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How Do I Explain to People That Being Bi Doesn’t Mean I Can’t Be Monogamous?

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September 21, 2016
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The following is from the new Sex & Relationships column in the Fall issue of Lambda Legal's Impact magazine, available in print on October 14th. Become a Lambda Legal member to become a subscriber!

You reveal your most intimate concerns. We ask the experts.

Q. I’m a bisexual woman in a monogamous relationship with a man. That seems pretty straightforward, I think, but lots of folks seem to think I must be secretly unsatisfied because I’m not having sex with women as well. My friends love to joke about this! And I hate it. I usually just remind them how important my commitment is to my boyfriend, but that’s getting tired. What’s a good way to explain to people that just because I’m bi, that doesn’t mean I can’t be with just one person?

A. As you seem well aware, bisexuality is an orientation, not a description of what’s going on in a person’s life at any one point in time. It means having the potential to be attracted to people of more than one sex or gender, not necessarily with more variety or non-monogamy than anyone else.

Explaining this to non-bisexuals is remarkably thorny.

Sex therapist Kelly Wise suggests, a little wryly, “Maybe you can ask your non-bisexual friends who are in happily committed relationships if they feel unhappy with their life because they aren’t having sex with all the people they are attracted to.”

Nancy Marcus, Senior Staff Attorney in Lambda Legal’s Law & Policy Project, wonders if your friends might think bisexuality and polyamory are the same thing.

What’s clear, says Marcus, is that many people feel the need to quickly pinpoint whether someone is gay or straight by knowing the gender of their partner. But there are no such instant cues with bisexual people.

“Even dating only men or women (whether cisgender or transgender), or only gender fluid people, does not make a person any less bisexual, as long as the potential to be attracted to others is there as well,” says Marcus.

For more on this, contact BiNet.

Have questions for our sex and relationships experts? Email impact@lambdalegal.org. This information does not constitute legal advice. For more information, contact our Help Desk at lambdalegal.org/help or 866-542-8336.