Contrary to what many may believe, bisexuality is not a recent or modern concept. Although they may not have been officially given a name until the 1800s, bisexual people have existed since the time of ancient civilizations. Here is a quick summary of the history of bisexuality:
In ancient Greece, Rome, and Japan, having multiple relationships at once with people of different genders was actually very common. In fact, in many cases it was expected. In ancient Greece, there was no real distinction between heterosexual and homosexual men; they were expected to be in relationships with both other men and women. Similarly, in Rome, both men and women were seen as objects of desire for men. In Japan, older men were expected to have relationships with younger men, especially in the military. In Japan during this time, there were even considered to be three genders: women, men, and attractive young men. Because of the status of women during these time periods, they were not really mentioned as being bisexual; most likely they were required to just have a husband.
Native Americans and the Two Spirits
Native Americans have long since believed in what is known today as the “two-spirited person.” Two-spirited people carry the spirits of both men and women, taking on both gender roles, and are considered gifted and sacred. Two spirit people are most often associated with gender identity, as they are considered to be a separate gender by many Native American tribes. However, these people can be in relationships with both men and women, so the point can be made that they are bisexual.
The 19th Century Western World
As the western world developed into the society we know today, homosexuality in any form became an offense punishable by death. In 1892, Charles Gilbert Chaddock, an American neurologist, translated a book called Psychopathia Sexualis. From this, he coined the term “bisexual,” although that’s not to say he accepted it as a concept. Homosexuality and bisexuality would continue to be condemned up until very recent history.
The Kinsey Scale
In 1948, behavioral scientist Alfred Kinsey released tons of research on male and female sexuality. One of the most important things released was the Kinsey Scale. The Kinsey Scale allowed people to rate their sexual orientation from 0 – 6, with 0 being completely heterosexual and 6 being completely homosexual. This was groundbreaking because it was uncovered by Kinsey’s research that bisexuality was actually the norm; fewer people than expected rated as a 0 or a 6 on the scale. Kinsey also made it clear that sexual orientation is not static; it is fluid, so a person’s score on the Kinsey scale may change throughout their lifetime. Now bisexuality truly had a definition, although it still would not actually be accepted by society for a long time.
Up until the 1970’s, homosexuality and bisexuality were actually considered mental disorders. Doctors would try to stop people from being attracted to the same sex through medication, hypnosis, electric shock therapy, or other equally outrageous methods. Eventually, however, it became almost popular to be bisexual. Gay men began using bisexuality as a way to come out, which probably contributed to the myth that bisexuality is actually just a “pit stop” on the way to coming out as gay. In the 1990’s and 2000’s, celebrities began coming out as bisexual and it became more and more acceptable to be a part of the LGBT+ community.
Although we are in a much better place with bisexuality today than we were 60 years ago, bisexuals still face tons of discrimination inside the LGBT+ community and in heteronormative communities. We are on the road to destigmatizing our sexuality and becoming an acceptable part of all communities.
Where do you land on the Kinsey Scale?