Ever since The Kinsey Scale was developed in 1948, research has shown that people’s sexual behavior, thoughts, and feelings towards the same or opposite sex exist on a spectrum. The advent of this scale made the concept of sexual fluidity more mainstream, but bisexuality (as well as the myriad other sexual orientations and identities) existed long before Dr. Alfred Kinsey and his colleagues set out to understand how sexual orientation manifested differently from person to person. It’s important to understand and acknowledge that sexuality is an individual experience, especially when it comes to those who identify as bisexual. Even as society has become more accepting and welcoming toward the LGBTQ community, bisexual erasure—outside and inside of that community—still persists.

That’s why the Kinsey scale remains relevant as ever—it’s not a bisexual person’s duty to prove "how bisexual they are" to anyone else. "Being bi is, in itself, a full sexuality that requires no justification, regardless of what your sexuality looks like in your life and who you are dating," says Jesse Kahn, LCSW-R, CST, Director & Sex Therapy at The Gender & Sexuality Therapy Center in NYC. "No identities are better or more enlightened than others."

Meet the experts:
- Jesse Kahn is a licensed psychotherapist and sex therapist who specializes in trans, non-binary and queer identities, gender, sexuality, and poly/non-monogamy, just to name a few areas of expertise. Kahn is also the Founder and Director of The Gender & Sexuality Therapy Center in NYC.
- Joe Kort, PhD, LMSW, is a therapist specializing in sexual identity and the clinical director and founder of The Center for Relationship and Sexual Health in Royal Oak, Michigan. Kort is also the author of LGBTQ Clients In Therapy: Clinical Issues And Treatment Strategies and other books about male sexual identity, relationships, and sexual fluidity.
- Matt Lundquist, LCSW, is a psychotherapist and the founder and clinical director of Tribeca Therapy in NYC.

Not only is bisexuality a legitimate sexual orientation, but it's actually the most common sexuality among LGBT Americans, according to a 2021 Gallup poll of more than 12,000 U.S. adults. Of those surveyed who identified as LGBT, 57 percent said they were bisexual.

Even though so many people identify as bisexual, if you're not familiar with this sexuality, you probably have a lot of questions about what it means to be bisexual and how this sexual orientation relates to others.

What does it mean to identify as bisexual?

The Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation, more commonly known as GLAAD, defines bisexual, or bi, as "an adjective used to describe a person who has the potential to be physically, romantically, and/or emotionally attracted to people of more than one gender, not necessarily at the same time, in the same way, or to the same degree."

And a quick etymology lesson from GLAAD: "The bi in bisexual refers to genders the same as and different from one's own gender." That doesn't mean that being bisexual means a person is attracted to men and women; instead, a more accurate explanation, per GLAAD, is "experiencing attraction to more than one gender."

This content is imported from poll. You may be able to find the same content in another format, or you may be able to find more information, at their web site.

It's important to note that what bisexuality looks like in practice is often super-nuanced, says Joe Kort, PhD, LMSW, a therapist specializing in sexual identity and the clinical director and founder of The Center for Relationship and Sexual Health in Royal Oak, Michigan. "It’s really up to the individual—you have to ask, 'What does it mean to you?'" he explains.

How does bisexuality differ from pansexuality or fluid sexuality?

A woman who dates both men and women could potentially identify as bisexual, pansexual, or queer—there's no way to know unless she tells you. Let’s break it down.

Bisexuality vs. Pansexuality

While bisexuality is defined as an attraction to more than one gender, pansexuality ditches the idea of gender entirely. "Someone who identifies as pansexual is asserting that they are disinterested in gender when it comes to sexual attraction," says Matt Lundquist, LCSW, psychotherapist and founder and clinical director of Tribeca Therapy in NYC.

People who identify as pansexual might be attracted to any combination of cisgender men, cisgender women, people who identify as non-binary, and transgender people—all of whom may have different sexualities themselves. For example, a pansexual person might go on a date with a heterosexual cisgender woman one night and a bisexual non-binary person the next.

