Oh, blogosphere, when are we ever going to convince each other that etymology does not, in fact, determine meaning? On the one side, you have queer-hating dipshits talking about how they couldn’t possibly be homophobic…because they aren’t afraid of gay people. And then on the other, we have well-meaning activists who really truly believe (correctly) that gender is not just a male/female dichotomy and are trying to adjust their language accordingly.
Unfortunately, no one told these people how language works. And moreover, no one told them that it is unacceptable to re-define other people’s identities. Telling me that, as a bisexual person, I am either attracted to two genders exclusively (e.g. men and women, but not genderqueer people) or flat out lying about who I am isn’t just intelletually lazy, it’s oppressive.
I don’t think I can even impress upon y’all how incredibly grossed out it makes me to witness conversations in which none of the major players are bisexual, but everyone is tripping the fuck over themselves to define the word “bisexual” to their satisfaction. To be honest, it feels like I’ve just walked into a room where a bunch of straight girls are trying to determine who “counts” as a lesbian, and whose identity is a total farce.
So here’s the deal: anyone who identifies as bisexual is bisexual. Full stop. And if you don’t want to identify as bisexual? Congratulations! You don’t have to! But please, if you’re going to decide that you’d rather be pansexual than bi, don’t back it up with “bi means two genders and I’m attracted to *every* gender.” Because there are bisexual people who are also attracted to every gender, and they don’t appreciate you errasing them to make yourself look more legitimate. Non-monosexual people often feel like they need to justify their non-monosexual identity, but the way to solve that problem is to combat monosexism, not turn on one another to prove that one of us is somehow “correct” in their identity.
Here are the reasons why I identify as bisexual:
- Because it was the first term I heard that could reasonably describe people like me.
- Because it represents a community that I am part of.
- Because more people understand the word “bisexual” than they do “pansexual” or “polysexual.”
- Because I’ve decided that it fits.
- Because I’m attracted to two exact genders and that’s the only way Kinsey Hope will allow me to keep this label.
The word “bisexual” originated in 1824, when it was used to describe things that had both male and female genitals. And it has since evolved. It’s not like the word “bisexual” was made up at a conference of queer SJ people and just happens to be widely misused. So when you try to take me back to the 1800s to teach me a lesson in etymology in order to convince me that you have a better label for what I am than I do, what you really should really be saying is this: “being bisexual means that you have two pairs of genitals. Bi means two, sex means genitals. Two genitals”
Or, better yet, you should just not be saying anything at all.
[A similar version of this essay appeared here on my tumblr]