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Bisexual, also abbreviated as bi, is a sexual orientation encompassing attraction to multiple genders and/or sexes,[1][2][3][4][5][6] with the attraction being sexual, romantic, and/or emotional.[6] Bisexuality is not limited to the gender binary, but it is often misunderstood as that.[3] The term does not have a single, universal definition or strict rules as to who may identify as bisexual. The many definitions include the following:

  • Attraction to women and men,[1][2] sometimes phrased as "both sexes"[1]
  • Attraction to people of the same gender as one's self and to people of other genders[2][3]
  • Attraction to more than one gender[2][4][5][6] or more than one sex[6]
  • Attraction to two genders[3][4]
  • Attraction to all genders[5]
  • Or definitions may be based on engagement in romantic or sexual relationships instead of attractions[6]

Bisexuals may experience attraction regardless of gender[5] or regardless of sex,[1] feel equally attracted to the genders they are attracted to,[4] or may have a preference for and be primarily or more strongly attracted to one (or more) gender compared to the other(s).[1][4] Some bisexuals are attracted to different genders in different ways.[1][4] Others feel attracted to one gender or sex at some times and not others.[1]

Bisexuality is also an umbrella of anyone who is attracted to multiple genders.[5][7][8] Sometimes "bisexual+" or "bi+" are used to distinguish the umbrella usage from the singular term, meaning bisexual individuals are part of bisexual+.[5][9] The bisexual label is also considered part of "m-spec", an abbreviation variously expanded into multiple-attraction spectrum, multi-attraction spectrum,[7][9] or multisexual spectrum.[9] Individuals may have a preference in which specific label they use or draw distinctions between bisexuality and other labels, such as pansexual and omnisexual.[5]

Etymology

"Bisexual" comes from the roots "bi-", meaning "two"[2][10] or "double", and "-sexual". The term "bisexuality", when referring to sexual orientation, was first used in 1892 by neurologist Charles Gilbert Chaddock in his English translation of Richard Kraft-Ebbing's Psychopathia Sexualis , which contained a theory that the brain of a person attracted both to their own sex and the opposite sex must be partly of another sex and thus "hermaphroditic".[10] Earlier, bisexual was a botanical term for "having male and female parts".[11]

Community

Two interlocking triangles in the colors of the bi flag

The biangles symbol by Liz Nania, the colors of which Michael Page used for the bisexual pride flag

Bi Visibility Day has been internationally celebrated on September 23 since 1999. It varies in several countries, though, being the 16th, 24th, or 25th instead.[12]

History

Ancient history

In ancient China and Japan, both homosexuality and bisexuality were documented, including men who had sex with men and women who had sex with women. Ancient Japanese shunga art prints depict sexual relationships in complex detail, including same-sex relations. Ancient China had similar artwork.[13] Ancient Greek religious texts, which reflected cultural practices, had bisexual themes throughout. Ancient Greece is generally considered to have been accepting of LGBTQIA+ individuals, though attitudes differed in various city-states.[14] In terms of social acceptance in ancient Rome, a freeborn Roman man could have sex with both men and women, as long as he took the penetrative role.[15] The Roman emperor Caligula had relationships with both men and women.[16][17]

19th century

Starting from 19th century, historians documented multiple self-declared or openly living as bisexual historical figures, being able to describe them in more detail than ancient figures. These include several well-known writers, singers and artists; however, living openly as a bisexual person was rare due to stigma. The famous writer Hans Christian Andersen (1805 - 1875) is described to be bisexual, as he describes attraction to both men and women in his correspondence and diary; his male love interests include Edvard Collin, who preferred women and found himself "unable to respond to this love".[18][19] Lord Byron (1788 - 1824), an English poet, one of the leading figures of the Romanticism, had many relationships with women and men, and his bisexuality is acknowledged by historians.[20]

Early 20th century

During the Harlem Renaissance, blues singers Ma Rainey (1886–1939) and Bessie Smith (1894–1937) openly acknowledged bisexuality in their lyrics and life and are considered bisexual.[21][22] Poet Edna St. Vincent Millay (1892–1950) was also openly bisexual.[23]

The Kinsey Scale

The Kinsey Scale

The Kinsey scale was originally created by Alfred Kinsey and published in his 1948 book Sexual Behavior in the Human Male.

