Bi the Bi: Is Bisexuality a Choice?

Bi the Bi: Two Bi Writers on Big Bi Issues

This blog post is part of an ongoing conversation between two bisexual activists. A.J. Walkley and Sarah Smith* are both monogamous, bisexual, cisgender females who are in long-term relationships. A.J. is in a relationship with a cisgender male, and Sarah is in a relationship with a cisgender female. Both A.J. and Sarah are committed to remaining visible as bisexuals in spite of society's tendency to want to label A.J. as heterosexual and Sarah as a lesbian. Together they came up with the idea for "Bi the Bi: Two Bi Writers on Big Bi Issues" as a way to help eliminate stereotypes and bias against people in the bisexual community.


Question: "How do you respond when asked if bisexuality is a choice?"

Sarah: First I try to determine why the person is asking the question. When someone asks a bisexual person if their sexual orientation is a choice, they are often wondering, "Could you be heterosexual if you just tried hard enough?" The thought on the heels of that is "because if you can be heterosexual, then I would like to force you to be, or punish you for being anything else."

A.J.: Personally, when presented with the question "is bisexuality a choice?" I usually turn it around on the questioner. If the person asking is heterosexual, I will ask, "Did you choose to be straight?" If the person is homosexual, I ask, "Did you choose to be gay?" Each time I've done so, the questioner has usually floundered and answered with some form of "of course not: My sexuality isn't a choice." Well, neither is mine, I tell them.

A likely follow-up question will be "because you are attracted to more than one gender, don't you choose which gender to date or become intimate with?" I enjoy turning this around, as well. I will ask straight questioners, "Haven't you ever been attracted to more than one person of the opposite sex at the same time?" I will ask gay and lesbian inquirers, "Haven't you ever felt an attraction to more than one same-sex individual?" Just because bisexuals have the capacity to be attracted to more than one gender doesn't mean we end up dating or having sex with multiple people at once. Of course, it doesn't mean that some of us don't, either.

Sarah: I do not experience my sexual orientation as a choice. Bisexuality is the capacity for meaningful attraction to people of the same gender as myself and people of different genders from myself. I have always been bisexual, and there was no moment in my life when I decided to be. People occasionally ask, "Do bisexuals choose between being in a relationship with a man and being in a relationship with a woman?" Some bisexuals do. Some of them make gender-based choices, and some just fall in love. (You don't always choose whom you fall in love with.) Some bisexuals choose one of the variations of consensual nonmonogamy, or they make a choice to seek out a partner of a specific gender, or they simply fall in love with a person, gender being irrelevant, or being one small factor among many. The fact that there is some element of gender choice for some of us doesn't mean that we should be taught that we're bad for being bisexual, or forced to only be with "opposite-sex" people. We have the right to be treated with kindness and respect. We have a right to be with the person we love and have our relationships and our lives treated equally under the law.

A.J.: I couldn't agree with you more, Sarah. Truly, the idea of "choice" when it comes to anyone's sexual orientation is irrelevant. My relationship and my decision to enter into it has no bearing on anyone else other than me and my partner. I would love to know how our readers feel about this question, though. Have you ever been asked this question? If so, how did you reply? Have you ever asked this question of someone else? Please comment below with your thoughts about the idea of bisexuality being a choice.

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