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Can’t tell if you want to be or bone the new barista at your go-to coffee shop? Suddenly feeling *intrigued* by the bisexual stars on your social feeds? Recently google “am I bi-curious”?
If so, it’s possible that you’re bi-curious!
Keep reading to better understand what bi-curious means. Plus, learn how bi-curiosity is similar to and different from bisexuality.
“Bi-curious is a label that suggests a person is newly exploring whether or not they’re bisexual,” explains Gabrielle Alexa Noel, bisexual advocate, founder of Bi Girls Club, and author of the forthcoming book, How to Live With the Internet and Not Let It Ruin Your Life.
As a reminder, bisexuality is most commonly defined as one of the below:
- The potential to be attracted to people with genders similar to your own and dissimilar to your own.
- The attraction to people of two or more genders.
Bisexual activist Robyn Ochs, editor of the anthology Getting Bi: Voices of Bisexuals Around the World, adds: “Bi-curious implies that a person is currently asking questions about their sexuality but doesn’t yet have the answers.”
As such, bi-curious is typically seen as a temporary identity, she says.
The Q in LGBTQ+ can stand for “questioning” or “queer” — and sometimes both.
Someone who’s questioning is someone who’s currently exploring their sexuality, and so folks who are exploring whether they’re bisexual (AKA bi-curious) can fall into that category.
What about queer? The answer is a little more complicated.
When it comes to sexuality terms, there’s generally a definition that most folks who identify with the term use. But the e-x-a-c-t definition of different sexuality terms can vary based on who’s doing the defining.
So, some people who identify as bi-curious may use a similar definition for bi-curious as the definition for queer, and vice versa.
But bi-curious and queer typically *aren’t* synonymous.
But far more than a gender or sexuality identity, for most queer people, queer is also a political identity.
Bi-curious differs from “queer” in two main ways:
- Bi-curious is only a sexuality identifier. It can’t be used as a gender identifier.
- Bi-curious isn’t inherently political.
The first documented use of bi-curious was somewhere between 1984 and 1994, depending on the source. Exact year aside, the term debuted when bisexuality was gaining visibility in the United States.
(For reference: 1990 was when the first national bisexual organization coalesced.)
Typically, when people talk about bi-curiosity, they’re talking about people who are (or were) heterosexual who are now exploring attraction to people with genders similar to theirs, says Ochs.
But make no mistake: “People who are (or previously were) gay or lesbian can be bi-curious, too,” she says. “And same goes for any other sexual identity.”
In short: Anyone can be bi-curious.
Again: Sexuality terms vary depending on who’s defining them.
And some people think bisexuality should be defined broadly enough to allow people who are currently exploring their (bi)sexuality to inhabit it.
But generally speaking, the difference between bi-curiosity and bisexuality is that one is a less stable identity (bi-curious) and one is a more stable identity (bisexual).
Bisexuality, says Ochs, is typically used by a person who’s certain that they have the potential to be attracted to people with genders similar to their own and dissimilar to their own.
“Bi-curiosity, on the other hand, implies an uncertainty,” she says.
Sadly, notes Noel, “there’s a lot of stigma surrounding bi-curiosity.”
Why? “Some people believe that when cis and (previously?) heterosexual women identify as bi-curious, they’re doing it to appease the male gaze,” she explains. In other words: They’re doing it to be hot.
Spoiler alert: Cis and (previously?) heterosexual people of any gender can be genuinely interested in exploring the different genders they’re attracted to!
“There’s also a fear amongst the LGBTQ+ community that bi-curious people are outsiders who are going to infiltrate queer spaces, mess with its members, and then leave,” explains Ochs.
In other words, there’s a fear that bi-curious people are going to harm more established members of the LGBTQ+ community by dating them in a half-assed way.
This fear totally ignores the fact that LGBTQ+ people have the agency to make informed decisions about who they do — or don’t — date.
Ultimately, concerns around the term bi-curiosity are usually just biphobia in another costume.
However you identify is valid. And someone else’s discomfort with your sexuality or the sexuality label you use for yourself doesn’t make your identity any less valid.
