Q: How does one know they're bi?
A: The short answer is, if a person is sexually attracted to both women and men, then they're bisexual. Also, if a person can be attracted to women, men and transgender people (people who have transitioned from one gender to the other), then they're pansexual.
When it comes to bi/pansexual people, there can be differences in how much they're attracted to different genders; sometimes they will be attracted to one gender more than another. They may also be romantically attracted to only one gender. In other words, they may desire relationships only with one gender, even if they are sexually attracted to both genders. There are even some bisexual people who are more physically attracted to one gender, but more romantically attracted to another gender. There is a lot of variability within the bi/pan community when it comes to sexual and romantic desires. It's up to each individual to figure out exactly what's right for them.
Q: I am really attracted to my boyfriend, however I have always had sexual desires about women. I masturbate to lesbian porn and I am sexually attracted to them. However, I can never imagine myself in an actual relationship with a woman. What does this mean?
A: I think what that means is that, basically, you are attracted to both your boyfriend and other women. There's nothing abnormal or even all that uncommon about having sexual feelings toward different people at the same time, even if they are different genders. Basically, that's the experience of many bisexual people.
Sometimes people can reliably have sexual attractions toward one gender and romantic attractions toward the other. In one study of bisexual men, for example, it was found that about 25% of the sample reported being only sexually attracted to one gender, while being romantically attracted to the other gender (I haven’t yet found a similar study pertaining to women). Many of these individuals end up forming romantic attachments to those they have romantic feelings for and then develop a sexual attraction toward their partner over time. Others report having an open relationship, in which they can have a romantic relationship with one partner, but sometimes have sex with other people (with their partner’s consent). There’s no one right way to have a relationship, as long as it’s consensual among all parties.
I think something else you should consider, though, is why you can’t imagine yourself in a relationship with a women. Is it that you don’t find yourself romantically attracted to women or that you just don’t know what it would be like. This is something you could perhaps talk about with a counselor or discuss with some close friends. Perhaps you could get to know some lesbian couples to see first-hand how lesbian relationships “work.” You’ll likely find that lesbian relationships are just like heterosexual relationships, with the same levels of passion, intimacy and long-term commitment.
Answers provided by Dr. Ross Avilla
Dr. Ross Avilla has been teaching Human Sexuality since 2013 and has a PhD in psychology from UC Davis. Dr. Avilla is not a clinician and all information and advice offered on this website is for educational purposes only.