We all know about the stereotypes and assumptions attached to bisexuality”: “greedy bisexuals,” all bi women are faking it, all bi men are just gay, bi nonbinary people are … Nonexistent? (Proud to be bi and nonbinary and nonexistent!) As Bitch Magazine’s Rachel Charlene Lewis wrote about the dictionary definition of bisexuality finally getting updated in 2020, “We’re in a time when bisexuality is on the rise and is still simultaneously erased and questioned on a constant loop.”
Given that on Twitter so much discourse is spent on bi people in relationships with partners who aren’t bisexual and perpetuating problematic and sexist myths about bi people, looking at relationships between bisexual people can be an opportunity to look at more expansive perspectives on bisexuality. This isn’t to place higher value on them, but to point out their existence. Relationships between bi people are usually forgotten in these intra-community conflicts. For Autostraddle, I spoke to several bi people across the gender and sexuality spectrum about their experiences with bi partners.
At the very least, there was significant agreement among many of those interviewed that having a partner with a shared identity saved them from having to legitimize that identity. “Many people will hear [that I’m LGBTQ] and assume that means I am a lesbian, which is a great thing to be, but it is not a thing that I am,” said Morgan, 26, of Victoria, Canada. “I’d prefer people assumed I was a lesbian rather than straight, because then at least I’ve been clocked as queer, but it’s still not right, because I’m bi. I have to insist on that identity not just to other people but also to myself.”
“I didn’t really come out to myself until last year even though I had recognized my attraction to women and non-binary people for years prior. But because I had never been in a same-sex relationship, I didn’t feel like I was valid in my queerness,” said Daysia, 21, from New York City.
“Now, being in a relationship with my partner who’s also bisexual and understands this same feeling of queer imposter syndrome, I feel seen and supported in my own experience navigating my sexuality.” In a polyamorous relationship, both Daysia and her partner are navigating online same-sex dating for the first time, and she says that being able to share that experience with him has made them closer.
Emily, 34, in Chicago, was married to a straight man before entering into a relationship with her current partner, who is bi. “My bisexuality was a big secret when in hetero-presenting relationships,” she recalled. “None of our mutual friends knew, his family never knew, and my family pretended they’d never known.” With her current partner, Emily said the biggest problem is with those “external to [their] bubble.” “There is often an assumption that we are “just gay” and the realization that I’m bi only enters the conversation when I mention I was married to a cis man previously. There is also an assumption that I “switched teams” instead of holding this attraction regardless of gender all along.” But within their relationship and social group, she said, “We can talk openly about things that impact our lives and learn from each other without becoming defensive immediately. Our friends are learning to frame sexuality in a different way as well.”
For some sources, the awareness that their sexuality was untethered from gender made it easier while exploring their own. For Fin, 26, in Wisconsin, their partner’s bisexuality helped them during their transition. “As a genderqueer person, I’d struggle to date anyone who felt like they could only date men or women,” they said. “Having a bisexual partner was reassuring as I came out, started changing my presentation and went on HRT – I knew my gender wasn’t going to be a barrier for him.”
While of course regardless of identified sexuality or gender, people across the sexuality spectrum face gender transitions with grade and love, the knowledge that their partner’s sexuality wasn’t defined by one gender or another was freeing.
Charity, 23, in New England, echoed similar sentiments. “Being with another bisexual person has made me appreciate the complexity of people’s gender (or lack of gender),” they said. “It also made me appreciate myself as a whole person, and helped me realize that I’m trans, and I don’t have to cut parts of myself off because they don’t match others’ expectations.”
More than one couple referenced that a mutual awareness of each other’s bisexuality actually enabled them to play with gender together. “The fact that we shared a common sexual identity and understanding of gender, and talked about these things regularly, made the relationship a safe place for exploration,” shared AJ, 24, Charity’s partner.
“My partner is fluid in a way I don’t always have the confidence to explore myself, but he’s made it safe to try new things and be bad at them or decide they don’t work for me,” said Liz, 37, in Sacramento, CA.
And some suspect that the openness in their relationships otherwise coded as “straight” (between a cis woman and cis man) empowered their partners to begin sharing their queerness outside of the relationship for the first time.
Lynn, 26, in Queens, New York, has been with her partner for several years, but they came out to each other as bisexual at different stages. “I have always found validity in my bisexuality, even before my partner came out to me, and I didn’t feel that my bisexuality was more “worthy” or “acceptable” just because I had a bisexual partner,” she said. “When he came out to me, I felt very proud of the space and community we created together. It meant that he felt comfortable enough to let me know what he discovered about himself.”
For those in polyamorous situations, their bisexuality was an integral part of their relationships. “The more I think about this, the more I believe that being bisexual and dating a bisexual has opened up my perspective on how I understand relationships, different levels of intimacy, and my own capacity for being with others – and caring about myself!” shared Lynn from Queens. “The combination of being bisexuals, and being non-monogamous gave me an opportunity to rewrite how I think about relationships and community and who I chose to give my love to and how I do it.”
“Being non-monogamous, I feel like I’ve been able to reclaim the “greedy bisexual” stereotype for myself by letting myself experience love more expansively, with multiple people of multiple genders,” said Angie, 26, in Tacoma, WA. “I’m not greedy, and if I am, is it such a bad thing to be greedy for love?”
But of course, for some relationships, being bi never really came up between them. “Neither [I or my husband] think that this kind of shared identity-configuration automatically or universally provides some kind of heightened understanding or compatibility,” said Julian, 31. “At the same time, I do think you see less discussion about bisexual men, and particularly bisexual men in relationships with each other, and there are probably a number of reasons for that. So it’s not nothing, either, or else it wouldn’t be so absent.”
Relationships between bi people aren’t inherently better or worse than between bi people and people of other sexual alignments — they exist, and can be a perspective-broadening experience for those in them. “Even in the time we’ve been together, I’ve gone through phases of feeling more gay or more straight despite being in a same-sex relationship throughout,” said Kiera, 25, in New York City. “Since we do both hold this identity and are open to this fluidity, I think we are able to have candid conversations about it. Being with another bi person makes it easier to hold those nuances and feel confident in that identity regardless of the social pressures of appearing “just gay.””
Kiera’s partner, Paola, 26, agreed. “I think my relationship with Kiera has further strengthened me to not hide and to allow myself to be bisexual. I don’t have to prove anything to anyone else, and that’s is luckily something that has been super affirming about being with someone who also identifies as bisexual,” she shared. “It gives us space to just relate on our journey of accepting our queerness and then also allowed us to be great supporters for one another.”