“Labels are designed to help us name our lived experience and our identity,” explains Noel.
So someone might choose one label over another because they feel it best speaks to their identity.
There’s no Buzzfeed quiz you can take or blood test you can get to learn your sexuality.
“You’re allowed to choose whatever word feels best for you,” says bisexual activist Shiri Eisner, author of Bi: Notes for a Revolution.
“Does ‘bi-curious’ give you a sense of comfort? A sense of adventure? Is it fun to think about it? Does it make you happy? Does it make you feel good about yourself?” she asks.
If you answered yes to any of those questions, it may be the right term for you!
Bi-curious implies that someone is actively exploring their (bi)sexuality, which can be done in a wide variety of ways.
1. Get swiping
Current relationship structure and status allowing, create an online dating profile and set your preferences to two or more of the gender options.
Be interested in who you feel drawn to swipe right on.
2. Actually go on IRL or URL dates with folks of a variety of genders
Experience isn’t a prerequisite to bisexuality, says Noel. “You absolutely do not need to go on dates with or have sex with two or more genders to know that you’re bisexual,” she says.
That said, actually going on dates can be helpful for someone who’s questioning whether they’re bisexual.
After all, it’s very possible that you’re aesthetically drawn to a particular gender on a dating app but not actually interested in ever dating or getting down with them. A series of dates may reveal just that.
3. Noodle on your media consumption
Think about the TV shows and movies you watch, books you read, or podcasts you enjoy.
Next, think about the people/actors/characters in those mediums who you feel more connected to.
Are they bisexual? Queer? Are they sexually ambiguous? Do they have sexual tension with someone of a similar gender?
If so, spend some brain power thinking through that.
4. Connect with the LGBTQ+ community, especially those who are “B”
“For some, connecting to the bisexual community plays a huge role in feeling comfortable identifying as bisexual,” says Noel.
That’s why she recommends following, engaging with, and having conversations with bi folks.
Congrats on finding a label that fits!
Your sexuality is allowed to evolve, and the terms you use for your sexuality are allowed to change.
Identifying by a different identifier now doesn’t mean that you lied when identified as bi-curious, that you were never truly bi-curious, or that you were only using it as a shield.
“If you’re coming from a heterosexual background and are interested in exploring similar-gender attraction, I recommend learning more about both LGBTQ+ culture in general and bisexuality specifically,” says Ochs.
Good resources for this include:
- We Are Everywhere: Protest, Power, and Pride in the History of Queer Liberation by Matthew Riemer and Leighton Brown
- @lesbianherstoryarchives, @h_e_r_s_t_o_r_y, @queerappalachia, @LGBThistory, and @blacklesbianarchives on Instagram
- Getting Bi: Voices of Bisexuals Around the World edited by Robyn Ochs and Sarah Rowley
- Bi: Notes for a Bisexual Revolution by Shiri Eisner
If you’ve already been a part of the LGBTQ+ community — meaning, previously have or currently do identify as lesbian, gay, pansexual, or queer — Ochs recommends spending some time better understanding the role bisexuals have played in LGBTQ+ rights movement, as well as biphobia within the LGBTQ+ community.
For this, check out:
- Bisexuality and the Challenge to Lesbian Politics: Sex, Loyalty, and Revolution (The Cutting Edge: Lesbian Life and Literature Series) by Paula C. Rust
- Bisexual Woman and the “Threat” to Lesbian Space: Or What If All The Lesbians Leave? by Sharon Dale Stone
- Bi, Butch, and Bar Dyke: Pedagogical Performers of Class, Gender, and Sexuality by Michelle Gibson, Martha Marinara, and Deborah Meem
Gabrielle Kassel is a New York-based sex and wellness writer and CrossFit Level 1 Trainer. She’s become a morning person, tested over 200 vibrators, and eaten, drunk, and brushed with charcoal — all in the name of journalism. In her free time, she can be found reading self-help books and romance novels, bench-pressing, or pole dancing. Follow her on Instagram.