It’s possible to be sexually attracted to someone while harboring no romantic feelings for them at all. This is because sexual orientation and romantic orientation aren’t the same thing, and they shouldn’t be treated as such. Romantic orientation focuses less on the sexual aspect of attraction and more on the emotions involved and who those emotions are being directed toward. So just like a person can be heterosexual or bisexual, for example, a person can be heteroromantic or biromantic.
What does biromantic mean?
Biromantic breaks down to bi, which means “two,” and romantic, which is characterized by the expression of love or affection. So someone who identifies as biromantic experiences romantic feelings for two or more genders.
Despite misconceptions about what it means to be “bi,” those two genders aren’t necessarily man and woman for every biromantic (or bisexual) person. As AASECT-certified sex therapist Indigo Stray Conger, LMFT, CST, explains, biromantic people can be attracted to people at either end of the gender spectrum or to people who are gender nonconforming, nonbinary, or gender fluid.
However, while a biromantic individual might experience these romantic feelings for two or more genders, it doesn’t mean they’ll necessarily want to have sex with the object of their affection. “Importantly, being biromantic doesn’t mean feeling a sexual drive toward anyone,” clinical sexologist Rachel Sommer, Ph.D., tells mbg. “It’s more about developing a deep-lying connection—the one you’d want in a long-term relationship.”
How is it different from bisexual?
The main difference between being biromantic and being bisexual is that biromantic has to do with who you want to form romantic relationships with but not necessarily who you want to have sex with. “Unlike bisexuality—which is more about sexual attraction—a biromantic person’s focus is the emotional aspect. It’s more about the ability to develop an emotional, romantic relationship with people from the same or different genders,” Sommer says.
This means someone who is biromantic may not also be bisexual, and vice versa. For example, a person could be biromantic heterosexual or biromantic asexual.
Signs you may be biromantic:
1. You’ve liked people of more than one gender.
If you’re wondering how to tell if you’re biromantic, just take a moment and think about the folks you’ve found yourself attracted to in a romantic way. Were they all people of the same gender? Or have you had romantic feelings for more than one gender? Sommers says the primary sign of being biromantic is experiencing feelings of romantic attraction or emotional appeal toward people of multiple genders.
2. You experience romantic feelings for people of different genders, regardless of whether sexual attraction is also present.
Does your attraction for these individuals evoke sexual desire, or is it more heart feels and butterflies in your stomach?
“If you tend to develop deep emotional attachments and a desire for physical proximity and quality time with both men and women or across the gender spectrum, you may be biromantic,” Stray Conger says. “Regardless of whether sexual feelings are present, romantic feelings will be apparent in the longing for time and attention and in the release of oxytocin and dopamine when in a person’s presence.”
Sommers adds that biromanticism is built on deep-lying connections and romantic feelings, and even when the relationship doesn’t work, the bond is usually characterized by a beautiful and hot feeling.
3. You may be curious about nonmonogamy.
While this doesn’t apply to all biromantic people, some biromantics might feel their identity is best expressed when they’re able to date people of different genders at once—which might make ethical nonmonogamy a natural fit, according to sex and dating coach Myisha Battle, M.S. “Some biromantic folks feel hemmed in by exclusive romantic relationships where they can’t freely express themselves romantically with people outside of their relationships.”
She says some folks who identify as biromantic are well aware of the fact that they’re happiest when they’re able to form romantic connections with multiple people of multiple genders at the same time.
That said, there are many biromantic people who are monogamous and dating exactly one person of one gender, and that doesn’t make them any less bi!
How is it different from pansexual or panromantic?
Just as bisexual and pansexual are closely related, so are biromantic and panromantic.
“Pansexual, pan meaning ‘all,’ is an identity and orientation that refers to someone who is sexually attracted to people of all genders, which includes people who are agender (do not identify with any gender). Similarly, panromantic refers to the romantic attraction to people of all genders,” Ashley Barad, LMSW, an LGBTQ+ specialist therapist in NYC, explains to mbg.
A panromantic person is attracted to people of all genders (or to all people regardless of gender), whereas biromantic people might be attracted to two or three genders but not necessarily all of them.
“Being biromantic means different things to different people,” says Justin Lehmiller, M.D., resident sex researcher at ASTROGLIDE. “It’s probably best characterized as romantic attraction to more than one gender category as opposed to romantic attraction to all genders.”
This means a biromantic person could also potentially be panromantic, but that’s not always the case.
How does being biromantic relate to sexuality?
There’s a difference between sexual attraction and romantic attraction, as we’ve talked about already. Sexual attraction speaks to who you want to have sex with, while romantic attraction speaks to who you’re having strong emotional feelings toward. For most people, sexual attraction and romantic attraction will overlap, and they’ll be sexually attracted to the same types of people they’re romantically attracted to. However, this isn’t always the case.
“Some people have sexual attractions that differ from their romantic attractions. For example, someone could be predominantly sexually attracted to men while being romantically attracted to women. Someone who is bisexual may or may not be biromantic because sexual attractions and romantic attractions don’t always line up,” Lehmiller explains.
“Someone who is biromantic could potentially have any sexual orientation. They could be bisexual, but they could also be asexual, heterosexual, gay, or something else.”
How does biromanticism work in relationships?
While the way someone experiences attraction is a major part of their personal identity, being biromantic may or may not have an impact on your relationships, depending on the relationship style and whether you or your partner(s) hold heteronormative beliefs.
“It’s important to remember that whether someone is heteroromantic, biromantic, or another romantic orientation—unless they’re aromantic—romantic feelings for others don’t stop when you are partnered,” multi-certified sex and relationships educator Anne Hodder-Shipp tells mbg.
Hodder-Shipp says one of the more common experiences or challenges a biromantic person will face is being misunderstood or judged by others due to their lack of knowledge or understanding of biromanticism. If you identify as biromantic, Hodder-Shipp encourages you to remember that you are entitled to your feelings. She says you get to feel however you feel about yourself, your romantic orientation, and others around you, and you are the expert of your own desires, feelings, body, and orientations.
She also stresses the importance of finding partners who are open and understanding of you as a whole person, including your biromanticism.
“If you find yourself dating or in a sexual relationship with someone who questions your biromanticism, uses it as a reason to distrust or judge you, or invalidates or doubts your romantic orientation, dump them. That’s their shit, not yours, and you deserve to be with people who will do their own work and self-education and won’t make their insecurities or lack of knowledge your responsibility,” she says.
Your sexual orientation isn’t the same thing as your romantic orientation, and if you find yourself having romantic feelings for folks of multiple genders, you might be biromantic. Exploring your romantic orientation and being able to define the things you’re feeling can ultimately lead to a deeper understanding of your whole self, and you can never go wrong with that.
(Here’s a big list of sexualities to continue your exploration.)