PEOPLE used to joke that “bisexual” was just a label for people who were desperate – or indecisive.
But now more and more young people (especially women) are embracing bisexuality, resisting the need to limit their sexuality, or who they might go home with.
A recent YouGov survey found half of young people, and almost a quarter of the overall population, defined themselves as something other than 100 per cent heterosexual.
The last ONS (Office for National Statistics) survey into sexuality discovered the number of people in the UK openly identifying as bisexual had jumped 45 per cent.
When I came “out” as bisexual a few years ago, it was seen as so normal it was almost disappointing how little fuss anyone made. If I hoped to shock my friends by presenting them with my new girlfriend, they could not have seemed less fussed. Later, when they saw me dating a boy, they seemed equally unsurprised.
Now, in a nod to how mainstream bisexuality has become, two bi-focused TV shows have launched this month: Courtney Act’s The Bi Life on E! and drama The Bisexual, starting on C4 this week.
To many, these will not even feel shocking (almost too little, too late). After all, in the worlds of pop and film, celebrities have been coming out as bi for ages: Jess Glynne, Megan Fox, Miley Cyrus, Mel B, Gillian Anderson and Drew Barrymore all keenly confess they swing both ways.
Long after Katy Perry Kissed A Girl And Liked It, Rita Ora’s trilling about necking red wine and copping off with girls; singing she’s “50-50 and never going to hide it”.
Meanwhile, in her recent memoir, Lily Allen confessed to affairs with female dancers and escorts.
There may be fewer bisexual male celebs who are “out” but Tom Daley (before deciding he was gay) announced he was bisexual in 2013, Made In Chelsea’s Ollie Locke — who announced his engagement to fiance Gareth this month — came out as bi in 2011 before saying he was gay in 2016.
And Frank Ocean revealed his first love was a man, then crooned rather eloquently: “I see both sides like Chanel.”
Harry Styles, meanwhile, positioned himself as bi-friendly.
You could argue for pop stars being bisexual is just good business: Widening their target market by broadening their sex appeal. I like to think it suggests a freedom in creative industries that indicates the direction we are all moving in.
As actress Kristen Stewart, who has dated men and women, says: “In three or four years, there are going to be a lot more people who don’t think it’s necessary to figure out if you’re gay or straight. It’s, like, just do your thing.”
Or as Cara Delevingne, also bisexual, said: “Someone is in a relationship with a girl one minute, or a boy is in a relationship with a boy, I don’t want them to be pigeonholed”.
Scientists have long argued that sexuality is a spectrum. Nobel prize nominee Umberto Veronesi once attracted controversy for suggesting the future was bisexual, proposing that as sexual interaction lost its reproductive significance, bisexuality would become the norm.
I suspect the rise of bisexuality is not so much down to biology but cultural change. After all, bisexuality has long been around. Historical accounts stretch back to Ancient Greece. It is said Queen Anne of Great Britain (1665 to 1714) was bisexual and had a passionate affair with the Duke of Marlborough’s wife.
Before that, there were rumours about Richard I of England (1189-1199) and Philip II of France.
Now, we have not so much evolved into bisexuality, rather it has become more socially accepted. As Green Day frontman Billie Joe Armstrong once considered: “I think people are born bisexual. It’s just that our parents and society kind of veer us off into this feeling of ‘Oh, I can’t. They say it’s taboo.’ Now that’s changing.”
It is notable the bi-revolution is most pronounced among Millennials and Generation Z, who are both keen to reject binaries in any part of their lives. A 2016 YouGov poll found 43 per cent of 18 to 24-year-olds did not identify as entirely gay or straight. Now it is easier than ever to experiment, with queer dating apps such as Scissr and Her (for girls) and Grindr (for boys). And dating apps like Tinder let you opt to connect with both genders, so you don’t have to decide.
Haven’t we all dabbled?
When I first saw ads for The Bi Life, I cheered. I also thought: “About time!” I have long been frustrated by the heteronormativity of shows such as Love Island.
My favourite bisexual moment this year came on Vietnam’s The Bachelor, when one girl made the gorgeous confession she had fallen not for the eligible man she was there to meet, but for another female contestant.
That is hardly surprising. Research from the US suggests women are three times more likely to become bisexual than men. A 2015 project found 74 per cent of “straight” women were “strongly aroused” by videos of attractive men and women.
A survey by LGBT charity Stonewall found 49 per cent of bisexual men were not out at work, compared with just seven per cent of gay men.
That doesn’t mean in private they are not interested. According to research by YouPorn, straight men watch gay porn a quarter of the time.
A couple of my exes have had same-sex flings, which is good news for me, given Australian researchers found that “women in relationships with bisexual men say their partners are better lovers and fathers than straight men”.
As bisexuality becomes ever more mainstream, I hope it will only get easier to discuss. After all, haven’t we all dabbled? Or wouldn’t we, given the chance?