almost every time i come out as bisexual i hear the same comment, not always said directly to me but often said right after i have mentioned identifying as bisexual: “i don’t identify as bisexual because it reinforces the gender binary. i identify as queer/pansexual.” these words come across to me as a judgment against bisexuality. and to be honest, they come across as biphobia.
i identify as queer. i identify as pansexual. and i identify as bisexual. this third aspect of my sexual identity, bisexuality, is expected to be absorbed into the other two words. i identify as queer in a political sense. pansexual describes the vastness of my sexuality and it’s multiple forms of desire. bisexual describes my experience not of desiring two distinct sexes, but of living in two distinct worlds.
i exist in the queer world. i exist in the heteronormative world. sometimes simultaneously. and sometimes the queer world gets heteronormative and the heteronormative world gets queer. but, for the most part, the two worlds remain pretty distinct. and i exist in both of them. in the the heteronormative world my bisexuality is often fetishized and rendered harmless through the objectifying male gaze. in the queer world my bisexuality is negated and absorbed into queer or pansexual. neither queer nor pansexual describe my experience in the heteronomative world: the experience of passing, and when discovered, the experience of homophobia and/or the fetishization of my sexuality. neither queer nor pansexual describe my relationship with heterosexuality and my relationship with the queer community and the moving i do between. neither queer nor pansexual explain the ways that i interact with the heteronormative script, both for pleasure and survival, and the ways that those interactions and desires are feared and shamed within the queer community. bisexual, and all the the stigma that comes along with that word, does capture those experiences.
for me, bisexual differs from queer and pansexual in that it retains a desire and commitment to heterosexual and/or heteronormative worlds. we are shapeshifters. we have multiple truths. this makes people perceive us as liars, dishonest and unfaithful. a longstanding stereotype about bisexuals. but we aren’t lying. we really feel both: at home in both worlds and in neither.
my desire for cis men, my enjoyment of heterosexual acts and heteronormative scripts, are as important to my sexual identity and history as my desire for women and genderqueer people and my enjoyment of completely queered out of your mind sexual acts and completely rewritten scripts. that’s why i’m queer, pansexual and bisexual. because the part of my sexuality that engages with heterosexuality and heteronormativity is important to me and these experiences shape my life in particular ways. the word bisexual acknowledges that in a way that queer and pansexual don’t. likewise, queer and pansexual address aspects of my sexuality that bisexual does not address.
i am honestly sick and fucking tired of biphobia. it’s a real thing. it fucks with a lot of lives. and i don’t believe that ending queerphobia will necessarily result in an end to biphobia. because it isn’t just our queerness that causes people to fear us. it is also our ability to pass, to shapeshift, to exist in multiple worlds. until multiplistic identities are accepted as possibilities, bisexuality will be feared.
in order to end biphobia, we need to be able to talk about bisexuality without it being absorbed into queer. we need to be able to talk about the distinct experiences of men, women and genderqueer people who spend part of their time in the queer world, part of their time in the heteronormative world and who enjoy this. there is not a uniform experience of bisexuality any more than there is a uniform experience of any sexuality, but there are commonalities and shared experiences. i want to be able to talk about this stuff without being immediately shut down.
bisexual men are told they are ‘really gay’. bisexual women are told they are ‘just doing it for male attention’. apparently bisexuals don’t exist and no one is sexually attracted to women. i’m sick of these stereotypes. i want to hear the stories of people like myself who live and desire in different worlds, who cross lines and get away with it, who love and live in queer environments and who still desire and maintain contact with heterosexuality. i want to be able to talk about bisexuality in queer settings. i want to be able to bring the cis guy i am fucking to queer events. i want bisexual women to be taken seriously in our sexuality. i want bisexual men to be able to come out of the closet. i want genderqueer people who live and desire within heterosexual contexts some of the time to be able to express that without it contradicting their gender identity or queerness.
i want to talk about what it was like to come out in a homophobic high school and to be called ‘the lesbian’ every day, until i started dating a guy when the joke was changed to calling him ‘the lesbian’s boyfriend’. i want to talk about what it was like coming out as bisexual in the queer alternative school i attended after being driven out of my home town. i want to talk about what it feel like to simultaneously feel like i belong in multiple, contradicting places and to also feel like i belong nowhere.
bisexuality is important to me and i’m not giving it up.
However and notwithstanding, I must admit I did cringe a lot when reading about commitment to heterosexual worlds and heteronormative scripts. As other commentators have mentioned, I agree that this could have been framed otherwise. As a bisexual person, my only feelings towards heteronormativity revolve around my explosive desires to subvert and destroy it as a standard and a structure, and it makes my brain hurt to think that bisexual identity has any stake in heteronormativity as a structure which is monstrously oppressive not only towards bi people, but towards everyone. That doesn’t mean I don’t enjoy some heterosexual/heteronormative scripts as fantasies, some of the time, in some ways - but it does mean that my “stake” in them, as it were, is framed and contextualized within feminism, consent and a bisexuality of refusal and subversion of heteronormativity.