Bi & Pan & Poly – Oh My!
With an ever-expanding list of letters (and numbers) in the LGBTQIA+ acronym, you’re bound to get confused about what everything means. Bisexuality, in particular, is the victim of A LOT of misinformation. Keep reading to bust up some polysexual myths.
Bisexual people are attracted only to men and women (and therefore transphobic).
Bisexuality is attraction to two or more genders. This means that bisexual people can be attracted to men, women, and gender-diverse individuals. For example, someone who identifies as a woman and is attracted to other women and gender non-binary folks can identify as bisexual because she is attracted to two genders.
Additionally, while some people may be specifically attracted to cis* or trans** women/men, that doesn’t mean it’s true for everyone with this title.
* Cis people are those whose gender identity fits what is societally expected given their sex assigned at birth. Men who were born with a penis are cis men.
** Trans people are those whose gender identity is different than what would be societally expected based upon their sex assigned at birth. Men who were born with a vulva are trans men. Gender-diverse folks (gender non-binary, agender, etc.) may or may not identify as trans, but can since their gender is different than that assigned at birth.
Bisexuality means that you are equally attracted to different genders.
Bisexuality isn’t a math problem. If you’re attracted to two genders, it doesn’t mean your attraction or dating will be split equally among those genders. Instead, it means that you experience attraction, at varying levels, to more than one gender. That’s it. Some people are bisexual but mostly date a single gender and others have a more diverse dating history.
Bisexual people are interested in romantic relationships with more than one gender.
While this is true for many, bisexuality, like other orientations, is based in sexual attraction. This means that people can be interested in sexual relationships but not dating or romance, with certain genders. For example, a man who is bisexual and homoromantic might be interested in having sex with people who aren’t men but only wants to date men.
Pansexuality, bisexuality, and queer are basically the same.
These are all forms of polysexuality – that is, attraction to more than one gender/sex – but they do in fact have different connotations and meanings. Pansexuality is perhaps best described as attraction to people, regardless of gender. Gender, and sex assigned at birth, are not necessarily factors nor a significant point of reference when considering partner options. This is different from bisexuality where there may be specific genders, gender expressions, or sexes of interest.
Queer, when used for sexual or romantic orientation, is an umbrella term that can encompass anyone who is not straight. Though some queer people are monosexual. The alternative to polysexual is monosexual which includes heterosexual/straight people as well as homosexual/gay/lesbian identities because these are all orientations that are attracted to one specific gender or sex.
In order to identify as pansexual, bisexual, queer, etc., you must have romantic and sexual experiences with people of different genders (especially of your own).
Sexual orientation is not dependent upon experience. The same way that straight people do not first need to have sex to claim they are straight, queer people do not require sexual or romantic experience to identify. You are not less queer if you’ve had no sexual interactions or only interactions with one gender because attraction does not require action.
What other myths have you heard? Don’t be afraid to dig in and do some research of your own. Being curious about the validity of things you might’ve heard is never a bad idea.
Yael R. Rosenstock GonzalezSex Educator, Researcher, Author, Speaker
Yael has been engaged in workshop development and facilitation since she joined the New York Civil Liberties Union (NYCLU) as a teen peer reproductive rights educator at 15 years old. Since then, she has served as an educator with children ranging from 10 months old to adults in their 70s with different organizations and communities. In her work as first Program Coordinator, then Director of Programming, and finally Associate Director of the Center for Ethnic, Racial, and Religious Understanding, Yael developed and led events, workshops, and programs with an intersectionality lens.