I like the word ‘bisexual’. I’ve politiked and activisted and identified with it for a long time now, and I’ve been dragging my feet about shedding it as a word that I use to describe myself. It’s a comfortable, solid, dependable part of my identity; something I am certain of, something that is stable and reassuring. I am bisexual. I have known that for ten years. I have less than no desire to stop being bisexual.
But at the same time, I’ve felt like I ought to. Because I do fancy people who are trans or genderqueer or who don’t identify with the gender binary, and I want to examine my cis privilege and be as good an ally as I can be. And for a while now, it’s looked like that means I need to stop calling myself ‘bisexual’ and start calling myself ‘pansexual’ instead, and one of the important things about being aware of one’s privilege is knowing that sometimes you might have to make changes like this even though you don’t necessarily completely want to. And I’m okay with that. God knows as a woman and a feminist I expect men to do it.
It’s been an uncomfortable shift, though, and one I’ve made a poor job of and never managed to sit quite right with. Not just for my own reasons, either - for one thing, we have an entire ‘bisexual community’ that uses the term. What does this mean for BiCon, for BiFest, for the Bisexual Community News, for The Bisexual Index? What does this mean for our activists and our outreachers? What does this mean for mainstream acceptance and understanding, and the way we explain diverse sexualities to people who have never before encountered some of the concepts involved?
Just today, I’ve read a couple of things that have helped settle me on this. The main thing I’ve learned this evening is that there seems to have been an entymological error that a lot of us were making, myself included:
The most accurate definition of “bisexual” and “bisexuality” is “attraction to individuals who are the same as me and different from me,” which is the way most bisexual people think of themselves. Think about “homo” meaning “same” and “hetero” meaning “different.” In fact, in the Bisexual Manifesto, written in 1990 by members of the bisexual community, the following was stipulated: “Do not assume that bisexuality is binary or duogamous in nature: that we have “two” sides or that we must be involved simultaneously with both genders to be fulfilled human beings. In fact, don’t assume that there are only two genders.”
I hadn’t thought of it this way before, and it’s something I’m glad to have read. There are other concerns, too; the article I’ve linked to goes into a few of them, and points at several other places that tackle the problem.
It’s not my place, as a cissexual person, to decide what is and isn’t okay with regards to gender identity and how it’s handled in vocabulary and activism. I don’t get to make those calls; my job is to listen to what those of trans* and genderqueer and other non-binary identities would prefer, and support them in trying to get it.
But that said, I reckon this one specific call is one that I feel okay making, just so long as it doesn’t badly offend, and I’m glad to continue to call myself ‘bisexual’.
17 Notes/ Hide
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- fookyeahconradveidt said: Please don’t let the social justice sallies pollute your brain about privilege & possibly giving offense, okay? More & more I see sweet people like you apologizing for who they are & it accomplishes nothing but more bad mojo in the world.
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