THE BLOG

A Basic Guide To Bisexuality

No, it is not a fad, a passing fancy, an indecisive person who can't decide whom to love, or a promiscuous person, a cheater looking for an excuse to cheat.

18/04/2017 03:59 SAST
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Someone wearing red sneakers choosing between genders

Call me presumptuous, but I think you need to know more about "bisexuality". Too many people squirm on my therapeutic couch when they apologetically try explain that the are not lesbian nor heterosexual. They really don't give a toss about the sexual characteristics nor outer presentation of the person with whom they find themselves in fascination. They simply like, or lust, the person. Does this make them "abnormal?" they wonder.

Help me remove shame around bisexuality by becoming better educated.

Lesbian women and gay men have had their day in court, have been removed as a category from the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, 5th Edition (DSM-5), and been pronounced constitutionally sane and sober people. Transgender people are being honoured as authentic human beings who have the exact same rights to health care and respect as any other gender. Sexual orientation is sexily called "fluid" and we no longer snigger when wives tell husbands they would like a threesome with another woman present. It's just cool.

Now is the time for people identifying as bisexual to emerge out closets, be understood and stand tall and proud as a sexual orientation . A definition of bisexual that I like is: "A person whose enduring physical, romantic and/or emotional attraction is to other people of various sexes and/or gender identities. Individuals may experience this attraction in differing ways and degrees over their lifetime."

This definition breaks stereotypes about bisexuality: no, it is not a fad, a passing fancy, an indecisive person who can't decide whom to love, a promiscuous person, a cheater looking for an excuse to cheat, or a person who fears labelling him/herself as gay/lesbian. It is a way of loving , sexing and being in the world and requires you heterosexual, homosexual people to be better informed before cracking cruel jokes about the luck of being doubly sexually advantaged as bisexual people have more choice.

Bisexuals have a really rough ride in life. Perhaps it's because we are socialised into a black and white, no grey, so very binary model of sexual orientation, that judgment and fear are easily at hand. To escape the roughness and label, more and more people call themselves "bi-curious". As a bisexual person, you may compromise yourself way more than lesbian and gay people do. Kind of go under the radar to minimise the biphobic stigma attached to being bisexual.

Bisexual people are more numerous than gay men and lesbians combined but, according to a 2013 Pew Survey, they are the most likely to be in the closet, with just 28 percent reporting that "all or most of the important people in their life" know about their orientation.

Tangela Roberts and two professors at the University of Massachusetts surveyed 745 bisexual people about their experiences of discrimination in various social contexts. They found that the biphobia their respondents experienced from gay men and lesbians was not equal to, but still disturbingly comparable to, what they experienced from straight people. No brotherhood and sisterhood here I'm afraid.

Biphobia within the LGBT community is a significant form of prejudice that is almost certainly having a negative effect on bisexual people's mental health. Frighteningly bisexual behavior has the highest odds of any mood or anxiety disorder for both males and females. In addition:

  • those coming out to family and friends had greater biphobia shown towards them;
  • state it is exhausting to come out due to misunderstandings;
  • increased risk of suicide attempts;
  • more likely to experience intimate partner violence.

A new term has emerged, monosexism, which is defined as a specific form of prejudice against those who are attracted to more than one gender. I would hope marginalised people would be more tolerant of bisexuals but it is not to be. They are deemed not "really gay" so not accepted into the LGBT world.

Set aside your monosexism and biphobia/prejudice and answer a few questions. These come from the Klein Sexual Orientation Grid. It is a system for describing a person's sexual proclivities. I would not use this in my therapy practice since I don't label people. I respect people's own self identification .

Perhaps it will confirm for you just how fluid you are or validate your own self identified sexual orientation. Consider your answers according to your past (up to 12 months ago) present (most recent 12 months) and ideal (what would you eventually like) life.

  • Sexual Attraction: To whom are you sexually attracted?
  • Sexual Behavior: With whom have you actually had sex?
  • Sexual Fantasies: Whom are your sexual fantasies about? (They may occur during masturbation, daydreaming, as part of real life, or purely in your imagination.)
  • Emotional Preference: Emotions influence, if not define, the actual physical act of love. Do you love and like only members of the same sex, only members of the other sex, or members of both sexes?
  • Social Preference: Social preference is closely allied with but often different from emotional preference. With members of which sex do you socialize?
  • Lifestyle Preference: What is the sexual identity of the people with whom you socialize?
  • Sexual Identity: How do you think of yourself?
  • Political Identity: Some people describe their relationship to the rest of society differently than their personal sexual identity. For instance, a woman may have a heterosexualsexual identity, but a lesbian political identity. How do you think of yourself politically?

I hope you are thoroughly mixed up , curious and excited, by the complexity of your own sexual orientation. And I hope this allows you a mellowed approach to others who may claim 'bisexuality" as a sexual orientation.

If you have a personal aha! moment, be sure to share it with a partner. Honesty has a way of juicing up intimacy!