Do you like one gender more than the other?
Do you have a lot of threesomes?
Are you in an open relationship?
Does the fact that you’re bisexual make your husband uncomfortable?
Are you just pretending to be queer because you’re a sex-positive public figure and it’s good for your brand?
These are just a smattering of questions I’ve been asked as a bisexual woman, and I’m most certainly not alone. Bisexual people regularly face an onslaught intrusive questions from various people in our lives.
The people who ask usually mean no harm. They generally don’t even realize their query is inappropriate or offensive. With so little sex education, and essentially zero sex education that includes queer relationships, it’s no wonder people are so puzzled by bisexual identity.
“The reason these [questions] are so problematic is because they propose these underlying assumptions: Bi-identified people are promiscuous, can’t be monogamous [and], can’t make up their minds. They really disregard our true human nature,” says Moushumi Ghose, MFT, a certified sex therapist in Los Angeles.
In the hopes of illuminating a damaging situation and to help allies better understand how non-bi people can love and respect their bisexual brothers, sisters, friends, partners, and even strangers, behold six questions it’s best to avoid.
1. You’re just experimenting, right?
There is a (very popular) “theory” that bisexual people are still just trying to figure out which gender they like. We’re not. Being bisexual is completely valid and it is most certainly not just a phase.
“It is hard enough for me to navigate my own feelings, and calling it all an experiment makes me feel like I’m not being taken seriously. I didn’t go into dating my current girlfriend thinking, Hmm, I never dated a woman before, might as well give it a try,” says Kristen, 21.
Treating a person’s identity as a phase is not only damaging to them, but also to the people they choose to love. As Kristen points out, her girlfriend is not “just some plaything” she can toss away if she “decides” to be straight one day.
“I usually respond to the person: ‘I’m sure of my bisexuality. Why you need to question it?’ In my opinion, this kind of question [is] rude, and may make someone who [is] questioning their sexuality more confused,” adds Valerie, 23.
2. Are you straight now because you have a partner of the opposite sex?
Other similar questions include: How can you be bi if you have a boyfriend? How can you be bi if you’re dating a woman? You used to be bisexual, but you’re gay now?
“People assuming my sexuality is what annoys me. I’ve never felt fully straight, yet I’m in a committed heterosexual relationship,” says Tawny, 33. “I’ve had sexual experiences with women and am still attracted to women.”
Just because a person happens to be in a “straight”-looking relationship doesn’t automatically mean they’re straight. Just because a person is in a “gay” relationship doesn’t automatically mean they’re gay. Being bi is being bi.
3. Can you be monogamous if you’re bisexual?
I’m married to a man and I’m still asked if he and I are “open” or if we like to swing. While I don’t believe in boxing people into sexual corners, it’s not particularly appropriate to ask if I’m OK with being with only one person based entirely on my sexual identity.
“I don’t know who I’m going to be a decade from now,” says Gabrielle, 26. “Nobody does. So, I realistically can’t tell someone if I’ll identify as a monogamous person when I’m 36. Even if I could, the fact that this comes up only when we’re talking about bisexuality clearly stems from the belief that bi+ people are promiscuous, greedy, and non-monogamous.”
4. Are you really bisexual, or do you just like this one girl (or boy)?
Asking someone if they’re “gay” or “straight” because of their S.O.’s gender is really not cool.
“This implies that being romantically and sexually attracted to only one girl isn’t ‘enough’ to qualify me as bisexual. It isn’t a fluke. Even if I only ever have one girlfriend, I will still be bisexual,” Kristen says.
“It’s a bit silly as it is like suggesting that you were suddenly not attracted at all to other people simply because you were dating one person,” says Pam Shaffer, LMFT.
Bisexuality is about sexual attraction, not experience. You can be bisexual and have never had a same-sex or opposite-sex experience. A bisexual person doesn’t need to prove anything to anyone to feel what they feel.
5. Do you like girls or guys better?
There is a common myth that being bisexual means your attractions are split between genders in a fixed way or that you’ll eventually choose one gender over the other. Neither is the true.
“Comparison is impossible. It’s on a person-by-person basis. I don’t generalize based on gender,” Kristen says.
While this may seem like an innocent question, it implies that a person is obligated to be attracted to people in a certain, dictated way. And frankly, that isn’t how attraction works when you’re not heterosexual.
Bisexuality means that you have the potential to be attracted to men, women, non-binary folk, trans people of either gender, etc. It’s being attracted to a person based on who that person is, not their gender.
6. Do you have a lot of threesomes?
This question goes hand-in-hand with soliciting a bisexual person for a threesome. While this practice spans genders, it’s usually bisexual women who wind up being asked the question. The proverbial unicorn, if you will.
Whether or not you like threesomes, being asked if you’ve had them simply based on your bisexual identity feels dirty, like it’s tied to all of the stereotypes bisexual people wish to rid themselves of. On top of that, it can feel genuinely dangerous. “It can feel incredibly objectifying and unsafe for the person being asked,” Gabrielle says. Look for a community that is seeking the same thing, but don’t just go up to your cute friend and ask for a threesome because you know she’s bi. It won’t go well.