Understanding what bi-curiosity really means

It’s not uncommon for people to question their sexuality: feeling attracted to the same sex and trying to figure out what to label themselves, with some deciding to call themselves bi-curious.

As defined by Merriam-Webster, the term “bi-curious” is “an openness to or curiosity about having sexual relations with a person whose sex differs from that of one’s usual sexual partners: curious about exploring or experimenting with bisexuality.” Meanwhile, the term bisexual is “characterized by [a] sexual or romantic attraction to both men and women.” People sometimes mix up these two terms, but they have different meanings. I’ve researched and contacted some of my friends who identify as bisexuals to learn more about the difference.

More often than not, people who call themselves bi-curious still don’t feel certain about who they are and want to know more about themselves. My friend, Isaac Pelayo, thinks that this term could apply to what some people might call a “phase,” because “it is, in a way, [a kind of] middle ground where a heterosexual or a homosexual confirms if they are bisexual.” For Pelayo, bi-curious is a question people don’t know the answer to unless they get to experience it. 

The term can be troubling, as it can perpetuate bi-erasure, which is when people question or deny the existence of bisexuality. “The term bi-curious reflects a belief that orientation is something you have to explore sexually and romantically before it’s real,” the Bi Girls Club founder Gabrielle Alexa said

As someone who identifies as bisexual, I think what we need is a better representation for our community. I can’t blame people for not knowing more about bisexuality, especially since TV shows and movies don’t acknowledge us enough. But people need to realize that bisexuals exist and we are not just “confused.” At the same time, the existence of bisexuality does not necessarily mean that bi-curious isn’t a thing. 

At present, there are many labels floating around, and some people might find it a lot more difficult to figure out what they should identify as. There are also instances where people believe they’re straight until they find themselves being attracted to the same gender, but don’t know how to label themselves, thus sticking to the term bi-curious. And sometimes, people are just not comfortable labeling themselves, feeling like doing so might seem like too much of a commitment. As writer Patricia Mejias puts it, bi-curious people are “open to the idea of dating the same gender but that doesn’t necessarily mean they will push through with it.” 

So, is bi-curiosity a pre-stage to bisexuality? Again, Alexa says that thinking about it this way can lead to bi-erasure. She then suggests that bi-curious people are free to label themselves as bisexual since the definition of bisexuality would “encompass someone who is ‘bi-curious’ as it speaks to potential and curiosity.” Or perhaps other terms like “queer,” a sexual orientation that is not exclusively heterosexual, might fit them better. (Although the term is not universally accepted, even within the LGBT community, according to The Gay Center). 

Bi-curiosity may or may not be the pre-stage to bisexuality, but how we choose to define ourselves is nobody’s business. Everyone is free to choose how they want to express and explore their sexualities.

Maybe the reason why people are confused about the term bi-curiosity is that it’s not talked about that much, especially here in the Philippines. Agatha Aguas from 24-Hr HR Process Outsourcing Inc. says, “People in the Philippines, especially the older generation, do not indulge themselves in conversations about SOGIE since they show prejudice on these issues. In turn, people lack proper education.” I mean, how could we even talk about it here when the people running our country discriminate against the LGBTQ+ community? 

It also just follows that they hardly know anything about these things. Sen. Koko Pimentel even asked during a SOGIE discussion last August, “The good senator [Risa Hontiveros] used the term trans woman. May we know what exactly that is?” Meanwhile, Sen. Tito Sotto couldn’t find the words “trans man” and “trans woman” on the dictionary and even asked to just call homosexuals “Homo Sapiens.” If this is just the case in our country, then the LGBTQ members would just feel excluded—even those who are still in the process of figuring out their sexualities. 

But even if we have proper education, we all know that labels are just social constructs. And if people feel the need to identify as “bi-curious,” I don’t mind. I think it’s brave that people are open to explore their sexuality and learn more about themselves. And if you ever come across someone who identifies as bi-curious, don’t ask questions that would make them feel uncomfortable, or worse, unseen. They might have a hard time figuring it out and they would appreciate it if we’re going to be supportive. As Juliene Guillermo from Asia Society says: “If we encourage bi-curious people to just be themselves, then maybe they would feel comfortable in their journey of exploring genders.” 

 

Art by Tricia Guevara

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