Frustratingly and unfairly, there are still a lot of misconceptions about bisexuality. So figuring out if it’s a label that fits for you can be confusing. That may explain why only 28% of bisexual people say they’ve come out (compared to 71% of lesbians), according to research from the Pew Research Center in 2015.
“Some people are hesitant to embrace a bisexual (or pansexual) identity, because our culture still associates bisexuality with greed and sluttiness. But others find it really empowering to embrace an identity with that history,” says Liz Powell, PsyD, an LGBTQ-friendly sex educator, coach, and psychologist in Portland, Oregon.
But remember: “However you identify, you deserve to feel confident in your desires and be supported by friends, family, and other loved ones,” says Toronto-based Jessica O’Reilly, PhD, a sexologist and host of the podcast Sex With Dr. Jess. One way to smash the stigma about bisexuality? Talk about it. Here, 7 (sometimes anonymous) women share exactly how and when they knew they had feels for more than one gender.
“I thought I was gay—until I met him”
“I typically just tell people that I’m gay because it’s easier. And for the first 25 years of my life, I truly believed myself to be 100% gay. But one day, I was working out at my gym and a man I’d never seen before walked in. I felt what can only be called a flutter. To say I fell for him is an understatement, and we’ve since broken up. Yet physically and emotionally, I’m still very affected by him. And I don’t rule out the possibility of feeling that way toward another man again.” —Tony, 26
“I didn’t realize until college”
“In high school I’d only dated guys, but then in college I fell in love with a few different people and experienced so many extraordinary types of love with people of different genders. Sure, some people define bisexuality as “interested in men and women,” but for me it means being able to love in a way that is not predicated on their physical body, but rather on the emotional connection.” —Mimi, 23
“I met a femme woman into other women”
“My journey to understanding my sexuality involved shattering feelings I had been repressing for a long time. I started to openly admit to myself that I had crushes on girls and wanted to make out with them when I was in 7th grade. But at that age, I genuinely thought I couldn’t possibly be gay; I didn’t look the way I’d been taught gay women look. I didn’t have or want piercings or dyed short hair, and I didn’t want to wear masculine clothes.
But at 17, I met a woman who was feminine like me, and gay. I came out as bisexual to friends and family shortly after. When I started dating girls, the experience was so different that I wondered if I liked men at all, even though I had had a serious boyfriend in high school. It wasn’t until I dated a confident, feminist guy that I knew I did like men and women. For me, my coming out process with women was about a physical attraction. With men it was an emotional attraction” —Alina, 24
“A woman wanted me, and I suddenly wanted her back”
“Growing up, I always thought I was straight. It never occurred to me that I could be anything else. I was a huge gay rights ally, but I didn’t really know any out and proud gay people in real life, and the gay people I saw on TV didn’t resonate with me. Then I met a girl who was gay and who was interested in me, and suddenly this entire world opened up that I didn’t even know I wanted, but suddenly desperately did.” —Rachel Charlene Lewis, 25
“In elementary school, I felt awkward around certain girls”
“Truthfully, I knew I was attracted to both men and women long before I was ready to act on it. Even in elementary and middle school, I remember feeling awkward around certain girls. Then in high school I knew for sure. But I just didn’t know how to deal with that attraction in the context of my family or longtime friends. As I dated boys, the thought of acting on and being bisexual lingered in my head. It felt easier to date men than confronting whatever being gay or bisexual would mean.
In college, I met someone who understood me more than I could imagine. It was super slow at first (new territory for both of us), but she really helped me realize I didn’t owe anyone perfect answers or answers at all. I think I needed the space from everyone who knew one version of me to dive into who I was without the pressures or judgments from other people. We ended up dating throughout college and it has been years since we broke up. But to this day I have never been as grateful for a person as I am for them.” —Anonymous, 24
“I could’ve sat and watched her laugh for hours”
“As long as I can remember, I’d catch myself staring at girls. At first, I thought it stemmed from an artistic place. I was attracted to unique faces and shapes. But if you asked me, I was straight. Until I saw her. She was sitting across the room on the floor in a contemporary dance class in college, talking with another girl she must have known because every few minutes or so she would throw her head back and laugh. I could’ve sat there and watched her for hours, and it felt like I did. It hit me like a ton of bricks: I was attracted to this woman. It never went beyond that, but we become friends and she helped me accept my new identity.” —Kiera, 23