Being attracted to both men and women can look, from the outside, like bisexual women have endless options when it comes to romance and love.
However, thanks to a host of misinformed assumptions, harmful stereotypes, and widespread distrust (even from within the LGBTQ+ community), the reality is far less rose-coloured for bi women: not only are bisexuals more likely to be closeted than their lesbian and gay counterparts, but a recent study found bisexual women were more likely to experience depression, anxiety, and suicidal thoughts than lesbian and straight women.
Thankfully, bi advocates’ voices continue to grow louder than the nonsense stereotypes many bisexual women will hear at some point or another. Here are 10 of the most misunderstood things about bisexual women, and 10 of the most inspiring bi celebrity women helping to shape a more inclusive narrative.
Misunderstanding: They “can’t pick a side”
Bisexual women are often seen as indecisive (at best), have their orientation dismissed as “experimentation,” or are accused of flippantly “switching” sides on a whim. The implication that bisexual women can “choose” their orientation (or rather, that they refuse to choose between being gay or straight) fuels the misunderstanding that being bi means being unable to make up your mind, and ultimately, labels bi women as untrustworthy.
Misunderstanding: Bi women experience less discrimination
It’s expected that coming out will result in some level of scorn and discrimination from a heteronormative society (although no less saddening), but the shock of being alienated by members of the LGBTQ+ community that don’t “believe” in bisexuality can be even more painful. Many bisexual women report a feeling of belonging nowhere, as they aren’t “straight enough” for a heteronormative society, or “gay enough” to be truly accepted as LGBTQ+.
Lady Gaga sparked a conversation around bi erasure and biphobia within the LGBTQ+ community when she said in a recent speech that she “may not even be considered a part of [the LGBTQ+] community,” despite having openly identified as bisexual since 2009.
Misunderstanding: They’re lesbians in denial
Halsey put the ridiculous assumption on blast when she tweeted: “So if I’m dating a guy I’m straight, and if I date a woman, I’m a lesbian. The only way to be a #True bisexual is to date 2 people at once.”
Say it with us: Your sexual orientation is not defined by your current partner (or lack of one). Dating a man doesn’t negate your attraction to women. Dating a woman doesn’t mean you’re lying about being attracted to men. Sexuality is anything but black-and-white, and being bi is no exception.
Misunderstanding: You need to have slept with women to be bi
This ain’t the queer Olympics, people —bisexual women don’t have to “earn” their orientation any more than a hetero person needs to hook up with someone of the opposite sex to validate their sexual identity.
Evan Rachel Wood addressed the shame she felt over not being “gay or straight enough” and feeling like bi women need to “constantly prove ourselves” in a series of tweets on being bi.
She then offered up a crucial reminder for bi women: “Don’t let anyone make you feel unworthy. No one knows your journey but you.”
Misunderstanding: Being bi is all about sex
But sex is just one aspect of bisexuality, and its significance varies heavily by individual (just as it does with any other sexual orientation).
Singer French Davis said in an interview that her bisexuality was never a secret, having come out to her family at 16. But it was falling in love “with someone who I think I could be with forever” that led to Frenchie coming out publicly, when she openly discussed falling in love with and dating a woman.
Misunderstanding: Bisexuality is “just a phase”
Cara Delevingne famously sparked an online petition after a Vogue cover story controversially (and foolishly) suggested that her bisexuality was “just a phase.” Cara later set the record straight, stating the obvious: “My sexuality is not a phase.”
Sexual orientation is not a careless choice or trend, but for some reason, an attraction to both men and women leads some people to assume that.
And hey, some women might identify as bisexual and later identify differently—or eventually decide not to define their sexuality at all. It doesn’t make them any less bisexual than the next person, and it certainly doesn’t negate the experiences of an entire community.
Misunderstanding: Bi women are just performing for straight men
The LGBTQ+ community was quick to call out Rita Ora for her single “Girls” in 2018, which contained lyrics like “Yeah, we got with the dude / I saw him, he was lookin’ at you,” and “Red wine, I just wanna kiss girls, girls, girls,” accusing the singer of perpetuating straight-male fantasies around bi women and invalidating the experience of bi love.
Rita apologized via Twitter for the lyrics, but The Independent argued that the uproar was yet another example of unfairly “policing how someone presents their sexuality.”
Misunderstanding: Bisexual women are promiscuous
Not only does this stereotype further fetishize and “other” bi women, it holds them back from fulfilling romantic relationships, as potential partners may be more worried about infidelity.
Anna Paquin (who’s been married to Stephen Moyer since 2010) said in a 2014 interview that one of her biggest frustrations as a bisexual woman is dealing with people who “think that monogamy and bisexuality are mutually exclusive.”
Misunderstanding: That they’re not really bi if they’re with a man
Stephanie went on to describe how “bisexuality often needs an explanation,” as sexuality is “often defined by who we’re partnered with at any given moment,” and admitted to feeling like an “outsider so often,” even at LGBTQ+ events for fear she wouldn’t be seen as “gay enough.”
The Brooklyn Nine-Nine star also eloquently corrected the common misconception that you aren’t a bisexual woman if you’re with a man.
“Here’s the thing about sexual drive that some people like to deny: It’s around even after you commit to one partner,” she wrote. “The kinds of people you were and are attracted to are still the kinds of people you were and are attracted to.”
Misunderstanding: Being open about your sexual orientation means you’re an open book
Coming out as a bisexual woman doesn’t mean that you’re obligated to educate people (even if they’re coming from a place of good will), respond to probing questions about your private life, or even have answers about your identity or being LGBTQ+ (here’s a refresher on common terms, if you’re curious).
Your sexual orientation is your business, and while women like Margaret may be comfortable discussing their bisexuality, wanting to keep certain things private doesn’t make you any less bi.
Take Shannon Purser, who highlighted the complexity of coming out and deciding what to share (or not share) when she tweeted in 2017: “I've only just recently come out as bisexual to my family and friends. It's something I am still processing and trying to understand and I don't like talking about it too much.” Coming out as bisexual doesn’t mean giving up your right to privacy.