One of the many great workshops I attended at Creating Change was one about Bisexuality Theory. It turned into a really interesting conversation about all kinds of identities and the work that we do promoting that “gay agenda” of ours. Here’s a recap and some of my own thoughts…
During the first part of the workshop, we talked about different theories of defining sexuality…
We talked about Kinsey’s theory of a spectrum from 0 (totally heterosexual) to 6 (totally homosexual) with 3 being bisexual.
Then we talked about the Klein sexual orientation grid, which considers all different kinds of attraction, orientation, and behavior and plots it over time. (Our presenter divided sexual behavior into “encounters” and “relationships” and divided fantasies into “conscious” and “unconscious.”) This grid allows a lot more diversity than the Kinsey scale and helps plot out a person’s sexuality in a much more complex way.
As we discussed some other models, one of the other participants mentioned Eli Colemans’s model, which uses pie charts to consider different aspects of a person’s identity (see page 22).
All of these models provide a way to consider bisexuality, but in the conversation that followed, we quickly realized that bisexuality and other nonspecific identities are much more complex.
The working definition we used for bisexuality was “recognizing and honoring the potential for sexual and romantic relationships with more than one gender.” I liked this definition because it helps demonstrate that “bi” does not mean both. Nonetheless, it is not inclusive of all the experiences of people who might not have a better word… so we brainstormed some new and familiar words and language to help be more inclusive. Why do we need to be more inclusive?
What about people who are attracted to people who are trans? What about people who are attracted to people who are queer? What about people who are attracted to any kind of person? There are some people who are bi who are gender-blind in their attractions and some who tend to be more gender-oriented in their attractions, so should we distinguish between them? Is “-sexual” limiting to just sexual attraction and not representative of the deeper connections people experience? What accommodations should be made for people who identify as polyamorous? Here is some of the language we brainstormed:
One of the challenging aspects of these new kinds of identities is how we talk to others about them and how we earn respect for them. What do we do about that whole “choice” thing? Forgetting all the new language for a moment, even bisexuality is threatened by the “choice” idea: “If you’re bi, then you should exclusively date the opposite sex since that is normal (God’s expectation, natural, the only thing we’re not going to hate you for, etc.).” Given that, how do we get people to even understand these identities that are so open that individuals who identify with them do have a choice—in a way—of who they partner with?
One of the points I made during the discussion is that there is a difference between having a “choice” about who you are attracted to compared to a “choice” among who you are attracted to. If someone is attracted to someone else and their partnering doesn’t fit the heterosexual norm, who are we to challenge their relationship?
I hope we can start being more inclusive with sex education and promoting sexual literacy so that these unique identities and experiences don’t have to carry such a stigma. Arguments like “is it a choice?” or “what’s natural?” totally miss the point: love. I commit here and now to working towards breaking down these barriers. We are human and we are free, and norms like heterosexuality, patriarchy, or the gender binary should not limit our potential to be.
We should be able to identify however fits best for us.
We should be able to love and partner however fits best for us.
We should all be ourselves, regardless of how that fits into the norms of society.
We should all be able to be happy.
We will never get there until we can stop fearing and condemning the difference we see around us. Let’s start now.