What bi-curiosity means and how it differs from bisexuality

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It is valid to identify as bi-curious even if you do not engage in sexual or romantic relationships with someone of the same sex. Drazen_/Getty Images
  • Bi-curiosity is when someone is open to exploring or experimenting with bisexuality.
  • Bi-curiosity is a legitimate label, and someone may identify as bi-curious their whole life.
  • Unlike bi-curiosity, bisexuality carries with it a deeper sense of knowing one’s sexuality.
  • Visit Insider’s Health Reference library for more advice.

While definitions may vary, bi-curiosity is typically defined as a person who is curious about exploring or experimenting with bisexuality.

Someone may use the term bi-curious when they’re unclear or not yet comfortable with their sexuality, but want to consider the possibility that they may identify as queer. It’s important to note that anyone can identify as bicurious regardless of gender.

Regardless of how you may identify, here’s what you need to know about bi-curiosity and how it fits into the queer experience at large.

What is bi-curiosity?

Essentially, bi-curiosity is a label used by someone who is open to being romantic or sexual with people of varying genders. The label is occasionally embraced by those questioning their queer identity but who might not feel comfortable coming out yet.

“Typically someone who previously identified as heterosexual or someone who is starting to explore or dabble in bisexuality would use this term,” says Janet Brito, an AASECT-certified sex therapist and supervisor at the Hawaii Center for Sexual and Relationship Health.

What may make the term appealing to some is that it allows flexibility while finding oneself.

Misconceptions about bi-curiosity

Like every queer identity, bi-curiosity is a legitimate label. Yet, historically, people who identify as bi-curious get pushback from both straight and queer communities, says Eva Ball, an LMSW certified queer therapist and educator at Web Healing Collective.

“There are pressures from the queer community to get more specific with how you identify and then there’s pressure from mainstream heteronormative culture that delegitimizes it as not real,” Ball says.

For example, a large 2017 study on Dutch people between the ages of 16 and 26 who were attracted to the same sex, found that some participants who identified as bi-curious or bisexual felt a pressure to ultimately choose between identifying as straight or gay. It also found participants who identify as bisexual or bi-curious are:

  • Less open about their sexual attraction
  • Perceive a lack of acceptance in the queer community
  • Have higher rates of suicide compared to people who identify as straight or those exclusively attracted to the same sex.

“Labeling is as nuanced as the individual identifying as bi-curious,” says Ball. “The term may simply sit with you indefinitely or it may transition to another label that feels like a better fit.”

The difference between bi-curiosity and bisexuality

Related Article Module: I identify as bisexual. Here are 5 things I wish people understood.Though there are many similarities between bi-curiosity and bi-sexuality, the largest difference is that bisexuality carries with it a deeper sense of knowing one’s sexuality, while bi-curiosity is more about the exploration of sexual identity to better understand one’s true self.

“Bi-curious folks tend to have a more fluid sexual identity whereas a bisexual person’s identity is more fixed,” says Brito. “Bi-curious people may be judged as being confused or playing around, but both are sexually attracted to someone of the same sex.”

Whether bi-curiosity eventually leads to bisexuality or not relies on the individual. Even if bi-curiosity doesn’t develop any further than just a curiosity, that does not take away from its validity as an identity.

Insider’s takeaway

Overall, bi-curious may be the ideal term for someone who is trying to better understand how they align romantically and sexually outside of heteronormative expectations.

Therefore, if someone you care about identifies as bi-curious, the best way to support them is to accept this identity instead of pressuring them to be more specific.

“If we can learn to operate from a place of self-compassion, then finding the label that best describes you can feel very grounding,” says Ball. “Starting to come out within your community can be scary so a good sense of self will really help that process.”

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