Sexual attraction can be experienced in many ways, and so can romantic attraction; the two don’t necessarily go hand-in-hand. One of the labels that someone might use to identify their romantic orientation is biromantic. Here’s what biromantic means, what a relationship might look like for someone who is biromantic, and why recognizing biromanticism is important.
What does biromantic mean?
“Someone who identifies as biromantic can have or does have romantic urges or attractions to people of multiple genders,” April Callis, PhD, assistant director of the University of North Carolina’s LGBTQ Center, tells Health. “They might not be interested in having sex with those individuals, but they do get those crushes or that interest to be in that romantic relationship.”
And it’s not necessarily the romance associated with sexual seduction. Instead, the romantic part of biromantic could simply mean wanting to cuddle on the couch with someone while watching Netflix and eating pizza, Callis says. Basically, the “bi” part of biromantic means you’re open to doing things like that in a romantic capacity with more than one gender. Who you are attracted to sexually can be a totally separate thing.
A person who identifies as biromantic can be attracted to a variety of genders. “Biromanticism can encompass romantic attraction to people of any range of gender identities, and the specific combination of each of these identities can vary by person,” Casey Xavier Hall, PhD, a postdoctoral research fellow at Northwestern University’s Institute for Sexual and Gender Minority Health and Wellbeing, tells Health. He also points out that people who are non-binary, agender, or transgender can be biromantic.
Bottom line: Every biromantic person’s feelings and relationships can look different. Xavier Hall says that there are as many ways of being bisexual as there are bisexual people—and the same goes for biromanticism.
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How are biromantic and bisexual related?
First, a bit about the difference between romantic and sexual orientations. Both exist on a spectrum; sexual and romantic attraction isn’t experienced in two boxes of straight or not straight.
Callis sums it up like this: Sexual orientation is who you’re interested in having a sexual relationship with, and romantic orientation is who you’re interested in romantically. That romantic attraction could be influenced by factors like who you want to hold hands with, who you’re interested in kissing, who you want to date, or who you might want to marry. “While in our culture, we tend to smoosh those two [orientation spectrums] together and assume that somebody’s sexual and romantic attraction always kind of track identically, the asexual community has been separating these types of attractions since the early aughts,” Callis says.
Biromanticism is similar to bisexuality in that the “bi” part of the words refer to a person’s ability to be attracted to more than just one gender. But again, they are two distinct forms of attraction. And while they may be experienced in combination with each other—with someone identifying as both biromantic and bisexual—not all people who experience biromantic attraction experience bisexual attraction, and vice versa. “There’s no correct combinations of identities,” Xavier Hall says.
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Why did the term biromantic emerge?
As Callis says earlier, the term got its start almost two decades ago within the asexual community. Between 2005 and 2010, “aromantic” began getting play; this identity refers to people who don’t experience romantic attraction. From there, other romantic orientation terms formed, including biromantic. “I think it really did take the asexual community being, like, ‘OK, just because I’m not interested in sex doesn’t mean I’m not interested in a relationship. Like, it’s really important for me to differentiate that,'” Callis says.
Once the asexual community started talking more about the difference between romantic and sexual attraction and developed the language for it, people outside the asexual community had labels that they could use to help identify themselves.
Why is recognizing biromanticism important?
First, it allows people to self-identify with more nuance—and it allows people to “start thinking about how different what you’re looking for sexually or what you desire sexually might be with what you’re looking for when it comes to that romantic partner or partners,” Callis explains.
Recognizing and spreading awareness about biromanticism—or any other type of romantic orientation, for that matter—may also lead to more health-focused studies about romantic attraction. “You don’t often see biromantic experience or biromantic attraction in health research, which is unfortunate and something that needs to be addressed,” Xavier Hall says.
As Health previously reported, the bisexual community faces bierasure. This denial of bisexuality can affect health outcomes for bisexual individuals. While biromantic people may experience some form of that erasure, there is just no research to help guide those discussions right now. Recognizing the validity of biromanticism can foster more scholarship and studies about it. Says Xavier Hall: “There’s not a lot of research to really validate the lived experiences of biromantic individuals—and not to say that they have to be validated through research, but in terms of creating interventions and improving health care for biromantic individuals, for example, or identifying maybe unique types of care that biromantic people need.”
5 Things You Can Do Right Now to Be a Better LGBTQ+ Ally
What can you do to be an ally for biromantic people?
First, believe that biromanticism exists. Help raise awareness about it and other romantic orientations. Listen to people when they talk about these identities. “When people say that they identify as biromantic, say, ‘Thank you so much for telling me. Thank you so much for trusting me. Could you tell me a little bit more about what that means to you,’ and allowing people to talk to you about it,” Callis says.
Second, don’t make assumptions. “I think that’s a big part of the conversation around identity in general, is to kind of step away from making assumptions about individuals—when you meet somebody, not assuming that you know what their sexual or romantic spectrum identity is,” Xavier Hall says. “And even if they may have named a sexual identity, don’t necessarily assume that you know what that sexual identity means in terms of their romantic attraction or their romantic spectrum identity.”
Third, educate yourself. Instead of depending on someone who is biromantic to be your informational source, seek out resources so you can learn more about the romantic spectrum and identities on your own.
What to know if you think you might be biromantic
For those who think biromantic is an identity that fits them and want to get a deeper understanding about it, Xavier Hall suggests turning to online message boards and the conversations they host. “I think [romantic orientation] is something that individuals need to kind of explore and define for themselves, how it relates to their particular experience,” he says.
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