumes the same thing that many homophobes do – that you could just redirect your attraction however you like! Suppose Sue is a bisexual woman in a committed lesbian relationship. Does it really make sense to say to her, “Well, at least you can get married.”? in some sense, yes, but the same would go for a straight woman in an interracial relationship somewhere that interracial marriages are illegal.

    i think that a future without alk this identity-mongering might be nice, but then again maybe not. in any case, one hopes that increased tolerance/acceptance will render this stuff moot, since much of the resentment from the gay community is really resentment of homophobia. i hope!


    1. My only objection I have is most bi guys I have met who have come to terms with their bisexual orientation don’t “sneak around”. Most I have met are in long term monogomous relationships with women (and statistically this is true too). For me what has been MOST important has been finding a relationship where I felt like I could fully be myself. The most affirming have been with bisexual women because I feel like I am being seen for who I am. Most bi guys do not come out at all BTW and therefore are difficult to date and are probably fewer in number. I don’t click with most of the gay or straight community and recently have been finding other bi and trans folk I feel comfortable with.


  4. Dogs, if given the chance, will often f**k the crap (no pun intended) out of both same and opposite gender dogs. Does that make them bisexual? Nope, they just like f**king a lot. The difference between the two? The latter will produce children (the point of all animals being on ths planet), and the former will not. Nothing against gay, bi-, whatever, but if you want to fulfill your existance on this planet, do you not feel the need to pass on genetic information in a meaningful way?


  5. It amazes me that people deny bisexuality when you look back at human history — great artists and leaders who were bisexual, and even civilizations where it was either institutionalized or not considered a big deal. Are they unaware of these, or do they just brainwash themselves into believing that Alexander the Great could ONLY be gay or straight (his great love was a man, but also defied his generals to marry a specific woman)?


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