Amandla Stenberg

Amandla Stenberg came out as bisexual in January 2016.

photo: Marissa Pina, Vivala

When you hear the term bisexual you probably have good idea of what that means. Or at least some idea. You’ve heard celebrities on TV who have said he or she was bi. Or maybe you’ve seen a snippet (by accident, of course) of porn starring two girls and a guy. So titillating! You figure it means a woman or man who likes to sleep with both sexes. Right?

Um, NO. Granted, a majority of the U.S. population has a passing awareness of the bisexual community, from characters on TV to news stories on the evening news. But for most people, the bisexual lifestyle is still foreign and for others, it’s still just the “B” in LGBT.  So it’s time to shed a little light on the lifestyle and debunk a few myths.

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1. Bisexuality is easily defined. The definition is not so straightforward. For example, if you think it means being attracted to both men and women, you’d only be partially right. Different studies show that up to 25 percent of transgender people consider themselves bisexual, so saying being attracted to men and women can be seen as “setting up a gender binary,” explains sex educator Aida Manduley. “A more nuanced definition within many bisexual communities is 'attracted to one's same gender/sex and other genders/sexes.'"

Eunice, a 22-year-old Latina from Los Angeles, shared her own definition:

“Being bisexual means I have the capacity to date/marry/ be with a man or a woman, my attraction isn't fixed. Despite who I end up with, or who I’m dating, my identity is bisexual. If I am dating a male-identified individual, I am not suddenly straight. If I am dating a woman, I am not suddenly a lesbian. I am bisexual, and all that means is I am open to loving a greater population of the world, regardless of the stereotypes. I find that to be quite beautiful.”

2. Bisexuality is on the rise with the millennial population. According to the latest national survey by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, a growing number of millennial women and men are identifying as bisexual. You know who doesn’t agree? Members of the bisexual community.

“I'm bothered by the way that these studies treat bisexuality as if it's a new trend, and only amongst young people,” says Shiri Eisner, activist and author of Bi: Notes for a Bisexual Revolution. “This has a lot to do with the dominant notion that bisexuality is a passing trend, that it's either in the future or in the past but never here and now. Many young people identify as bisexual because many people identify as bisexual. Perhaps the only thing that's changed is people's willingness to acknowledge their bisexuality publicly.”

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3. Bisexuals are undecided and will some day make a “choice.” If you really want to piss off a friend who is bisexual, ask them when are they going to make up their mind and “choose” a sex. Yes, this type of comment is heard often from both the straight AND gay communities, neither one really understanding. “The queer community often dismisses your identity and experiences because some feel that you're not ‘queer enough’ or that you're ‘half straight,’” says Eunice. The obsession with "how a bisexual person will end up” can be damaging and leads many to feel like they’re misunderstood.

4. Bisexual people can’t be monogamous. Bisexuality is about being attracted to yours and other genders. There’s no master rule book that states is has to happen at the same time. This is where people begin to lump threesomes and polyamory all together. The truth is bisexual people are just as willing and able to be monogamous as any heterosexual person. Statistics prove that about 25 to 35 percent of straight spouses cheat, so it’s safe to say that heterosexuals are sometimes non-monogamous too. “While there's an overlap between bisexual and non-monogamous people, these are not all the same, and someone isn't inherently non-monogamous because they're also bisexual,” says Manduley.

5. Bisexuals are promiscuous. And here we are, back to the porn. One of the biggest myths is that bisexual people are in it for MORE. More partners, more sex. More privilege. More lies. Bisexuals, women especially, are hypersexualized in our culture. The girl-on-girl fantasy is everywhere! It’s a pretty intoxicating to a straight man to know there are women who like to sleep with both men and women. But let’s get real: Just because a person technically has more options doesn’t mean they’re going to jump on every one of them.