Bisexuality isn’t an exact science. The experience for one individual may look very different than the experience of another. So what exactly does it mean to be bisexual? According to the Human Rights Campaign, a bisexual person is someone who can be attracted to more than one gender.
However, while some people who are attracted to multiple genders may identify as bisexual, others may instead identify as pansexual, queer, fluid, or not label themselves at all.
“It’s really different for everyone,” says LGBTQ expert Kryss Shane, LMSW. “Some people who identify as bisexual might have always been romantically or sexually attracted to people of multiple genders; Some people who identify as bisexual maybe prefer pornography or in-real-life sexual encounters with people of multiple genders.”
To be clear though, there’s no sort of checklist that can determine whether or not you’re bisexual. But to help, here are 14 women’s stories on the moment they knew they were bisexual and how they embraced their identity.
1. “I knew I was bisexual when I was 15. I had curious thoughts about women for years, but thought it was just me wanting to be friends with them. When I was younger though, I was a big Glee fan, and that show introduced a lot of female relationships that I hadn’t seen before. I think just being exposed to those really popular pairings made me realize that I wanted what I was seeing, but was also still equally boy-crazy. Once I realized I wanted a dog and a picket white fence with a girl, that’s when I really knew I was truly bisexual.” —Michelle O., 23.
2. “At 24, I met a girl and found myself not only fantasizing about kissing her, but actually dating her too. You know, like waking up with her in the morning, cuddling on the sofa, etc. I remember standing and looking at her talking to a friend when I realized that I would not make an exception for her, I was just bisexual.” —Christin H., 33.
3. “I was probably 12 when I realized I had feelings for both men and women. However, I didn’t understand what that feeling was. I was always very intimidated by other girls in my grade, and I never understood why—but looking back, it was definitely because I was attracted to them and shoved that to the side. My senior year of college though, I was crushing hard on one of my friends and it was very apparent to me what that actually meant.” —Laurel F., 24
4. “I don’t know if there was a specific moment… it was more a short period of time in which I realized I had my first crush on a girl—but in a way that I thought was normal until I understood not all people felt that way.” —Lauren R., 21
5. “I identified as straight until I was 29. There was one summer when I developed a crush on three women, and one of them ended up being my first girlfriend. We dated for three years. I didn’t really label my sexuality at that point, but knew I wasn’t straight anymore. After that relationship, I dated somebody who was trans and non-binary, so I started learning more about bisexuality and started to embrace that I’m attracted to people of many genders.” —Cally I, 35
6. “I realized at probably 13 that I might like girls when my best friend at the time got her first boyfriend and I felt so heartbroken and jealous. I always just accepted that I could be attracted to both men and women, and haven’t questioned it since!” —Samantha R., 25
7. “I knew deep down that I was bisexual since puberty, as I was fantasizing about women—even though I had always been attracted to boys from a very early age. So when I got to high school, I started experimenting with girls. Throughout school, I was hazed by other gay friends of mine that insisted I was a lesbian, but I knew I wasn’t. Eventually, I met my now husband. Coming out to him was the hardest thing I have ever done, but the most liberating.” —Becky B., 27
8. “I was 20 or 21 when I came to terms with it. I was on a bus and a hot girl came on and I thought, ‘I’m probably gay, that’s it.’ Then a hot guy came on and I was like, ‘Woah, pretty sure lesbians are not this attracted to men.’ So then came the light bulb moment where I realized I was bi and there was no explanation needed.” —Lorenna L., 23
9. “I always had boyfriends when I was younger, but I think that was because I knew that’s what girls were supposed to do. I’ve definitely always liked men and women, but I didn’t realize my feelings toward women until my friends bought me a Paris Hilton CD and when I saw her on the cover, I was like, ‘Oh, shit, I like girls too.'” —Laura C., 23
10. “I went to an all girl’s school and in 8th grade, I was standing in line behind one of my best friends for a Halloween haunted house. She was dressed as Michael Jackson in a white dress shirt and black pants. I felt incredibly attracted to her and realized in that moment I liked girls as much as guys.” —Jayne S., 33
11. “I fell in love with a woman at 18, but I didn’t feel comfortable with the idea that all my dating relationships up to that point were merely compulsory. Realizing that neither the straight, nor the gay/lesbian labels fit me was my first experience as a member of a marginalized group. Then, I joined a community for bisexual women and the group shaped me personally and professionally. My first marriage was to a man and my second and now current marriage is with a woman.” —Alison B., 45
12. “There wasn’t one specific moment when I realized I was bisexual, but I think I realized it when I was 17. I had been dating this guy, but I found myself clinging to his best friend. She and I would make out occasionally, but I told myself it was just to get the attention of guys around us. Eventually, I realized I had a crush on her. When I look back at that moment, I felt relief. I finally had a word to describe the way I adored other women when I was younger.” —Abbey B., 22
13. “There were hints throughout my life—my love the The L Word, my involvement in gay rights, the way I couldn’t keep my eyes to myself when I was at the beach and girls were in bikinis. I was finally able to admit to myself when I went to a strip club and sat at the rack and was like, ‘Yup, I’m bi.’ I made an OkCupid profile shortly after and then started coming out to my friends and family.” —Tabby T., 30
14. “I first knew I was bisexual when I was 17. I was supposed to visit my friend at her house on the weekend and she called me to tell me who was going. She told me her twin sister was bringing her girlfriend, but I was a little surprised to know she had a girlfriend. I asked my friend about it because I had always known her sister to be the ‘boy crazy’ type, and she nonchalantly said her sister was bisexual. I thought about the conversation all week and realized that was the word I had been looking for my whole life.” —Sam G., 21
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