Confronting bisexuality: Where does a bisexual identity fit?
by Joanna Chiu
I first considered that I might be bisexual in high school. By the time I entered university I felt comfortable enough to “come out” to the friends I had just met in Vanier residence.
My first-year drunken girl-on-girl make-outs bothered me because they seemed to conform to the stereotype of bisexuals as hypersexual, pleasure-seeking hedonists.
I am now in my fourth year at UBC, and I live off-campus with my boyfriend. Although we are both open to having a threesome, we are in a committed monogamous relationship.
I still identify as queer, but I am wary that the queer community might not accept me because of my perceived “heterosexual privilege.” Bisexuals are often invisible minorities. There are a lot of misconceptions about bisexuality in mainstream culture, and academics debate the existence of bisexuality.
Amanda Reaume and Kaitlin Blanchard of Antigone Magazine contest the stereotype that bisexuals are “promiscuous or unable to make up their minds.” Instead they believe that “these stereotypes are absurd because bisexuals are individuals so generalizations are unfounded, and are absurd attempts to relegate sexuality to the binary poles of straight or queer. These stereotypes only work to reinforce dominant ideas of how one ‘ought’ to perform one’s sexual identity.”
Dr Michael Goodyear, who teaches Feminist Health Ethics at Dalhousie University, concurs that there is no single definition of bisexuality. According to Dr Goodyear, “You will find that people who choose to identify as bisexual are a very diverse group, for whom the meaning of the term is intensely personal.”
The diversity of bisexual identities sparks debate about whether we should continue to use sexual orientation categories such as “heterosexual,” “homosexual” and “bisexual.” I still use the term “bisexual” because I think that categories can be useful for building communities, understanding personal identities and challenging heteronormativity. But many, thanks to the influence of gender theorists such as Judith Butler (who argued in Gender Trouble that all gender and sexual categories are social constructions), believe that sexuality exists on a spectrum. Some people choose to adopt the term “pansexual” instead of “bisexual” to reflect the wide range of sexual identities.
Although queer activists have made great efforts to make all individuals feel welcome, exclusionary practices continue in some queer communities. Heterosexuality and homosexuality are understood as opposite designations in a binary structure of sexuality, but bisexuality remains enshrouded in mystery and eroticism.