If you’ve been active on Twitter today, you’ve probably seen the hashtag #BiVisibilityDay floating around in your feed. That’s because today, September 23, marks the 20th annual celebration of Bisexual Visibility Day, which started in 1999 as a way to create awareness around the bisexual community.
Today is not only for celebrating and learning more about the bisexual community’s history, culture, and identifying individuals, but it’s also a chance to inspire education and acceptance around what it means to be bisexual—especially considering only 5 percent of bisexual youth report being “very happy,” compared to 21 percent of non-LGBTQ+ youth, according to a survey done by the Human Rights Campaign (HRC).
Bisexuality isn’t an exact science, and the experience for one individual may look very different from one person to the next. According to the HRC, a bisexual person is someone who can be attracted to more than one gender. But while some people who are attracted to multiple genders may identify as bisexual, others may instead refer to themselves as pansexual, queer, fluid, or not use a label at all.
To recognize Bisexual Visibility Day, we spoke with 17 women who can recall a pivotal moment in their lives: the instance when they knew they were bisexual. Remember though: There’s no sort of checklist that can determine whether or not you’re bisexual. You can identify (or not) in whatever way that empowers you—regardless of whatever gender you are or aren’t attracted to.
1. “I came out when I was 26. I had been with only men up until that point, with really no happiness. One day my sister was joking about dating and said: ‘You’ll find the right guy. Or girl. Who knows?’ and suddenly, something just clicked in my head. After I realized I could date both men and women, I felt significant relief and couldn’t stop smiling.” —Cassie, 28
2. “When I was in my 20s in college, I went to see our school’s production of Hairspray with my friend. The second I laid eyes on the actress playing Penny, a lightning bolt went through me. I started to daydream about meeting her and asking her on a date—things I used to only associate with men. That moment was the first time I could really imagine romance with a woman. I googled ‘bisexual’ that night and the rest was history!” —Alyssa, 28
3. “I was about 12 years old and watching the music video for ‘Toxic,’ by Britney Spears, when I noticed it made me feel…funny. Afterward, I was very confused because I knew what bisexuality was, but I thought it had to be a 50-50 divide on attraction and I didn’t feel any attraction to the women in my life. News flash: It doesn’t. It wasn’t until I was 16 that I decided to label myself as bisexual.” —Maddie, 26
4. “I knew I was bisexual when I was 15. I had curious thoughts about women for years, but I 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 I was also still equally boy-crazy. Once I realized I wanted a dog and a white picket fence with a girl, that’s when I really knew I was truly bisexual.” —Michelle, 23.
5. “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, 33
6. “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, 24
7. “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, 21
8. “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 I 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, 35
9. “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, 25
10. “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 who 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, 27
11. “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, 23
12. “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, 23
13. “I went to an all-girls 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, 33
14. “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, 45
15. “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, 22
16. “There were hints throughout my life—my love of 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, 30
17. “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, 21