The sex researcher Alfred Kinsey and his team published the Kinsey Scale in 1948, to illustrate that sexual attraction and behavior can vary on a wide spectrum. The seven-point scale ranges from 0 ("exclusively heterosexual") to 6 ("exclusively homosexual"). Those who fall somewhere in the 1-5 category are labelled as bisexual. The scale shows that there is a whole range of experiences other than being heterosexual or homosexual.[24][25]

1960s and 1970s

In New York, Philadelphia, and Washington, D.C. between 1965 and 1969 multiple pickets were staged to fight for LGBTQIA+ rights. One woman at the second White House picket declared herself as bisexual.[26] Many bisexual individuals took part in the Stonewall riots in 1969, a key historical event for the entire LGBTQIA+ community. Brenda Howard, a known bisexual activist, is known as the Mother of Pride, because she created a one-month Stonewall anniversary rally in July 1969 and then took part in coordinating the Christopher Street Liberation Day Parade in 1970, known as the first pride march[27]

In 1972, a Quaker group (an American religious assembly), the Committee of Friends on Bisexuality, supported the bisexual people in the "Ithaca Statement on Bisexuality", being the possibly first known religious group to support the bisexual community in the United States.[28]

Freddie Mercury (1946 - 1991) is one of the most famous self-declared bisexual men. Many speculate about his sexuality, but it is known he came out to his girlfriend, Mary Austin, in 1976.[29]

The Klein Grid

The Klein Grid

The Klein Grid

The Klein Grid is a way to describe sexuality and it is also known as the Klein Sexual Orientation Grid (KSOG). The psychiatrist and sex researcher Fritz Klein published the Klein Grid in 1978 to provide a more nuanced way to describe human sexuality. It includes past and present experiences and one's "ideal" experience they'd wish to have, and multiple labels to describe the experiences. One can include their behavior, attraction, fantasies, lifestyle and preferences and describe them with a multitude of labels containing words "only", "somewhat more", "most" and such. The grid illustrates fluidity and complexity of everyone's sexual identity.[25][30]

1980s and 1990s

When the HIV/AIDS pandemic began, bisexual activists fought for their recognition; they also fought for cisgender women, transgender people, and injection drug users to be recognized as victims of the pandemic and supported. One of them was a Black woman, Veneita Porter, who advocated for these groups and was known to be bisexual; she was an activist of the Prostitute's Union of Massachusetts and the Call Off Your Old Tired Ethics organization.[31] In 1985, the Bisexual Resource Center (BRC) was founded as the East Coast Bisexual Network.[32] In 1987, the article "The Bisexual Movement: Are We Visible Yet?" by Lani Ka'ahumanu appeared in the official Civil Disobedience Handbook for the Second National March on Washington for Lesbian and Gay Rights and was the first article from the bisexual community in a national lesbian or gay publication in the United States of America.[33]

In 1992, Colorado voters approved the 1992 Colorado Amendment 2 that prevented any city, town, or county in the state from taking any legislative, executive, or judicial action to introduce anti-discrimination law protecting gay, lesbian, or bisexual people. The Supreme Court ruled in a 6–3 decision that the amendment did not satisfy the Equal Protection Clause.[34]

Modern history

The Union for Reform Judaism in 2003 issued a resolution "Support for the Inclusion and Acceptance of the Transgender and Bisexual Communities", which applied their policy supporting rights of the gay and lesbian communities to the bisexual and transgender communities.[35]

Flag

The pink color represents sexual attraction to the same sex only (gay and lesbian). The blue represents sexual attraction to the opposite sex only (straight) and the resultant overlap color purple represents sexual attraction to both sexes (bi).

