“Is she gay or does she just like short fingernails?”

It’s a question that comes up for queer ladies and time and time again. Trying to work out whether or not someone is queer has been the plight of lesbian and bisexual women for a long time, but things can be particularly tricky if you’re in the early stages of bi-curiosity and you not only need to figure out if someone might be interested, you need to let them know that you’re interested. Explaining to someone who you’re attracted to that you’re bisexual or bicurious is such an important leap — but it’s totally normal to feel a little intimidated or vulnerable when you're putting yourself out there.

If you feel like you want to share your orientation with someone and get a sense of whether they’re as attracted to you as you are to them, there are a lot of different ways you can go about it — so it’s important to focus on what makes you feel the most comfortable. Whether it’s making a move or just putting your sexuality out there in a totally non-sexual way, there’s no wrong way to go about it. Here’s what you need to keep in mind.

 

1. Know what you want

The first step, if you’re interested in pursuing your bi-curiosity, is figuring out what you want from this person. If you’re just looking to explore your sexuality, then you might want to take a different approach than if you think you think you have feelings for this person and it might be something more serious. Exploring your sexuality can be a vulnerable time and, if you have things clear in your own head about what you want, you can approach the situation with that in mind.  

2. Make sure that you trust them

If you’re in the early stages of your bi-curiosity or if you’re feeling a little unsure about dipping your toe in the water, then it’s best to start by sharing your feelings with someone you feel safe with and who you trust. You want the situation to go smoothly, whether they’re interested or not.

Now that can come in a lot of different forms. It may be that you feel like the safest thing for you is a totally anonymous fling or chatting to someone on a dating app to feel out the situation — something where you have nothing invested and nothing is lost if things don't go well. For some people, that anonymity feels safer, but for other people, they may be more secure with someone they know and someone they’re close to. That’s your call —  as long as you’re talking to someone who you feel OK with, whether they share your interest or not, that’s the crucial thing.

 

3. Decide if you want to be subtle or forward 

Signaling to someone that you’re interested can always feel kind of cringe-worthy, whether you're gay, straight, or anywhere in between. You can go for a full-on method of saying that you’re attracted to them and want to hook up — or you can go for some subtle flirting and see if they pick up on the cues. One way isn’t better than the other, it’s just a matter of what you feel most comfortable with — a grand gesture with the potential for a big payoff or a small one, with the chance to move on quickly if it doesn’t go well. The choice is totally yours, just have a think about what feels the most natural for you.

You can also introduce your sexuality in a totally non-sexual context. Just say that you're curious or that you're thinking about exploring — then approach your attraction to them at a later stage. Sometimes, baby steps make it easier to get there.

4.  Remember that honesty is the best policy

When it comes to exploring your sexuality or talking to someone you might be interested in, it always helps to be upfront. Often bisexual women (unfairly) get a reputation for experimenting and then disappearing, but you have every right to experiment. Say you’re curious, say you’re feeling things out, say you’re interested — the most important thing is that you let the other person know what’s going on in your head.

As a bisexual woman, I’ve been on both sides of the coin — I’ve been in the early days of experimenting and I’ve also had sex with women who were still figuring their own sexuality out. I never felt “used” or like things were unfair, because we were always upfront with each other about how we were feeling, what we were thinking, and where we were at with our own sexuality. If you’re open about the fact that you’re curious and not sure, then the other person can make an informed decision about whether to pursue a date or a hookup. Putting everyone’s cards on the table makes it a much healthier, clearer interaction.


5. Check in with how you feel

If you decide to pursue your curiosity — with this person or anyone else — it’s really important that you check in with yourself through every step of the process. That doesn’t mean you need to overthink or over-analyze to the point where it takes the joy out of the experience, but it can make such a difference if you pay attention to your gut. It may be that you realize this isn’t working or you change your mind about going forward, that’s fine. Pay attention to how you feel and communicate that as quickly and honestly as possible — that’s all anyone can ask from you.

Starting to act on your bi-curiosity can be an incredibly exciting time — but it also can be a nerve-wracking one. Think about the best time and people to start to share your interest with and make sure you’re choosing an environment where you feel safe, secure, and supported. And when in doubt, being honest is always the best thing you can do. If things don’t turn out the way you wanted with this person, that’s OK — it’s just the first step in your journey, so you’ve got a lot to look forward to. 

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