Welcome to 2015 where there are countless labels - transgender, bisexual, gay, lesbian; the list goes on. Here we delve into what exactly the term 'bisexual' means.
Bisexuality has been big mainstream media news since Cate Blanchet’s recently misconstrued interview. Although she argues her quotes were taken out of context in terms of whether she had been in relationships with women, the big question is, in 2015 why do we care?
“I am sceptical enough to believe it was a set up to promote the movie,” says Matty Silver, relationships counsellor and sexual health therapist, of the internet frenzy the quotes caused, adding “the public probably would have great difficulties imagining 'wholesome’ Cate ever having had sex with women!”
But what about Miley Cyrus? The wild child has openly admitted she has been in relationships with women, yet we aren’t as scandalised. Does that mean society still perceives bisexuality as anything but mainstream and openly acceptable?
1. What is Bisexuality?
In the seventies sex researcher Alfred Kinsey found that sexual attraction varies along a continuum and he devised a seven-point scale to describe this. “At one end are people who are exclusively heterosexual and at the other end people who are exclusively homosexual. In between are many graduations of desire.” This third category identified people with some significant attraction to both genders as bisexual.
2. What Defines Our Sexualities?
Matty explains that many theories have been put forward citing genetic pre-determination, childhood influences, and peer-pressure amongst other reasons. However, attempts to find a single cause for an individual's sexuality and sexual orientation or to influence or change an individual's sexuality have not been successful, she adds. “Like many of our other characteristics, sexuality seems to be largely a chance product of one's unique nature, which is then further developed by our early interactions,” she explains. “Our sexuality seems to be formed by the time we reach our teens—although it may be many years later before we come to understand and accept our sexuality, which seems resistant to attempts to radically alter it.”
Bisexuality for Beginners:
3. Bisexuality has become a bit more “open and popular” as so many celebrities stating now they are bisexual and several TV shows added bisexual characters, such as Game of Thrones, Tudors, The Good Wife and even Buffy.
4. Sexual orientation develops across a person's lifetime – different people realise at different points in their lives that they are heterosexual, bisexual or homosexual, says Matty. “Sexual attraction, behaviour and identity may also be incongruent, as sexual attraction or behavior and may not necessarily be consistent with identity." For example, some individuals identify themselves as heterosexual, homosexual or bisexual without having had any sexual experience whereas others have had homosexual experiences but do not consider themselves to be gay, lesbian, or bisexual. “Likewise, self-identified gay or lesbian individuals may occasionally sexually interact with members of the opposite sex but do not identify as bisexual,” she adds.
5. “I have seen several female clients who were in a rather boring monogamous sexual relationship, who realised after a divorce or relationship break up that they were attracted to other women,” Matty tells me, adding that some men also choose to pursue homosexual relationships after their children have grown up, however, "few of this group would call themselves bisexual.”
6. People who are physically and sexually attracted to both men and women usually identify themselves as bisexual. However not everyone who has feelings or experiences with both men and women describe themselves as such. “They like to explore their sexuality but still will identify themselves as mainly straight, gay or lesbian,” explains Matty.
7. “It is often very difficult for people to come out as bisexual because society overall doesn’t understand or accept them – it’s too confusing,” says Matty. “Most bisexual people keep it to themselves because it can cause feelings of isolation as they feel the pressure to be or straight or gay.”
8. Bisexual people can experience discrimination from both straight and gay communities, Matty observes. “For example, some heterosexual people may assume a bisexual person is straight but just ‘experimenting’ with gay sex, while some homosexual people may assume the person is gay but still having heterosexual relationships because they are afraid of ‘coming out’ or accepting their gay sexual orientation.”
9. A person who is bisexual can feel social pressure to choose which gender they prefer. Some people may be hesitant to admit to gay or bisexual feelings or experiences, because of fear of prejudice from family, friends and the wider community.