Two interlocking crescents in the colours of the bi flag

The bisexual crescents

The bisexual pride flag was designed by a team led by LGBT activist Michael Page in 1998. The flag was created in order to give the bisexual community its own symbol which was easily recognized and comparable to the gay pride flag (rainbow flag) that represented the larger LGBTQIA+ community. Page's aim was to increase the visibility of bisexual people, both among society as a whole and within the community.[36] Page took the colors of the bisexual pride flag from an existing bisexual symbol, the biangles (bisexuality triangles).[36] The biangles were created for the Boston Bi Woman's Community by the artist Liz Nania.[37]

A number of bisexual people prefer to use the bisexual crescents (also called the double moon) instead of the bi triangles as their community symbol, as they want to avoid using a symbol that derives from the pink triangle, which was used to tag and persecute homosexual people in the Nazi regime. This symbol was created by Vivian Wagner with a team in 1998.[38]

Distinction

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Depending on the definitions used for the terms, bisexuality may be distinct from, but similar, to pansexuality and omnisexuality. This is apparent when defining bisexuality as attraction to more than one gender, pansexuality as attraction regardless of gender to people of any gender, and omnisexuality as attraction to all genders with gender often still playing a role in those attractions. However, the definitions are very nuanced and can vary per person.[4]

Perceptions and discrimination

Bisexual ("bi") erasure is one of the most common ways to discriminate against bisexual people. It is the practice of obscuring or denying a bisexual individual's orientation, often in favor of portraying them as either gay/lesbian or straight.[39][40] It remains common, and despite efforts from bisexual activists, the cisheteronormative perception of the gender binary continues to affect how bisexuals are perceived.[41]

There is a tendency to ignore the existence of bisexuality and assume that a person who has a same-sex relationship or sexual intercourse once is homosexual. However, a study in 2012 found that 76.8% of participants categorized such people as bisexual. Still, they "perceived male targets (who expressed a one-time interest in the other sex) to be more homosexual than comparable female targets were judged to be".[42] Another study, published in 2021, mentioned that the authors researched the suggestion that "people stereotype bisexual women as truly heterosexual and bisexual men as truly gay" and found that "participants all perceived bisexual men as more attracted to men than to women. No such pattern emerged for bisexual women".[43]

Media

According to GLAAD's report Where We Are on TV 16'-17':[44]

Of the 278 regular and recurring LGBTQ characters on scripted broadcast, cable, and streaming programming, 83 (30 percent) are counted as bisexual. This group is made up of 64 women and 19 men [...] In each of the examples listed, the character's identity as bisexual was directly tied to their manipulative and evil actions.

Literature

Film

Valkyrie in the Marvel Cinematic Universe[46]

Television/Animated

Comic books

Music

  • Anitta (Brazilian Singer)[58]
  • Bessie Smith[59]
  • Billie Joe Armstrong (Green Day)[60]
  • Dave Davies (The Kinks)[61]
  • David Bowie[62]
  • Debbie Harry (Blondie)[63]
  • Dodie Clark[64]
  • Dove Cameron[65]
  • Freddie Mercury, British singer and frontman for the band Queen[66][67]
  • Jão (Brazilian Singer)[68]
  • Lady Gaga[69]
  • Lil Nas X[70][71]
  • Ma Rainey, African-American blues singer who sang songs about loving both men and women[66]
  • Tinashe[72]

Public figures

  • Alan Cumming, Scottish actor who has also campaigned for charities such as The Trevor Project and GLAAD[66]
  • Alia Shawkat[73]
  • Bai Ling[74]
  • Benji Krol[75]
  • Brenda Howard, the "Mother of Pride"[76]
  • Jack Dylan Grazer[77]
  • Justin Gardner (AKA DIY Audio Guy)[78]
  • Margaret Cho[79]
  • Marlene Dietrich, German actress who was known to have relationships with both men and women[66]
  • Tessa Thompson[80]
  • Karan Brar[81]

Video Games

Resources

Notes

  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 The differences between multisexual labels such as bisexual, omnisexual, pansexual, and polysexual depend on the definitions used. Some sources distinguish each label, while others use the same or similar language.

