23 September 2011 by Jennifer
23 September is International Celebrate Bisexuality Day, a.k.a. Bi Visibility Day.
Part of what it means to me to identify as bi is this:
If one day I feel attraction to a woman, I don’t have to think “Does this mean I’m gay?!”, or “If this carried on would it mean I was a Lesbian?!”
If one day I feel attraction to a man, I don’t have to think “Does this mean I’m not gay after all?!” or “If this carries on, at what point do I lose the right to call myself Lesbian?!”
If one day I feel attraction to someone who identifies as neither binary gender, I don’t have to think “What does this mean about me?!” (or indeed “Where does this person fit in my model?”)
None of that noise exists in my life. As far as gender-linked sexuality is concerned, there isn’t some territory over here where I’m officially supposed to walk, and some territory over there where I’m not supposed to walk. It’s all one whole, and I already live there.
This feels peaceful to me.
Of course new lovely people in my life still bring questions. “What flavour of attraction am I feeling?” “Would it be ethical to express that feeling with this person?” “How might this unfold, along this or that path?” “What kind of connection would fit into my life at the moment and be good for all concerned?”
But those questions aren’t going to change my identity as queer & bi. If the answers rock my world, it won’t be on that dimension.
This being my experience, I find it paradoxical/ironic that so much rhetoric around bisexuality – including the origin of the name itself – is of division and/or movement.
For instance, here are some slang terms for bisexuality which express through metaphor the idea of (a) two states, and (b) switching between them:
swinging both ways.1
There’s also the idea that we’re on our way to coming out “properly” – that is, as gay – a movement with one approved destination.
Some words are more usually attributed to us by others rather than ourselves: for instance “unstable”, “unreliable” (both with connotations of undesired change or movement) and “confused” (implying that things have been mixed up which ought to have remained separate).
On the other hand, from bi people feeling good about themselves, you might well hear the words “fluid” or “both”. That is, movement (or at least the potential for it), and division (albeit added together again).
Well. I’m not saying those aren’t valid metaphors, for the people who are using them. But my landscape is different.
In this aspect of my life, I don’t feel fluid. I feel stable. I feel settled. I arrived already. I’m not going anywhere.
I don’t feel divided such as to require being added together with a “both”; I feel profoundly integrated. All of me is allowed in. “There is no fence.”2
As for the legendary “confusion”… not, shall we say, a phenomenon particularly characteristic of me :-)
1. I’d be interested if anyone can come up with slang terms for bisexuality which don’t draw on either of those metaphorical structures. I know there’s “pansexual” or “omnisexual”, which I think were created in deliberate rejection of “bisexual”‘s binary – but I wouldn’t call them slang.
2. I could probably write a whole article just on the fence metaphor (as in the accusation of “sitting on the fence”), and the various ways of responding to it, valid in different ways.
One of my favourites is “Your fence is sitting on me”, which expresses the degree to which there is one, a binary imposed upon us by mainstream culture, and the pain and discomfort we sometimes feel as a result.
I also like the joyful/cheeky “yes, and?” flavour of (as immortalised in a cartoon by Rachael House) “I’m sitting on the fence – great view!”.
But “There is no fence” is the response which feels most true in the context I’m writing about today. Areas, maybe. No fences.