Bisexuality — what is it, really?
We believe that sexuality is a spectrum. Though at times we feel like we lack the proper expertise to claim that sexuality is, in fact, a spectrum. We turned to Christo Van Meer - psychiatrist and therapist - to share his professional perspective on bisexuality. September was Bisexual Awareness Month, so we’re wrapping it up the right way - by talking about bisexuality and how to know if you’re bisexual!
Bisexuality has always been a complicated topic. Not only is any non-heterosexual identity severely stigmatized, disregarded, broken into stereotypes – many simply don’t believe bisexuality is real. Our society has built a lot of misconceptions and faulty beliefs around bisexuality, all of which vary between myths and basic ignorance. Especially when it comes to bisexual men.
How many times have you heard something along the lines of “Oh, he’s definitely gay, just hasn’t come out – that’s why he’s still married to her”. Is that fair? I don’t think so. Surely, coming out is not an option for a lot of people. Still, the majority of bisexual-identifying people are nothing but true to themselves and what they choose to identify as.
Bisexuality, after all, is just one of the many dots on the Kinsey scale – it is uniquely based on each person’s preference
So, any sexuality can be described as a spectrum. You also must remember that bisexuality can be a highly important component of one’s self-identification. Let’s say, for instance, someone who doesn’t want to limit themselves by labeling their sexuality to try to fit into a certain box can identify as bisexual, even if they have limited experience with their own gender that happened years ago - or none at all. We also should take into consideration a large demographic of those brought up in strict and conservative environments – they have experienced same-sex encounters yet cannot identify as bisexual due to personal, social, or religious reasons.
Now, there’s the so-called teenage bisexuality: according to statistics, up to 46% of girls and 37% of guys have had same-sex encounters at one point or another during their adolescence, which can be explained by both hormonal changes and societal implications: even in the most westernized cultures, where sex education is accessible and readily available, one can still experience fear and worry regarding the opposite sex, making it mentally easier to start exploring with their own gender. In more conservative communities, be that religious or otherwise, sex before marriage is prohibited and looked down upon - this is where pseudo-homosexual exploration comes into play that can also be interpreted as bisexuality. Through the process of understanding and learning the self, one can gain clarity as their true sexual orientation starts to take shape: in these cases, teen bisexuality often doesn’t progress into adulthood.
As I was saying earlier, there’s a multitude of opinions when it comes to bisexuality. If we’re looking at it from a heterosexist perspective, it’s common to think everyone is heterosexual by default, and whatever does not fit into that category is nothing more than “experimentation”. Monosexism enthusiasts, on the other hand, tend to think people can be divided into two groups: heterosexual (straight) and non-heterosexual (gay and lesbian). Bisexuals in this case are those who are equally attracted to both genders. Thankfully, most current researchers and scientists agree that bisexuality is a spectrum, and not as simple as a 50/50 attraction.
Historically and biologically, bisexuality was widespread — communities of Ancient Greece and Ancient Rome can be used as an example where bisexual tendencies were often a cultural must-do: for instance, among the legionnaire armed soldiers. As Christianity started to spread across Europe and Islam took over the Near East and Asia, bisexuality and any other sexuality variation outside of heterosexuality ceased to exist for many centuries ahead. It was only in the 20th century, thanks to scientific research, the human rights movement, and sexual liberation that people’s ideas of sexuality started to shift. Destigmatization began. Unfortunately, bisexuality is still largely stigmatized socially and culturally, but it remains less subject to condemnation than those identifying as gay or lesbian. This, in turn, has brought up new phenomena, such as coming out as a bisexual as a more socially accepted form of same-sex attraction rather than coming out as gay. There’s a lower chance of being rejected by your community, family, or society at large. This is due to the fact many are still convinced bisexuality is nothing more than temporary experiments, and if one identifies as such, it’s “surely going to go away sooner or later”. Many public personas have also helped spread bisexuality awareness by coming out, even if the act itself might have underlying self-promoting motives. Brian Molko of Placebo, Lady Gaga, Angelina Jolie, David Bowie, and Freddie Mercury — I believe all of them and many other celebrities have positively influenced the way society views bisexuality by embracing their orientation publicly.
To sum everything up, I would like to say that our society still has a long way to go in terms of how we view bisexual people and bisexuality. And to those who are still skeptical: take a look at the animal kingdom, where bisexual behavior is a completely natural occurrence, both situational and continuous. Among them are our fellow creatures – primates, walruses, whales, bottlenose dolphins, and even certain fish and worm species. So, love is love! The rest is just limiting preconceptions and beliefs dictated by religion and society. And living by those definitely won’t make you any happier.