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How To Tell If You Are Bisexual

It took me a very long time to work out my sexual orientation. All I knew was that I liked women, but whether I liked men or not too was really hard to figure out. I eventually realised I really was bisexual, but that took me an embarrassingly long time to work out for sure (something like five years).

Note that I’m a trans woman, and started trying to work out my sexual orientation while I still thought I was a man. I was taught to feel shame for being attracted to men, and even as I started to understand myself as a woman this specific shame lingered, so I had many of the same blocks a bisexual man would be expected to have.

My Big Mistake

Looking back, I made one major mistake. That was: I tried to have sexual experiences basically for no other reason than to try and confirm or rule out that I was bisexual.

The trouble is, no one (as far as I know) is attracted to everyone. Just because you’re into guys doesn’t mean you’re into ALL guys, right? Yet, I didn’t really look to see if I really liked the people I tried to have “experiences” with.

Of course, these experiences felt weird. Of course it’s going to feel weird to have a basically forced interaction with someone who doesn’t have proper chemistry with you.

So, for a long time, I thought that maybe this weird feeling just meant that I was a lesbian (or a straight man, depending on my understanding of my own gender at the time). But I was also sometimes attracted to guys. Can you be attracted to guys and then not enjoy having sex with them?

I eventually shut my worries up by having a genuinely good experience with a guy. But this only happened after I basically gave up *trying*. My first good experience with a guy happened spontaneously, completely unexpectedly.

If I had to do the whole thing again, I would of course have tried my damnedest not to make this mistake. I suppose the best thing to do would have been to hang out in queer spaces, thereby increasing my chances for something natural and spontaneous to happen — and not to have done anything else. When mutual sexual tension arose, I would have simply rode that wave (if I chose to) and the end result of that would have, among other things, confirmed my sexuality.

One trouble with “forced” interactions is, asides from them tending to be crappy interactions for you, they also tend to be crappy interactions for the other person. They might end up feeling used, and well they might, because that’s pretty much what you are doing. This is one more reason to only get into something by riding the wave of mutual attraction, rather than to go “looking” for something.

How To Tell If You Are NOT Bisexual

But how to do tell if you are NOT bisexual?

As they say in scientific circles, “absence of proof is not proof of absence”. You can prove that you ARE attracted to a certain gender by having one undeniably positive experience with a person of that gender. There is no way of proving that you are not attracted to a certain gender, though. The best you can do is to slowly understand the probability of that to be smaller and smaller as you spend more and more time having an open mind and being open to experiences.

A common misconception (one which I struggled with for ages) is that bisexuality is always 50-50. You have to be equally attracted to men and women, in the same ways, equally often. This is just not true.

The Kinsey Scale rates people from 0 (exclusively heterosexual) to 6 (exclusively homosexual) with a big grey area in between. You can be a 1, which is mostly straight but with occasional interest in people of your own gender. And so on.

Even the Kinsey Scale, though, is a simplification. You can be attracted to different genders in different ways, e.g. prefer sex with one gender but romance with another gender. You can have different intensities of attraction, or you can have the same intensity of attraction but simply have that attraction more or less frequently with a particular gender.

I find it pretty hard to place myself on a scale. Using a percentage system, I believe my attraction to guys makes up somewhere between 25 and 50% of my total attraction. I’m certainly attracted to guys less often than women, but is it because I dislike male social conditioning, or because I don’t have enough experience to really understand my attraction, or because I just hang out in environments with fewer guys? (All of these are probably true to some extent). I also find my attraction working differently when I’m with guys; I find myself more into their smell and “vibe” and somewhat less into the specificities of their body. If I try and gauge my attraction to a guy in the same way as I would to a woman, I might miss some stuff because I’m looking in the wrong areas.

You need to keep this complexity in mind when trying to work out whether you are bisexual. Just because you’re rarely interested in a certain gender doesn’t mean you’re never interested in that gender. Just because you can’t imagine having sex with one gender doesn’t mean you couldn’t fall in love with someone of that gender.

And this comes back to the “absence of proof is not proof of absence” issue again. Just because you are rarely, or almost never, attracted to your own gender, doesn’t mean you are straight. Just because you haven’t proven your attraction to your own gender doesn’t mean you are straight. Quite possibly, you simply have a non-equal attraction to different genders.

I would say it’s perfectly fine to tentatively identify as straight or gay if that’s what seems to make sense in the moment. But just be aware you can’t be 100% certain about it. More information might come up later to challenge your hypothesis. This counts for everyone, by the way; it’s just that some people are too ignorant and comfortable with their unoppressed heterosexual identity to ever consider the possibility. Congrats on having an open mind.

Clearing The Cloud Of Confusion

Really, I don’t think you should ultimately HAVE to “prove” your attraction to a certain gender. That’s just what served to shut my own brain up. I think it’s probably enough to just clear away the clouds of confusion in your head and to notice that you actually are attracted to some people.

You’ll have to deal with internalised homophobia, probably. At least, I did. I felt ashamed while attracted to men, and that added to the “weirdness” that made me wonder if I was only into women.

You’ll have to come to terms with the complexity that bisexuality involves. Realise that your attractions work in individual ways, and gender is only a factor in that.

You’ll have to learn to separate attraction from curiosity or admiration or strong affection. (Men in particular might have to learn that feeling affection and cuddliness towards other men is natural and doesn’t necessarily mean attraction).

And you’ll probably have to learn to ignore the naysayers who will take any opportunity to downplay bisexuality and same-sex attraction. If necessary, find new friends and a new social environment, one which will provide support for you exploring and acknowledging your feelings.

But ultimately, if you feel attraction, you feel attraction. And that should be enough.

PS: if you’re transgender, statistically there’s about a 50% chance you’re also bisexual. That fact doesn’t stop anyone having to do some introspection, but at the very least, it means you shouldn’t be surprised if it turns out that way.

PPS: if you’ve already worked out that you’re into members of your own sex but aren’t sure if you like people who are gendered differently to you, bear in mind that statistically speaking you’re 55% likely to be bi if you like your own gender. Contrary to what the media portrays, bisexual people are actually slightly more common than homosexual people.


Bisexuality, And Discovering My Sexual Orientation

A Critical Look At The Word “Pansexual”

Against Bisexual Invisibility

Dealing With Internalised Homophobia


{ 1 comment… add one }

  • Justin June 9, 2015, 7:38 pm

    After watching Sense8 and working through some of my own internalized homophobia (for basically the same reasons you’ve previously written about) this post shed an enormous amount of clarity on the issue for me. Thank you! (danke! dankon!)

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