I’m having some ~feelings~ about labels. Ever since I discovered, to my surprise and no one else’s, that I was Not Straight, I’ve been looking for the right way to describe that. I don’t think I’ve found it.
“Bisexual” is a heavy term, for me. By that I mean that all the assumptions and connotations and insinuations that make up biphobia have weight. At 31, I still feel uncomfortable saying “I’m bisexual.”
When I first started to understand and basically unsuppress my attraction to women, about six years ago, I figured that I was bisexual. Bi means two and I’m attracted to men and women, the two genders, right? (Please bear in mind this was several years ago).
As time went on I became aware of people around me using ‘pansexual,’ usually to reflect that they were attracted to people foremost, rather than sex or gender itself. I know there’s a few different definitions of pan, but that was what I heard.
As I educated myself and learned about gender as a spectrum, transgender people, and nonbinary people, I became more and more distant from “bisexual.”
I’m a words girl. Bi, for me, means two. I know that a lot of people will disagree with me on this, which is why I’m stressing that this is about my interpretation and what’s right for me. I am absolutely not trying to speak for anyone else.
I’m very aware that a lot of people have pointed out that the Bisexuality Manifesto from the 90s specifically says attraction to the the same or more genders. So I know some people will disagree with me here.
We are tired of being analyzed, defined and represented by people other than ourselves, or worse yet, not considered at all. We are frustrated by the imposed isolation and invisibility that comes from being told or expected to choose either a homosexual or heterosexual identity.
Monosexuality is a heterosexist dictate used to oppress homosexuals and to negate the validity of bisexuality.
Bisexuality is a whole, fluid identity. 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. Do not mistake our fluidity for confusion, irresponsibility, or an inability to commit. Do not equate promiscuity, infidelity, or unsafe sexual behavior with bisexuality. Those are human traits that cross all sexual orientations. Nothing should be assumed about anyone’s sexuality, including your own.
– Bisexuality Manifesto, 1990
I hear this. I also feel that, for me, saying I’m bisexual feels like saying I like men and women, not reflecting that I’m attracted to people everywhere on the gender spectrum.
I’ve internalised a lot of the stereotypes that make up biphobia, as stated above. When I say I’m bisexual, I feel like what people hear is that I want to have indiscriminate sex with everyone. Or that I’m claiming it for attention, or it’s just a phase, even though I am 31 and feel I should be given credit for knowing my own mind. In fact, age is irrelevant. Anyone saying they are bisexual shouldn’t have to deal with any of those assumptions.
I also don’t feel quite right calling myself gay. I think people would presume I mean I’m a lesbian. Again, I know some people have said that gay can cover all non-heterosexual attractions, but it’s not right for me. Neither is queer, partly because it’s been used as a slur, and even though there’s been a big movement to reclaim it, it just doesn’t sit right with me personally.
So where does that leave me? There’s no single word to explain what I am. And maybe that’s ok. Not everything needs a label. It’s just in my nature to try and categorise, and it’s especially in my nature to try and find the right word. But maybe I have to accept that, in this case, at this particular time, there isn’t one.
The best I can do is “Not straight.” I feel comfortable with that. It doesn’t seem to require me to behave in any particular way, and it doesn’t necessarily invoke any particular assumptions about me or the life I live. I also just find it kinda funny. It makes me laugh to say I’m not straight. I can’t really put my finger on why. But it feels like a good thing to say.
So I’d say that’s just fine for now.