10 of the Most Misunderstood Things About Bisexual Women
Being attracted to both men and women can look, from the outside, like bisexual women have more options when it comes to romance and love, compared with straight women.
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 voices helping to shape a more inclusive narrative.
Misunderstanding: They “can’t pick a side”Kristen Stewart is one of countless bisexual women who have had to reaffirm that being bisexual does not mean being confused: in an interview with The Guardian, K-Stew said “You’re not confused if you’re bisexual. It’s not confusing at all. For me, it’s quite the opposite.”
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.
RELATED: K-Stew is just one of many LGBTQ+ celebs leading the way for more positive representation.
Misunderstanding: Bi women experience less discriminationOne of the toughest parts of being a bisexual woman: handling the hurtful prejudices and biphobia from within the LGBTQ+ community.
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 denialSex and the City’s infamous dismissal of bisexuality as “a layover on the way to Gaytown” encapsulates one of the most common misunderstandings about being bi — that a bi woman is secretly a lesbian, but just too scared to be “all the way out.”
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.
SEE ALSO: The hottest new celebrity couples of 2019 (one of which happens to include a badass bi woman!)
Misunderstanding: You need to have slept with women to be biMany bi women worry about not being seen as “gay enough” when faced with skepticism around their romantic and sexual history, as if they need a certain number of sexual or romantic relationships with women to “qualify” as bisexual.
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 sexThis misunderstanding could also easily be labelled: “All bi women are interested in threesomes.” Bi women are no more inherently sexual than the next person, but are often fetishized, peppered with invasive questions, or discussed only in regards to sexual relationships.
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.
RELATED: 11 sex myths everyone thinks are true.
Misunderstanding: Bisexuality is “just a phase”Similar to the “you’re just confused” stereotype, bi women often have their experiences dismissed as a “phase,” or worse, are accused of temporarily identifying as bi “for attention.”
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 menBisexual women were long represented solely through the male gaze, depicted as wild partygirls who hook up with women purely to titillate 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.”
RELATED: Things men think are romantic but aren’t.
Misunderstanding: Bisexual women are promiscuousJust as straight women don’t automatically want to sleep with every man they meet, bisexual women aren’t looking to get down with the entire world. One of the most common misconceptions about bi women is that no matter whom they’re partnered with, there’s always a risk that they’ll decide to “switch” and cheat, since they have more “opportunity” to do so — or that they’re simply not interested in monogamous relationships at all.
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 manStephanie Beatriz said it best in a 2018 essay for GQ: “I’m bi, and I'm getting married this fall...I’m choosing to get married because this particular person brings out the best in me. This person happens to be a man. I’m still bi.”
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.”
RELATED: LGBTQ+ terms you keep hearing and what they mean.
Misunderstanding: Being open about your sexual orientation means you’re an open bookMargaret Cho was recently asked about her thoughts on bisexuality vs. pansexuality, as a bisexual woman, and she responded: “I don’t know...I’ve been with people all across the spectrum of gender and who have all kinds of different expressions of gender, so it’s so hard to say. Maybe “pansexual” is technically the more correct term but I like bisexual.’”
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.