References

  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 1.4 1.5 1.6 "What is Bisexuality?" on Bi.org. Published by The American Institute of Bisexuality. (Archived on 2024-02-02)
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 2.3 2.4 "What is Bisexual?" by WebMD Editorial Contributors on WebMD. Medically reviewed 2023-07-07 by C. Nicole Swiner, MD (Archived on 2024-02-16)
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 3.3 The Queens' English: The LGBTQIA+ Dictionary of Lingo and Colloquial Phrases by Chloe O. Davis. Published 2021 by Clarkson Potter/Publishers. ISBN 9780593135006, ISBN 9780593135013 (Ebook)
  4. 4.0 4.1 4.2 4.3 4.4 4.5 4.6 The ABC's of LGBT+ by Ash Hardell. Published 2016 by Mango Media. ISBN 9781633534087.
  5. 5.0 5.1 5.2 5.3 5.4 5.5 5.6 "What is Bisexuality?" on Bisexual Resource Center(Archived on 2024-02-02)
  6. 6.0 6.1 6.2 6.3 6.4 "Understanding Bisexuality" on American Psychological Association(no backup information provided)
  7. 7.0 7.1 "What does 'm-spec' mean?" on The Bi Pan Library. Published 2021-10-17. (Archived on 2024-04-21)
  8. "The Bi Umbrella" on Bi.org. Published by The American Institute of Bisexuality. (Archived on 2024-04-10)
  9. 9.0 9.1 9.2 "You Can Stand Under My Bi+ Umbrella: Exploring Students' Chosen Plurisexual Identity Labels" by Victoria Barbosa Olivo, Kaity Prieto, and Olivia M. Copeland in LGBTQIA Students in Higher Education: Approaches to Student Identity and Policy, with Kaity Prieto and Andrew Herridge (editors). Published 2024 by IGI Global. ISBN 9798369328538(web archive)
  10. 10.0 10.1 Psychopathia Sexualis by Richard Kraft-Ebbing, with Charles Gilbert Chaddock (translator). Published 1892. (web archive)
  11. Memoir of Observations on the Plants denominated Cryptogamick by M. de Beauvois. Published 1793 by American Philosophical Society. (web archive)
  12. "Bi Visibility Day" on <bivisibilityday.com>(no backup information provided)
  13. Forbidden images: erotic art from Japan's Edo period (in English). Published by Helsingen kaupungin taidemuseo. (web archive)
  14. "Law, Sexuality, and Society: The Enforcement of Morals in Classical Athens" by Cohen, David on <cambridge.org>. Published 2011 by Cambridge University Press. (no backup information provided)
  15. "The Garden of Priapus: Sexuality and Aggression in Roman Humor" (in English) by Richlin, Amy on <books.google.com>. Published by Oxford University Press. (no backup information provided)
  16. "Suetonius, The Lives of the Caesars" by Tranquillus, C. Seutonius on <penelope.uchicago.edu>. Published 1913 by Loeb Classical Library. (no backup information provided)
  17. "Roman History" by Dio, Cassius on <penelope.uchicago.edu>. Published 1924 by Loeb Classical Library. (no backup information provided)
  18. Just As Well I'm Leaving: To the Orient With Hans Christian Andersen (in English) by Booth, Michael. Published by Random House. (web archive)
  19. Hans Christian Andersen's Correspondence with the Late Grand-Duke of Saxe-Weimar, Charles Dickens (in English) by Anderson, Hans Christian. Published 1891 by Dean & Son. (web archive)
  20. "Least Like Saints: The Vexed Issue of Byron's Sexuality" by Jackson, Emily on <muse.jhu.edu>. Published 2010 by Liverpool University Press. (no backup information provided)
  21. "Ma Rainey's Lesbian Lyrics: 5 Times She Expressed Her Queerness in Song" by Friederich, Brandon on <billboard.com>. Published 2017-06-07 by Billboard. (no backup information provided)
  22. "Bessie Smith: Music's Original, Bitchinest Bad Girl" by Devi, Deborah on <huffpost.com>. Published 2017-12-06 by Huffpost. (no backup information provided)
