We may be living in an era of wider sexual acceptance, but there is still a lot of stigma surrounding bisexuality.
Biphobia - an aversion to bisexual people - is mostly born of misinformation and fuelled by myths and biases perpetuated by people unfamiliar with bisexuality. As a result, many bisexuals choose to remain in the closet.
Among the common misconceptions about bisexuals is that they need to have relationships with both females and males in order to be truly bisexual; that they are promiscuous, which leads some to assume they cannot be monogamous and will stray "the other way"; and that bi people are sexual deviants who frequently engage in threesomes and orgies.
Some people deny bisexuality is a genuine sexual orientation, seeing it as just a phase; in their eyes, bi people are indecisive and are therefore using bisexuality as an excuse to explore their sexuality. Expressions such as "bi now, gay later" encourage this mindset.
Some detractors say bi women are not truly bi, as their ulterior motive is to get the attention of heterosexual men; some even go as far as to accuse bi people of flaunting their bisexual status to appear trendy.
Because of the stigma attached to bisexuality, bi people may feel misunderstood, judged, or sidelined, and can often be overwhelmed by fear, says Nathalie Sommer, a certified relationship and intimacy coach.
"There is also the process of coming into acceptance with what you are. It can be quite a process and can come with many questions like: Am I truly bisexual? Is it OK to prefer one gender more than the other? How do I explain this to my current/future partner? Will my partner even accept me for being bi, or will they assume that I am promiscuous?" says Sommer.
Don't let jealousy become a problem. Just because someone is bisexual doesn't mean they'll strayNathalie Sommer
Such concerns are totally valid. To alleviate these and others, Sommer offers some tips to people uncertain whether they are bisexual or gay.
"Firstly, I want to say that sexuality is fluid and it can change over time whether it's a phase or not. But if you are sexually attracted to both males and females, then you are bisexual. It doesn't have to be a measure of 50/50; in fact, sexuality is on a spectrum. For example, you can be attracted more to guys than girls or the other way around.
"Also, there's a difference between being romantically attracted and being sexually attracted to both sexes. Some bisexual people are only interested in romantic relationships with one of the sexes, but that doesn't change the fact that they are bisexual," Sommer explains.
So, what should you do if you are dating a bisexual person?
"Obviously, you should accept them for who they are as a person - just like in any other relationship - and who they are attracted to," she says.
"Don't be shy about asking them questions. If you're not sure about something, just ask them to explain it to you. It takes two to make a relationship work and the more we understand about one another, the healthier the relationship."
Additionally, you shouldn't let insecurities overcome you. Common insecurities that may creep in include suspecting that your partner will stray because they are attracted to both sexes.
"Don't let jealousy become a problem. Just because someone is bisexual doesn't mean they'll stray, so don't bring up infidelity all the time or constantly think they'll cheat. Everyone is capable of straying no matter what gender," Sommer says.
If you are bisexual, there are tactful ways to tell your partner and make coming out as bi easier for both parties, she says.
First, think about how you would like to express yourself and what would you like to explain. Then plan a day and time to tell them, as timing matters.
" You want to make sure they are not in the middle of doing something so they can be present, and it doesn't come out of nowhere and come as a complete surprise.
"Definitely don't tell them during a fight. You want the environment to be calm and comfortable, so it feels safe to express and for the other person to be there and listen. You can also let them know what you need from them. For example, you want them to just listen first but offer an opportunity for them to ask questions or express how they feel later.
"Try not to predict an outcome. Remember that your partner will have their emotions or reactions, so allow them the time and space to express and release them. Offer to answer their questions, but also ask questions on how they feel. The point is to keep the conversation ongoing."
On the question of whether to hide your bisexuality until a relationship is rock solid, Sommer says it is very much a personal decision.
She says you may want to tell a person straight-up that you are bisexual to avoid potential misunderstanding or resentment down the road. But she adds: "If it's just dating and you're not sure yet if it's going anywhere then it may not be necessary to bring it up."
If your partner comes out as bisexual, Sommer strongly suggests dealing with it with compassion and acceptance, as well as a healthy dose of curiosity.
"We're all allowed to feel our emotions and express them as long as we don't project them onto the other person and blame them for how we feel or make them feel guilty for being honest.
"It is always best to ask questions, especially if you are not familiar with bisexuality, or maybe do your own research to be more informed. You can also try to put yourself in your partner's shoes and think about how you would feel and how you would like them to react," she says.
Asking questions will not only clear up any misunderstandings, but demonstrate to your partner that you are making an effort to understand them and what it means to be bisexual.
In short, the best approach is to ask questions, talk about it, not be afraid to express your fears and concerns, keep an open mind, and never ever be judgmental.
It takes a lot for someone to come out and be honest about their sexuality, so make it as easy as possible for them, whether they are your friend, family member, or partner.
Luisa Tam is a correspondent at the Post
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