While the labels surrounding gender and orientation are useful in providing an example of how this sexuality can work, they aren’t relevant when it comes to how pansexual individuals experience attraction. Often, you'll hear a pansexual person simply say they're attracted to "people."

Bisexuality vs. Fluid Sexuality

Fluid sexuality is its own thing, too. Here’s the main difference: People who are sexually fluid may define their sexuality differently over time, and depending on the situation (or person) at hand.

Kort uses the example of someone who usually identifies as monosexual and suddenly finds themselves into someone of their non-preferred gender. "The key is that attraction doesn’t necessarily generalize to other people of that gender," he says. It’s just this particular crush.

Bisexuality vs. Queer Sexuality

Queer is something of a catch-all term. "It encompasses a broad spectrum of non-traditional, non-straight sexual orientations as well as a broad spectrum of non-binary, non-traditional expressions of gender," Lundquist says.

Basically, it’s a label for people who want to ditch labels. "Queer can mean someone who is straight, but doesn’t want to be labeled by these binary restrictive labels," Kort adds. "The definition of queer is like a thumbprint. It can be different for every individual."

Here's some more terms that may be helpful to know:

Polyamorous, Aromantic, Demisexual—And 19 Other Sexuality Terms You Really Need To Know
Text, Pink, Font, Logo, Magenta, Graphics, Brand, Graphic design,

How do you know if you're bisexual?

Remember, sexuality is a spectrum—it’s not about fitting perfectly into one label. Because there’s no one way to be bisexual, there's no one way to know if you’re bisexual.

Here’s a helpful way to think about it, though: "A person can know they’re bisexual if they have an enduring longtime attraction to multiple genders," Kort says. The key is that it’s a generalized attraction to an entire group—in other words, if you mostly like men but have a crush on a female celebrity, that doesn’t necessarily mean you’re bi.

That said, simply being open to the possibility that you might be attracted to other genders can be an important step in figuring out your sexual orientation. "Part of realizing you're bisexual involves unlearning heterocentric and bi-phobic cultural narratives," says Kahn. Because heteronormative relationships are still the most prevalent in books, TV shows, and movies, it's easy to think that's what your love life is "supposed to" look like. Seeking out content that features realistic, positive representations of bisexual people and relationships can help you recognize bisexuality as a more accurate and authentic reflection of yourself.

Figuring out your sexuality is not a perfect science, but Lundquist recommends being okay with the messiness. "Letting these feelings exist, not shoving them aside, and being okay with the complexity of sexuality can help you figure out what your sexual orientation means for you," he says.

How can you support someone who identifies as bisexual and the overall bi community?

Maybe you're not bisexual, but you have a friend, family member, or romantic partner who is. It's important for you to be an ally, so you can provide affirmation and validation of their identity. Like those exploring bisexuality for themselves, a key step for allies "can involve their own unlearning of the heterocentric and bi-phobic cultural narratives that we all perpetuate," says Kahn.

"Start by setting aside time to do research, making sure you’re getting your information from reputable sources and from people in the community you’re learning about," he adds. "It’s okay to not know everything, and it’s also important to take the time to educate yourself. This could also include paying someone to educate you, attending workshops, and reading bi+ competent books."

What you don't want to do? Perpetuate false, but nonetheless common, bi-phobic misconceptions and microaggressions, says Kahn. These often take the form of statements like: Bi people just being confused, bi people are actually gay, bisexuality is just a stepping stone, bisexual people are only attracted to cisgender people or trans people who fit in the binary, and bi people are more likely to be unfaithful in their partnerships. None of these stereotypes are true, and a good ally doesn't just avoid saying them; they call it out when someone else does, even if they're "joking." That will signal to the bisexual people in your life that they've got someone in their corner, so they don't have to do all the heavy lifting.

Ultimately, Kahn says, it's not the role or responsibility of a bisexual person to convince others that they and their sexual orientation exists and/or is valid. It is everyone's responsibility to educate themselves which, in turn, will ideally create a more inclusive and welcoming world.