  23. "Lofty Dogmas: Poets on Poetics" by Brown, Deborah; Finch, Annie; & Kumin, Maxine on <jstor.org>. Published 200 by University of Arkansas Press. (no backup information provided)
  24. "The Kinsey Scale" on <kinseyinstitute.org>. Published 2020 by The Kinsey Institue. (no backup information provided)
  25. 25.0 25.1 "The Kinsey Scale and the Klein Grid" on <bi.org>. Published 2022 by Bi.org. (no backup information provided)
  26. "Interview" by Nichols, Jack on <gaytoday.com>. Published 1997 by Gay Today. (no backup information provided)
  27. Meet "The Mother of Pride," The Pioneering Bisexual Activist Brenda Howard
  28. The Ithaca Satement
  29. "Freddie Mercury's Sexuality Remained a Mystery Even to His Queen Bandmates" by DeRiso, Nick on <ultimateclassicrock.com>. Published 2018-05-16 by Ultimate Classic Rock. (no backup information provided)
  30. The Bisexual Option
  31. Minorities and HIV Infection, Veneita Porter, Rhode Island Project AIDS
  32. Our History - BRC
  33. The Bisexual Community: Are We Visible Yet?
  34. 1992 Colorado Amendment 2
  35. Support for the Inclusion and Acceptance of the Transgender and Bisexual Communities
  36. 36.0 36.1 "The History of the Bi Pride Flag" (original link down) by Michael Page on Bi Pride Flag Chronicles(Archived on 2001-08-01)
  37. "Queer x Design highlights 50 years of LGBT+ graphic design" by Jordahn, Sebastian on <dezeen.com>. Published 2019-10-23 by Dezeen. (no backup information provided)
  38. Queerstory: An Infographic History of the Fight for LGBTQ+ Rights (in English). Published 2020-10-06 by Simon and Schuster. ISBN 1982142375(web archive)
  39. "Bisexual erasure" on <glaad.org>. Published 2017-05-17 by GLAAD. (no backup information provided)
  40. "5 Myths About Bisxuality That Contribute To Bi Erasure" by Rodriguez-Cayl, Kyli on <bustle.com>. Published 2017-09-22 by Bustle. (no backup information provided)
  41. Sexual prejudice: The erasure of bisexuals in academia and the media
  42. Social perception of bisexuality
  43. Bisexual erasure: Perceived attraction patterns of bisexual women and men
  44. Where We Are on TV 16'-17'
  45. 45.0 45.1 "Kit Young on Jesper and how Shadow and Bone handles queerness" by David Opie ft Kit Young on <digitalspy.com>. Published April 25, 2021. (no backup information provided)
  46. "Valkyrie is now the first LGBTQ Marvel movie superhero, but she’s been bi forever" on <cnn.com>(no backup information provided)
  47. "20 Crucial Queer Representations in Anime (for Better or Worse)" by Baron, Reuben on <cbr.com>. Published 2018-06-22 by CBR. (no backup information provided)
  48. "Brooklyn Nine-Nine: Ten Times Rosa Diaz Was A Bisexual Icon" by Flavell, Leah on <screenrant.com>. Published 2019-10-02 by Screenrant. (no backup information provided)
  49. "Brooklyn Nine-Nine fans are here for Rosa's 'bisexual panic' over new love interest" by West, Amy on <pinknews.co.uk>. Published 2018-05-28 by Pink News. (no backup information provided)
  50. The Owl House Season Three Episode One "Thanks to Them"
  51. "The "watching and dreaming" PostHoot with the one and only Dana Terrace!" by Cissy Jones on <instagram.com>. Published April 28, 2023. (backup link not available)
  52. "‘The 100’ Showrunner Talks Clarke’s Sexuality, Lexa’s Return and Season 3 Stakes" on <variety.com>. "But it did become important to make it a female partner, because I felt like it needed it to be clear that she is bisexual. I usually don’t make decisions based on that. But I didn’t want there to be any doubt about it." (no backup information provided)
  53. "Gettin' Bi: ‘Crazy Ex-Girlfriend’s Darryl Whitefeather Destroys Bisexual Stereotypes" on <theseriesregulars.com>(no backup information provided)
