Understanding Bisexuality

The term “bisexual” is used to describe a person who experiences emotional, romantic and/or sexual attractions to, or engages in romantic or sexual relationships with, more than one sex or gender.

For years, much of the case for LGBT rights has been based on the argument that sexual orientation is fixed and immutable — baby, we were born this way, and it’s wrong to discriminate against us for something we didn’t choose.

But an increasing body of social science research posits that a sizable number of people experience some degree of fluidity in their sexual and romantic attractions: being drawn to the same gender at one point in their life, the opposite gender at another.

Someone who has had sexual experience with or even just attractions to people of more than one sex can be described as bisexual, but may not identify that way. Likewise, one can identify as bisexual regardless of sexual experience. Furthermore, identities can change over time. Definitions can change too.

Some see a definite relationship between fluidity and bisexuality, however. “I see bisexuality and fluidity as definitely linked,” says Ellyn Ruthstrom, president of the Boston-based Bisexuality Resource Center. Fluidity is easy for bisexuals to understand, she says, as “people are attracted to people, not just genders, and it can happen in different ways at different points in life.”

“I think that fluidity is simply a way to express the gray area that reality really is,” says Denise Penn, a member of the board of directors for the American Institute of Bisexuality. “I think that fluidity is a way of talking about bisexuality. … Fluidity, in reality, refers to a range, and I think that’s good.” What do you think?

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