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LGBTQrazy September – Nobody says the “B” word

Lee Thomas HeadshotI love September. It’s full of rustling leaves, sunny days, pumpkin lattes and tons of potential. It’s a time for new beginnings, new classes, new friends and new experiences.

It’s also a time for looking back and thinking about how much you’ve changed. One of the awesome things about LGBTQIA (lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans/two-spirit, queer, intersex and asexual/aromantic) communities is how dynamic and complex it is, and even people who are a part of it can always learn more.

Exhibit A: this column. If you read LGBTQrazy last year, you might remember that I identify as queer, because I thought that the term “bisexuality” was a tacit endorsement of the gender binary. No! False! I was wrong — it happens! It’s okay, I’m still learning. What I learned is that bisexuality, as defined by the bisexual community, means attraction to one’s own and other genders — not just attraction to two genders, or just attraction to men and women.

Unfortunately, despite this seemingly self-explanatory definition, the term “bisexual” continues to have a negative connotation. Something about the term evokes certain mental images: teen girls making out with each other while gross boys cheer them on, straight couples looking for a DTF threesome partner, and Molly-taking party boys afraid to be gay.

And by “something about the term” I mean “blatant biphobia.”

Biphobia isn’t often addressed by queer communities, largely because many people actively partake in it. In high school, I told a lesbian friend that I thought I liked girls and guys, and she scoffed at me for being a “greedy bisexual.” Bisexuality is seen as being a transition stage between straight and gay, a phase, a esult of being greedy or indecisive, or an attempt to get “gay cred” while still reaping the benefits of being straight-passing. Bisexuality, it is also important to note, is not a mix of being straight and gay. It’s not a little of column A over here, and a little of column B over there. It’s its own, completely unique identity, but it’s often
misconstrued because our society loves to see things in black and white.

For instance, when Olympic diver Tom Daley announced that he was romantically involved with a man, headlines screamed “DALEY ANNOUNCES HE IS GAY.” A same-sex relationship does not a gay relationship make, though. If I’m bisexual, and I’m dating a bisexual man (I’m not, but work with me here), that doesn’t mean we’re in a straight relationship. How can we be, if there are no freakin’ straight people in it?

The bisexual community also faces unique challenges from the lesbian and gay communities. For instance, bisexuality is less likely to be recognized in historical or contemporary famous figures, which continues the cycle of erasure. Bisexual-focused organizations are less likely to receive funding thanlesbian- or gay-focused organizations. Because bisexuality is socially perceived as a less acceptable form of sexuality, a greater percentage of bi people do not disclose their sexuality to their doctors, which can lead to health risks. Bisexual people are more likely than lesbian, gay and straight people to be suicidal.

So, why choose to be bi? It might be tempting to simply abandon the term and move on to terms such as “queer” or simply “gay.” But it’s important to resist that temptation, and to reclaim bisexuality for what it is: a community with a rich and vibrant history of political activism, inclusivity and radical lovin’.Claiming the bisexual label means rejecting biphobic assumptions and embracing the orientation for what it is: legitimate, unique, and totally awesome.

(Side note on the “choose to be bi” wording — I know that the current dialogue on LGBTQIA issues is that people don’t “choose” their orientation, they are born that way. And, while I believe that’s true, I resent the assumption that if I could, I wouldn’t choose to be bi. Have you seen people? They’re awesome and I want to kiss them all.)

For those who are more familiar with the intricacies of LGBTQIA communities, there is often a dispute over whether pansexuality is a more inclusive or appropriate term. I’m not interested in picking a fight with the pan community — labels are tricky things, and sometimes certain words just feel right to people. I would never want to take that away from anyone, and if the labels of “queer” or “gay” or “pan” feel right to you, all the more power to you.

I just want bisexual people to be allowed to be bisexual.

The views expressed in this and other LGBTQrazy articles are the author’s, and do not reflect the views
of their employer(s).

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