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stef's rants: #3 in a series

This one was also suggested by snippy:

What does bisexual mean to you, and how do I figure out if I am bisexual? (Not necessarily me specifically, that is.)

Bisexual means to me being sexually and/or romantically attracted to people of more than one sex. I find it irritating that a lot of people who are sexually attracted to more than one sex won't use the label, but I can also see various reasons why this comes about, both reasons I approve of (they are concerned about coopting a label that they think doesn't belong to them and has a frisson of coolness) and reasons I don't (they don't want the negative associations that come with the label; they want to pass and don't care whether that decreases the visibility of bisexual people).

That said, how I began figuring out I was bisexual was by realizing that I fell in love with other women, rather than realizing that I was sexually attracted to other women. See, I knew I found women physically attractive, but I thought all women felt that way, especially given the ubiquitous seductive images of women in all the media directed at women. I had to start openly discussing my attraction to other women in sexual and romantic terms, before I heard some heterosexual women say, "Well, no, I don't feel physically attracted toward other women, and I react to the media images by wanting to be like her, not by wanting to touch her." (I expect they were saying that because they were worried I was coming on to them.)

The other part of figuring out I was bisexual was accepting that I was really attracted to people of more than one sex, even though there were differences in how that attraction manifested itself toward people of different genders, and that I wasn't going to grow up and make up my mind. (I lived on the East Coast in the early 80s and felt a lot of pressure to identify as either het or gay; I felt bi wasn't a politically correct option; I didn't completely come out as bi until I came to San Francisco.)

I dunno if this has a lot to do with how other people figure out they're bi. cyan_blue recently posted an article she had written about it (or was it notes for a lecture?) and it sounds like there are some points of commonality, especially the "not figuring it out as early as het and gay people do" (I was 23 or so when I first suspected it and 29 when I finished coming out).


( 11 comments — Leave a comment )
(Deleted comment)
Jun. 23rd, 2004 11:41 am (UTC)
I have eaten vegetarian meals, sometimes I really like them, but I'm not a vegetarian.

But it wouldn't make sense to call yourself a obligate carnivore, either. Vegetarian implies only vegetables, carnivore implies only animals, omnivore implies both; likewise, heterosexual implies only people of an opposite sex, gay implies only people of a similar sex, and bisexual implies both. (This is my personal view - I'm not telling you to change your label.)

since I only fall in love with men, and since the communities that I would naturally attach myself to wouldn't include the LBG community, that it is not a label that would be appropriate for me, outside of the "chic" factor.

I suspect I'd be irritated less often if I changed my definition of bisexuality to "falls in love with people of more than one sex."
(Deleted comment)
Jun. 23rd, 2004 12:13 pm (UTC)
Your D&S example is no doubt apt, but my brain doesn't wrap around D&S as identity, so I personally don't get it. I do know poly folks who say their polyamory is a sexual identity and some who say it's something they do not something they are. (I'm in the latter category. Bisexuality feels a lot more fundamental to me than my poly arrangements.) Perhaps that's the same sort of thing.

I agree about "becoming," and I agree that many aspects of sexuality and sexual identity are more fluid than the prevailing theories tend to allow for.
(Deleted comment)
Jun. 23rd, 2004 05:16 pm (UTC)
Thank you for the questions! I enjoyed answering them.

And I'm interested in why bisexuality is charged for you (or did you mean in general?) and what phrases are floating in your head, if you feel like answering. (Email or LJ post/comment.)
(Deleted comment)
Jun. 23rd, 2004 06:46 pm (UTC)
I seem to recall "in the service of men's sexuality." Maybe from Bitch. I recall being bugged by it because it implies wanting to accommodate your male partner's turn-ons isn't a legitimate desire. I think that can be a perfectly legitimate desire. And I also think that women who want to have sex with other women only when men are involved can call themselves bisexual. But a lot of people think there are hoops you have to jump through to be a real™ bisexual.

I wouldn't say it is really a problem for me that people reject the label. It just irritates me.

As I said in response to laureladams above, I do get "it's what I do, not what I am" in the poly context. I think that poly is what I do and not what I am. But I still call myself poly, not mono.

Hmm, it occurs to me that what irritates me the most is people who "do" bisexuality on a regular basis and then call themselves something else that's misleading (like "het"). And mostly what bothers me is the "misleading" part. People who aren't sure or who avoid labels altogether irritate me less. (Well, some people who Don't Do Labels irritate me in different ways, but that would be another rant. ;-)

As for "there are no bisexuals, they're all just sluts--they want sex and they don't care who with," it is to scoff. I'm bisexual and I have very little sex these days (libido issues).
(Deleted comment)
Jun. 23rd, 2004 05:51 pm (UTC)
This is interesting stuff...thanks for sharing it!

The tricky thing for me is where to define the threshold for sexual attraction (or, for that matter, romantic attraction). I definitely experience "want to touch her" sometimes, but I'm often not clear on whether the touch I desire is sexual in nature--maybe I just want to touch her the way I want to touch a silk scarf--or even to what extent the desire is genuine and not just something I've talked myself into thinking I feel. (This begs the question of why I'd talk myself into it, I know; I think there exists a semi-plausible answer, but it'd be a heck of a digression.) For various reasons, I'm not that likely to learn anything more about my attractions any time soon, so I label myself bisexual only hesitantly; I usually prefer to figure I just don't really know what my orientation is.
Jun. 23rd, 2004 06:55 pm (UTC)
I'm glad it's interesting!

That makes sense. I'm not irritated by people who avoid the label because they aren't sure (although I also don't think people have to "have experience" before they "get" to label themselves bisexual). I'm irritated by people who do know, and use a misleading label.

(Not that I think anyone should be concerned about my irritation anyway. :-)
Jun. 24th, 2004 04:52 am (UTC)
I get the feeling I should send my friend to come over here and read this.

She's not sure what she is- she loves and is attracted to men, and loves women, and likes breasts. She's not sure she's bi because she doesn't feel attracted in any way to vaginas. What would be your take on her label?
Jun. 24th, 2004 08:27 am (UTC)
My take is: "A woman has to be attracted to vaginas to qualify as bi" is similar to "A man has to like buttf*cking to qualify as gay" or "If your lover doesn't go down on you, he's a selfish prick."

I'm irritated by it, but I'm not irritated at your friend. I'm irritated at the way our culture oversimplifies and overstandardizes sexuality.
Jun. 24th, 2004 09:20 am (UTC)
reasons I don't (they don't want the negative associations that come with the label; they want to pass and don't care whether that decreases the visibility of bisexual people).

I feel that way about women who won't use the name feminist.
Jun. 26th, 2004 01:17 am (UTC)
I have at times in the past refused to label myself feminist because I think the word is gender-prejudiced. But I'm weakening.
( 11 comments — Leave a comment )

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