What Does It Mean To Be Bisexual?

This sexual identity has a lot of misconceptions surrounding it.

Bisexuality, the B in LGBTQ+, is a sexual identity, and individuals who identify as bisexual make up most of the LGBTQ+ community.

Still, this identity comes with a lot of misconceptions around it. Not everyone even believes it's a true orientation; it's been described as a temporary phase before a person comes out as lesbian or gay, for example.

But bisexuality is a real identity—here's what bisexuality means and why everyone needs to recognize and understand it.

What Is Bisexuality?

Simply put, "bisexual" and "bi" are umbrella terms for people who "recognize and honor their potential for sexual and emotional attraction to more than one gender."

People may experience these attractions in different ways, and degrees during their life, and bisexual people don't need to have had specific sexual experiences (or, for that matter, any sexual experiences at all) to identify as bisexual.

What Bisexuality Isn't

Even with definitions of bisexuality available, the identity isn't completely understood.

"There is this misconception that bisexual people have to have a partner of each gender to be satisfied, implying that they are more likely to be sexually active or unfaithful, even though many bisexual people are happily and faithfully monogamous," said Jo Eckler, PsyD, licensed clinical psychologist and author of I Can't Fix You—Because You're Not Broken.

Another misconception about bisexuality is that a person can't know they're bisexual unless they've been intimate with a man and a woman, said Eckler.

Bisexuality isn't limited to the binary genders of male and female. "Bisexual people are attracted to people of the same and of other gender(s), including transgender people," said Eckler. Ultimately, bisexual people have the capacity to love and be attracted to people of all genders.

"Our society is still very binary in regard to gender, and sexual orientation—so much of those definitions are based on what you don't like or what you are not," said Eckler.

In other words, bisexuality is misunderstood based on how others perceive it. "If someone has a binary attraction and worldview, it can be difficult for them to imagine and trust how someone could be attracted to more genders because that's a nonbinary way of experiencing the world," added Eckler.

Challenges Bisexual People Face

Unfortunately, there are different things that feed continued misconceptions about bisexuality, like biphobia or a lack of accurate and positive representations of bisexual people in the media.

And those aren't all of the challenges that bisexual individuals have to face.


Biphobia is known as "anti-bisexual discrimination." Biphobia has been shown to play a negative role in the mental and physical wellbeing of individuals who identify as bisexual.

Bisexual Erasure

People who identify as bisexual can experience what's known as "bisexual erasure," Kristen Martinez, an LGBTQ+ affirmative counselor at Pacific NorthWell in Seattle, told Health. "They get read as straight with a partner of another gender and read as gay or lesbian when they are with a partner of the same gender," explained Martinez.

Others Viewing Their Identity as a Phase

Some people who don't identify as bisexual assume that bisexuality is "just a phase," said Martinez. "Male-identified bisexuals, in particular, may experience the uncomfortable intersection of homophobia from potential female-identified partners, while female-identified bisexuals may tend to be hypersexualized due to cultural forces of sexism and misogyny."

Lack of Support

Additionally, bisexual people may not feel completely accepted into the larger LGBTQ+ community, which can lead to isolation and a lack of support.

"Conversations about LGBTQ+ rights sometimes gloss over the letter B, not mentioning the needs of the bisexual community," said Eckler. "Bisexual people who are in monogamous relationships with someone of another gender, such as a woman married to a man, are sometimes viewed as 'not really bisexual' or 'not really LGBTQIA.'"

Pressure To Choose Another Orientation

Bisexual people are often pressured by people of all sexual orientations to "pick a side" and just admit that they are actually gay, lesbian, or straight, added Eckler.

And it doesn't help that when bisexual people are represented in media, it's often based on stereotypes. "People in straight and gay/lesbian communities can feel that bisexual people aren't trustworthy and thus won't consider dating them," said Eckler.

Why We Should Understand Bisexuality—And How To Go About Doing So

To accept and understand sexuality as a spectrum and not a binary, society must understand and affirm bisexuality.

"The more we lift up and validate identities such as bisexuality, the safer people feel identifying with these terms, and the more space we each have as individuals in a culture where more nuanced views of sexuality and sexual and romantic orientation are held," said Martinez.

One way to go about this understanding is to educate yourself about bisexuality and sexual orientations and identities. The more you know about bisexual individuals and the issues they face, the more aware you may become concerning how to support those individuals.

A good place to start is with resources from the American Psychological Association, which highlights information specifically about individuals who identify as bisexual and organizations that support the LGBTQ+ community.

A Quick Review

Being bisexual means that an individual is attracted to more than one gender. However, even with that explanation, people still misunderstand bisexuality.

Individuals who identify as bisexual have to deal with challenges, such as others feeling that their identity is a phase or not getting support for their identity.

As a result, it's important to understand what bisexuality is and accept it in order for bisexual individuals to feel safe in their identities.

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6 Sources
Health.com uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
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  2. Bisexual Resource Center. Frequently asked questions.

  3. GLAAD. Glossary of terms: LGBTQ.

  4. Johnson HJ. Bisexuality, mental health, and media representation. Journal of Bisexuality. 2016;16(3):378-396. doi:10.1080/15299716.2016.1168335

  5. Smout SA, Benotsch EG. Experiences of discrimination, mental health, and substance use among bisexual young adults. Journal of Bisexuality. Published online September 7, 2022:1-18.


  6. American Psychological Association. Understanding bisexuality.

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