  54. https://twitter.com/LUCIFERwriters/status/848629312857063424
  55. "9-1-1 star confirms Buck is bisexual after same-sex kiss: ‘That’s the way I have it in my head’" by Michelle Theil on <thepinknews.com>. Published April 5, 2024. (no backup information provided)
  56. 56.0 56.1 Vivienne Medrano 💖 on Twitter: "Today has been nonstop so decided to make my break doodle somethin' tiny for Bi-day 💕 https://t.co/n6cIMEHXTY" / Twitter
  57. Catman (DC Comics): https://www.thedailybeast.com/gail-simones-bisexual-catman-and-the-secret-six
  58. Anitta: [1]
  59. "Bessie Smith" by Bi.org on <bi.org>(no backup information provided)
  60. "Billie Joe Armstrong" by Bi.org on <bi.org>(no backup information provided)
  61. "Dave Davies’ Kink: Rock Star Same as He Ever Was…" by Jim Booth on <newsoutherngentleman.wordpress.com>. Published June 24, 2014. (no backup information provided)
  62. "Was He Gay, Bisexual or Bowie? Yes" by Katie Rogers on <nytimes.com>. Published January 13, 2016. (no backup information provided)
  63. "Blondie icon Debbie Harry ‘always felt entitled’ to bisexuality and to being ‘the man she wanted to be’" by Reiss Smith on <pinknews.co.uk>. Published October 29, 2020. (no backup information provided)
  64. "Beautiful bisexual coming out song by YouTube star Dodie Clark goes viral" by Josh Jackman on <pinknews.co.uk>. Published July 3, 2017. (no backup information provided)
  65. https://people.com/tv/dove-cameron-shares-how-her-life-has-changed-since-coming-out-queer/
  66. 66.0 66.1 66.2 66.3 The Queeriodic Table: A Celebration of LGBTQ+ Culture by Dyer, Harriet. Published 2019 by Summersdale Publishers Ltd. ISBN 9781786857521.
  67. "Freddie Mercury" by American Institute of Bisexuality on <bi.org>. Published by American Institute of Bisexuality Journal of Bisexuality. (no backup information provided)
  68. Jão: https://noticiasdatv.uol.com.br/noticia/feed/jao-assume-bissexualidade-e-abre-o-coracao-ja-namorei-meninos-e-meninas-63837
  69. https://www.mtv.com/news/qnfrtq/lady-gaga-opens-up-about-her-sexuality
  70. https://twitter.com/LilNasX/status/1612596434502815746?cxt=HHwWhMDQybn6i-EsAAAA
  71. https://twitter.com/LilNasX/status/1612938000874471426?cxt=HHwWhIDQrZ2kp-IsAAAA
  72. "Tinashe gets candid about her bisexuality as she covers GAY TIMES Magazine" by Damshenas, Sam on Gay Times. Published 2020-08-28. (no backup information provided)
  73. "Actress Alia Shawkat on Bold Projects, Broad City & Being Queer in America" by Osenlund, R. Kurt on <out.com>. Published May 11, 2017 by Out. (no backup information provided)
  74. "Actress Bai Ling Discusses Her Bisexuality" on <glaad.org>. Published December 18, 2009 by GLAAD. (no backup information provided)
  75. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=228TRb46q_E
  76. "Meet "The Mother of Pride," The Pioneering Bisexual Activist Brenda Howard" by Elyssa Goodman on <them.us>(no backup information provided)
  77. https://people.com/human-interest/jack-dylan-grazer-comes-out-as-bisexual-uses-he-they-pronouns-luca/
  78. "DIY Audio Guy - About" on <youtube.com>. Published January 24 by DIY Audio Guy. (no backup information provided)
  79. "Margaret Cho: 'Nobody Has Ever Really Accepted That I’m Truly Bisexual'" on <huffpost.com>(no backup information provided)
  80. "Tessa Thompson Comes Out as Bisexual and Says She and Janelle Monáe "Love Each Other Deeply"" on <harpersbazaar.com>(no backup information provided)
  81. "Karan Brar: How I Found Myself" by Karan Brar on <teenvogue.com>. Published November 30, 2023. (no backup information provided)
  82. Pride Sticker Pack merchandise on Bugsnax wiki (orig. Fangamer)
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