Despite comprising more than half of the lesbian, gay, and bisexual community, bisexual people are under-reported or poorly reported by media, erasing their presence as well as their specific experiences and challenges, leading many people who are bisexual to feel misunderstood and isolated.
Bisexual, Bi, Bi+
An adjective used to describe a person who has the potential to be physically, romantically, and/or emotionally attracted to people of more than one gender, not necessarily at the same time, in the same way, or to the same degree. The bi in bisexual refers to genders the same as and different from one’s own gender. Do not write or imply that bi means being attracted to men and women. That is not an accurate definition of the word. Do not use a hyphen in the word bisexual.
People may experience this attraction in differing ways and degrees over their lifetime. Bisexual people need not have had specific sexual experiences to be bisexual; in fact, they need not have had any sexual experience at all to call themselves bisexual. Some people use the words bisexual and bi to describe the community. Others may use bi+, which is intended to be inclusive of those who call themselves bisexual, pansexual, fluid, queer, and other words that describe people who have the potential to be attracted to more than one gender. As with the term questioning, people might say they are bicurious if they are exploring whether or not they are attracted to people of the same gender as well as people of other genders.
For additional definitions, including biphobia and pansexual, please visit the Glossary of Terms.
A 2021 Gallup poll found that more than half of all non-heterosexual people in the United States are bisexual. 2019’s General Social Survey found a more than threefold increase in bisexual identification among women aged 18-34 —from 3.5% in 2008 to 12.6% in 2018. Among Black women in this age group, 23% are bisexual.
The Movement Advancement Project’s 2016 Invisible Majority report states that a substantial percentage of Americans experience attraction to, or have had sexual contact, with people of more than one gender. Pew Research found that only 19% of bisexuals — despite making up the majority of people who are not straight — said that most or all of the important people in their lives knew about their sexual orientation, compared to 75% of lesbians and gay men. Twenty-six percent of bisexual adults are not out to any of the important people in their lives, compared with 4% of gay and lesbian adults. Roughly half of those who are bisexual (54%) reported being out to some or only a few people.
According to the Los Angeles Times, bisexual people reported they “avoided coming out because they didn’t want to deal with misconceptions that bisexuals were indecisive or incapable of monogamy — stereotypes that exist among straights, gays, and lesbians alike.” Multiple research studies have shown that people who are bisexual are more likely to binge drink, engage in self-harm, and have suicidal thoughts than gay, lesbian, or straight people — an indicator of high levels of minority stress.
By being more cognizant of the realities facing bisexual people and the community’s many diversities, and by fairly and accurately reporting on people who are bisexual, the media can help eliminate some of the misconceptions and damaging stereotypes bisexual people face on a daily basis.
Identify people accurately. If someone clearly states that they are bisexual, bi, or bi+, do not identify them as gay, lesbian, or straight instead. Simply being in a relationship with someone of the same gender, or a different gender, does not negate a person’s bisexual orientation. Bisexual people need not have had specific sexual or romantic experiences to be bisexual; in fact, they need not have had any sexual or romantic experience at all to be bisexual.
Identify couples accurately. When writing about two people in a relationship, do not assume they are a gay, lesbian, or straight couple. A bisexual person in a same-sex relationship is not gay or lesbian. A bisexual person in a relationship with someone of a different gender is not straight. Ask couples how they would like to be described.
Avoid suggesting bisexuality is a phase or a deception. Do not imply that being bisexual is a phase and that bisexuals are “on their way” to being gay or lesbian. People who are bisexual are not confused, indecisive, or lying. Bisexuality is a distinct sexual orientation and not an experimental or transitional stage.
Avoid stereotypes that associate bisexuality with promiscuity. A common and inaccurate stereotype is that all bisexual people do not want to be, or cannot be, monogamous. This is simply not true. Bisexual people are just as capable of forming committed monogamous relationships as straight, gay, and lesbian people. It is inaccurate and harmful to imply that bisexual people are categorically more “promiscuous” than others. People of all sexual orientations can be monogamous for some or all of their lives, or they can choose other types of relationships. This decision is entirely separate from one’s sexual orientation.
Other terms you might hear: Some people who have the capacity to be attracted to people of any gender may consider themselves part of the bi+ community and/or choose other words to describe their sexual orientation, such as: pansexual, polysexual, omnisexual, fluid, queer, and more. Some people prefer to avoid all labels. Ask people how they describe themselves.
Please reach out to the below organizations — or GLAAD (firstname.lastname@example.org) — to learn more and connect with spokespeople: