[Content warning: this post describes bisexuality as a desirable state. Any sexuality is okay as long as it makes you happy; if reading this will make you feel uncomfortable because of your monosexuality or pressured into becoming bisexual, I encourage you to skip this one.]
Many of my monosexual friends have attempted to turn themselves bisexual. This is a post on the success rates.
Much of the information in this post is based on things I was told in confidence or that were posted on personal social media accounts; for this reason, I have chosen to be fairly vague in this post. I encourage people who have tried bihacking to bring up their specific situations in the comments.
There are obvious epistemological problems with talking about bihacking: specifically, it is very difficult to tell apart “self-modified into bisexuality” and “was bisexual the whole time but repressed it”. I have decided to respect people’s self-identification here: if they think that bihacking just allowed them to express attractions that were already there, then I’ll think they did that, but if they think that bihacking actually turned them bi, then I’ll say that. People who are remarkably skeptical about bihacking may conclude that the success cases were all people in the first category.
The most successful strategy for changing one’s sexual orientation seems to be having a sudden epiphany: I personally know of two or three cases of “epiphany bisexuality”. Gayle Madwin, who identifies as queer-by-choice, has a fairly typical experience:
It was a very sudden thing, a very particular moment in time, in the evening of April 8, 1992. I suppose it was like . . . imagine a sudden flash of light going off in your mind, a flash of insight, and suddenly this gigantic abyss opens up in front of you, and in that yawning abyss you see the all the twinkling lights of a city skyline at night, and the city is called The Gay Life. Now then, you’re not actually in the city, you’re just a little suburban kid in a little suburban house with your two parents and 1.5 siblings. But you’re looking into the abyss, and you can grasp the edges of it and feel that it’s real, and if you chose to climb into it then you could. So you’re sitting there in your pink or blue bedroom, and you’re like, “Oh my god what am I going to do about this abyss here, what if my parents come in, how am I going to explain this gigantic abyss suddenly opening up right in the middle of my room?” Because even though you’re not actually in the abyss, you know you’re not supposed to even see it. You don’t fit in anymore. In order to fit in as a straight person, you’re not supposed to know you have any alternative. And besides that, now that you know you have an alternative, how can you just ignore it without making the tiniest effort to find out what the alternative really is? You don’t know what it’s like to be gay. So how can you turn it down without wondering, for the rest of your life, what you’re missing out on just because you were too much of a coward to climb into the abyss and explore?
So I didn’t have a choice about seeing the abyss open up. I suppose it was an unconscious choice, but it wasn’t a conscious one. And once it opened up, I could not in good conscience have passed it by. But I was aware of making a choice, of grasping the edges of the abyss and climbing through. I don’t think I completely understood, in that instant of climbing through, exactly how permanent my decision was—but I do think I had some idea. I wasn’t totally counting on it being temporary. And the instant after I climbed through, when I let go of the edges and felt myself falling—well, it was a long way down. I knew before I hit the ground that I’d fallen too far to ever be able to climb out again. And it was scary, you know, because ever since that moment I’ve never been able to see my parents except as distant faces peering through the hole in the sky. It was very isolating for the first couple of years because I didn’t know anybody at all down here. But eventually I did get to know the inhabitants of the city, in fact I even bought a house here, and I’m very much at home. I’m satisfied that I got a better deal in this city than most people get in the world I came from.
Epiphany bisexuality seems to be the most effective method of turning people who were previously 100% heterosexual into Kinsey 3 bisexuals. Unfortunately, I am not aware of any method which causes such epiphanies to occur, leaving the hopeful proto-bisexual with no better strategy than wandering around hoping a bolt of lightning hits.
Attempting to become bisexual seems to have a much less successful track record. With one exception– whom I have unfortunately lost contact with and thus cannot ask about their current sexual behavior– every person I know who has attempted bihacking has stalled out around Kinsey 1 or Kinsey 5 (depending on their starting point)– that is, they are predominantly attracted to one gender, but have incidental attraction to another gender. They may be interested in kink play, kissing, or foreplay with their non-preferred gender, but dislike genital interaction; they may be attracted to a very small percentage of their non-preferred gender, often those that look most similar to their preferred gender.
Common bihacking tactics include the following:
- Deliberately noticing and cultivating the twinges of attraction you get to people of your non-preferred gender.
- Jerking off to porn containing people of your non-preferred gender.
- Kissing people of your non-preferred gender experimentally.
- Attempting to “bridge” through attraction to trans people: starting with Buck Angel or Bailey Jay, and then gradually expanding to people with fewer and fewer signifiers of your preferred gender.
An interesting question which I’m not aware of the answer to is whether someone has managed to hack biromanticism but not bisexuality. I think that would be really useful to explore– particularly given the gender imbalance in the rationalist community.
A hopeful note is that most people who have tried bihacking have managed to make themselves Kinsey 1s or 5s– very, very few people completely fail. This might be because those with more fluid sexualities are the ones attracted to bihacking in the first place, but regardless, if you’re a guy who’d like to be able to kiss men, it may be well within your power to be able to do so.
It would be remiss to conclude this blog post without talking about trans people. Compared to the somewhat dismal track record of bihacking, there are many, many cases of people who previously believed they were only interested in cis women or cis men who became interested in trans people. One way to model this is that you have separate switches for “is into male-presenting people”, “is into male-identified people”, “is into people with flat chests”, “is into people with penises”, and “is into people with testosterone-dominant hormone systems”. People who become attracted to trans people flip some of the switches, but not all of them. A person who develops an attraction to trans men might switch the genitals switch to “is into people with any genitals”; a person who develops an attraction to a nonbinary person, assigned male at birth, who hasn’t medically transitioned may switch the identity switch to “is into people of any identity”. That offers some hope: perhaps we could manage to switch all the switches.
However, I think the best explanation for this data is that very few people are only interested in male-presenting, male-identified people with flat chests, penises, and an testosterone-dominant hormone system. Most people are instead “only attracted to people with a testosterone-dominant hormone system”, or “only attracted to people who identify as men”, or “only attracted to people who have a testosterone-dominant hormone system and a penis”. However, because they only interact with cis people, they don’t realize that those things aren’t always bundled together. Furthermore, it is very common for heterosexual people in our culture to be frightened of being seen as “gay” and for people of all sexualities to not view trans people as real members of our genders. So once a woman who is only attracted to people who identify as men meets some trans people, overcomes her fear of being gay, and internalizes that trans men are men, she might end up becoming very attracted to someone who has breasts. That isn’t a change in her sexuality, however– that’s a change in her beliefs. The potential for attraction was always there.