Today, September 23, is Celebrate Bisexuality Day. A simple definition of the word bisexual is “attracted to more than one gender”. A more expansive definition of the term is offered by Robyn Ochs on the BiNET USA web site:
Bisexuals are people who acknowledge in themselves the potential to be attracted — romantically and/or sexually — to people of more than one sex and/or gender, not necessarily at the same time, not necessarily in the same way, and not necessarily to the same degree.
As I explained in a 2015 blog entry about bisexuality vs pansexuality, there was a time when I understood bisexual to mean “attracted to men and women”, which would seem to exclude non-binary people like myself. But I later learned that narrower definition is rejected by many bi people. And as trans feminist writer and activist Julia Serano argues on her blog, the term bisexual does not reinforce the gender binary any more than other commonly used terms for sexual orientation.
Regardless, though I identified as bisexual for many years, I now identify as queer. For reasons described in my earlier blog entry, I feel this is the best way to describe my current sexual orientation. I’m fine with others who are attracted to more than one gender using terms such as bisexual or pansexual to describe themselves, but I’m not fine with them assigning those labels to me, or to anyone else who doesn’t explicitly choose them. Labels for gender and sexual orientation can be useful and empowering, but they must be self-chosen.
Back when I was active in the San Francisco Bay Area bisexual and polyamorous communities, I was somewhat of a bi bigot. I assumed that the vast majority of people were closeted bisexuals, and couldn’t imagine why most considered monosexuality to be the norm. I even pressured a male friend who had expressed some sexual interest in men to come out as bi, but he declined, saying that his same-sex attraction was only incidental. I now understand that it was wrong of me to assign a label to another person based on my perception of their feelings or behavior.