Sexual practices involving a manifested attraction to members of both sexes have a long history, but the term ‘bisexuality’ first emerged in the early 1900s as a result of the influence of Sigmund Freud. Freud asserted that everyone had an innate bisexual disposition, which would, by early childhood, diverge into heterosexuality or homosexuality.
In the early 1920s many early homophile political groups, or groups associated with the early gay rights movement, often reflected this mindset. Even though these groups were often composed of both bisexual and homosexual individuals, many bisexuals were not vocal about their sexual orientation and were exposed to discrimination with the gay community. In fact, one of the earliest homophile organizations in the United States initially denied membership to bisexuals, as it was feared that they would be less committed to the cause.
Later, in the 1940s, Alfred Kinsey’s research on human sexuality found that 28% of women and 46% of men had “reacted” sexually to persons of both sexes in the course of their adult lives. This research brought about a gradual awareness of human sexuality as a continuum which included bisexuality.
In the early 1970s bisexuality became increasingly celebrated during the LGBT and sexual liberation moments with an encouragement on sexual freedom. During this time the National Bisexual Liberation Group and Bi Forum were formed in New York City. Soon after, groups responding to the specific needs of the bisexual community were developed in San Francisco, Los Angeles, Chicago, Detroit, Minneapolis, and Washington D.C.
In the mid-1980s after the rise of the AIDS epidemic, there were calls for a national bisexual movement. These calls gave way to the establishment of the North American Bisexual Network and the first national bisexual conference in San Francisco in 1990. This group, whose name was later changed to BiNet, aimed to fight discrimination in national press, as well as provide education to lesbian and gay groups about importance of using bi inclusive language. During the 1990s the number of bisexual organizations grew tremendously and today the bisexual community has sustained prominence in academia, literature, and popular press.
Angelides, Steven. A History of Bisexuality. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2001.
Rodriguez Rust, Paula C. Bisexuality in the United States: A Social Science Reader. New York: Columbia University Press, 2000.
Stein, Marc, ed. Encyclopedia of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender history in America. Vol. 2. Gale Cengage, 2004.