Archive for the 'the word itself' Category


The “two” in “bisexual”

As Jen pointed out in a comment a few days ago, The Bisexual Index has a great take on which two things the “bi” in “bisexuality” really refers to:

Bisexual isn’t about there being only “two sexes”

Some people get hung up on the ‘bi’ and protest that gender isn’t binary. In traditional dictionaries:

  • Homosexual is defined as “attracted to the same sex”
  • Heterosexual is defined as “attracted to the opposite sex”

So why then dismiss bisexuality as being about “men and women” when the definitions of hetero- and homo- don’t mention those? In this modern age with a wider understanding of gender some would re-state those as:

  • Homosexual means “attracted to people of broadly the same gender”
  • Heterosexual means “attracted to people of broadly a different gender”

In fact many people say there’s more than two genders, but if two options are either “the same as me” or “different to me” then we think it’s clear that “both” can refer to those two options rather than two perceived sexes.

I love this. Really love it. I’ve written here before about finding the word “bisexual” problematic but feeling strongly about using it anyway. In the past few days, as this way of thinking sinks into my psyche, I’m feeling less like the word is really all that flawed.

There are a lot of genders different from my own (and each other), and several that are similar to mine as well. But I’m perfectly comfortable describing my sexuality as attraction to both similar and different genders. It’s not always the similarities or differences that I get off on or that draw me to someone (though sometimes it is), but as a way of describing the group of people I might potentially be interested in, it works for me. It’s big enough to not make anyone invisible or deny their existence.

If I continue to have a problem with the word, it’s that it implies one is both hetero- and homosexual in a way that encourages people to refer to a bisexual’s “queer portion” or “straight half”. As far as I’m concerned bisexuality is a complete identity in and of itself, not a mishmash of other things. It doesn’t look like a pie chart unless you want it to. But, while it’s something to keep thinking about, I can deal with that for now. I don’t think any of the other words at my disposal are much better.

My very sincere thanks to The Bisexual Index for pointing this out to me. It’s delightful.