So your friend just came out to you as bisexual, and as excited as you are, you also have some questions and preconceptions about what this means. Bisexuality is not the most straight-forward sexuality (excuse the pun), especially as it often means something different for everyone who identifies as it.
Although it’s often completely okay to ask your friend about their sexuality and what it means to them, below are five things to not say to your bisexual friend. Note that some of the terminology used in this article (e.g. queer) can be seen as offensive to some, and it’s best not to use it unless you identify as queer yourself or know that the person you are talking to is comfortable with these terms.
- “So, that means you’re really into threesomes, right?”
Sexuality and interest in threesomes are not related. Although there are some bisexual people who are into threesomes, there are also many who are not—just like there are straight, queer, pansexual, and any other sexuality you can think of that includes people who are into having sex with multiple partners at once and those who aren’t. Sexuality does not determine this and it’s time to accept that different people are into different things in the bedroom, no matter their sexuality.
- “Everyone’s a little bisexual!”
Although this is often well-intentioned, it tends to erase the fact that bisexuality is a valid sexual identity. I truly do believe that everyone is sexually fluid, and as much as that can be a part of someone’s bisexuality, there is more to it than that.
Bisexuality is an identity that is part of what makes someone who they are—it is a label that can help people become comfortable in their sexuality and allow them to explore what that means to them. Saying everyone is a little bisexual can actually work to further erase an identity that already has issues with visibility.
- “Bisexuality is just a phase.”
This is a tired old stereotype that further invalidates bisexuality as a valid identity. There are definitely people who identify as bisexual at a point in their life and later identify as homosexual or heterosexual—this could just be a part of their sexual journey and it’s important to recognize that sexuality can be fluid.
This does not, however, mean that all bisexual people will eventually end up homosexual or heterosexual—even if they end up with a same-gendered or different-gendered partner long-term. Your sexuality is not determined by your partner—it is determined by who you are attracted to. This means that people who are bisexual can always be bisexual, no matter who they date or marry.
- “Bisexuals are all easy/slutty/deceptive.”
Bisexuality does not determine someone’s desire for sex. If someone is bisexual and wants to have lots of sex, that’s great! If they only want to have sex with one partner, that’s also great! Bisexuality is not equal to sleeping with multiple partners, but even if that is how someone lives their life, who cares?
People also call bisexuals deceptive or untrustworthy because they might leave a partner for a new partner of a different gender. This doesn’t make a ton of sense to me, since this can happen in any relationship, no matter the gender or sexuality. If you feel threatened by your partner’s sexuality and don’t trust them, you may have some bigger issues going on. Reevaluate where these trust issues are coming from and talk openly with your partner rather than blaming them for their sexuality—nothing good will come from this.
- “Bisexuals are half ‘normal’ (meaning half straight) and half gay!”
I had to include this one because someone said this in a class I took, and although I addressed it then, it was one of my first personal experiences with biphobia. First, let’s address how “normality” is a concept that we’ve been socialized to believe is true and natural and that all sexualities are actually natural. Being bisexual, queer, etc. does not make you abnormal—and being straight does not make you normal.
Let’s also address the idea that bisexuality is just a mix of different sexualities rather than a sexuality on its own. One way to view sexuality is on a scale, from being attracted to members of your own gender to members of other genders. Bisexuals could be seen as falling somewhere closer to the middle of said scale, whereas homosexuals and heterosexuals could be seen as falling closer to the edges; however, everyone’s sexuality is fluid and does not necessarily fit into a box, as much as we would like it to.
Rather than trying to fit bisexuality into an already-existing category, why not ask your friend what bisexuality means to them?
That said, what should you do for your bi friends?
Remember, sexuality is fluid and can change throughout someone’s life. Labels are often used to cope with the binary system we’ve created to view sexuality, so it’s most helpful to talk to your queer friends about what their sexuality means to them rather than making assumptions based on harmful stereotypes.
Biphobia and bisexual erasure are issues found both in the queer community and outside of it and the easiest way to combat these harmful stereotypes are to talk openly, ask questions, and believe people when they tell you they’re bisexual and what that means to them. As easy as it may seem, I promise you it will make a huge difference to your newly out or years-out bisexual friends.