Bisexuals are individuals with emotional, romantic or sexual attractions toward people of both sexes and of various gender identities. Bisexuality is a sexual orientation, like homosexuality or heterosexuality.
The term is a bit misleading, because it suggests that on the spectrum from homosexuality to heterosexuality, bisexuals fall in the vast middle. Bisexuals may in fact be more attracted to one sex than another, and the intensity of their attractions may vary over time. (That’s true for many of us.)
The Kinsey scale, developed in the 1940s by the pioneering sexuality researcher Alfred Kinsey, posits a continuum for sexuality orientation from “0” (for people whose orientation is exclusively toward persons of the other sex) to “6” (for people whose orientation is exclusively toward persons of the same sex). The Kinsey scale created a wide berth for persons whose sexual behaviors lay somewhere between 0 and 6.
Following Kinsey, later studies have attempted to take into account more of the complexities surrounding sexual orientation, such as affectional and romantic preferences, fantasies, and social and political aspects of sexual identity. There may, in fact, be no single bisexuality but a range of bisexualities, varying among individuals and fluid over time. (See the Definitions section of this guide for more information on sexual orientations.)
Given the complexities, it’s difficult to estimate the size of the bisexual population. In 2002, the National Survey of Family Growth found that nearly 13 percent of women and nearly 6 percent of men said they were attracted to both men and women, but only 2 percent specifically identified as bisexual. (By comparison, 1.8 percent identified as gay/lesbian.)
The bi-identity often gets lost in the rush to apply gender-based labels. A bisexual woman married to a man is assumed to be heterosexual; a bisexual man in a committed relationship with another man is assumed to be gay. There are also the myths and stereotypes that bisexuals must endure – that they are promiscuous or unable to form committed relationships; that all people are really bisexual (but won’t admit it); that bisexuality is a phase; or that bisexuals are just confused homosexuals. Stereotyping is one of the most pernicious aspects of biphobia (the fear or hatred of bisexual persons).
It would be easy for bisexuals to surrender to invisibility and biphobia were they less-attuned to the unique blessings of their sexuality. “A great many of us find that our bisexuality deepens our spirituality,” says Rev. Susan Craig, a Presbyterian minister. “When it’s time for us to fall in love, our ‘time to embrace,’ we don’t know if it will be with a woman or a man. And so we experience the Spirit’s movement in our lives, ‘blowing where it chooses… but [we] do not know where it comes from or where it goes.’” [John 3:8]
Bisexual people may bring unique spiritual gifts to their communities of faith, such as a deeper understanding of diversity in creation, an attuned sensibility to the ambiguities and paradoxes of faith, and an innate ability to build bridges and engage the “other.” The LGBT rights movement, both secular and religious, is just beginning to address issues specific to bisexuals, and to fully embrace the gifts of bisexual people. The first step for religious communities may be to create an environment where bisexuals feel comfortable being, and sharing, who they are.