Why I Don't Identify As Bisexual
I wrote an article last year that was published in Herizons Magazine called “Corridors of Queer.” It was more of an academic piece and less of a story like this blog. Still, it was about this very topic and its intent was to bring to light the experiences of women like myself who have chosen to be with men but whose non-hetero identities still feel very much intact.
My main point in this article is about the fact that sexual identity and partnership are two different things. Partnership doesn’t define one’s sexuality. Sexuality doesn’t necessarily define one’s partnership.
Let me explain:
In one of my early blogs here, someone posted this comment:
“If you are a self-proclaimed ‘queer woman’ who is now married to a man and pregnant with his child, then, I would simply say you are ‘bi-sexual.’ There simply is no other definition for it. You are no longer exclusively a queer woman. Your shade is like a dark slate gray tending towards queerness, but still, you have found a certain ineffable balance of qualities in this man that has allowed you to ‘make the exception.’”
Just to get this out of the way, I am pregnant with our child. This child is as much mine as it is his. (Phew. I had to type that in. Otherwise, I might have exploded.)
To declare another’s sexual identity is, first of all, incredibly brazen and inappropriate. Our sexual identity is ours to define and no one else’s. Granted, the person who posted did expressly state and acknowledge that I am a “self-proclaimed” queer woman, but then went on to contest that proclamation.
Secondly, to think that one has the authority to determine another’s sexuality without being able to enter their bodies, accurately read their hormone levels, gauge their attraction levels for different sexes, judge their ability to love and accept love from those of a particular sex (etc.) is simply wrong. It’s cocky. It’s inexcusable.
Bisexuality is defined in many ways, but I here’s the Wiki definition:
“Bisexuality is sexual behavior or an orientation involving physical and/or romantic attraction to both males and females, especially with regard to men and women. Pansexuality may or may not be subsumed under bisexuality, with some sources stating that bisexuality encompasses sexual or romantic attraction to all gender identities. People who have a distinct but not exclusive preference for one sex over the other may also identify themselves as bisexual…”
I appreciate the “may” in this final sentence quoted above. I appreciate it because it doesn’t mean that all of us do.
Also, while this definition explains my situation factually, I want to acknowledge that the term “bisexual” connotes an equal attraction to both sexes. It’s the balance inferred in that little “bi” prefix. Because I feel a greater sexual and romantic attraction (read: preference) for women in my life (even though I have chosen to be with Guo Jian, a man), the term “bisexual” just doesn’t ring true to my ears, my heart, my head, my sense of self. I used to call myself an “80/20” queer (to those who would seek more clarity from my chosen identity) and explain that I occasionally find men attractive but that it’s not an equal or “anything on two legs goes” scenario. It’s not 50/50, like the word “bi-sexual” connotes.
When I discovered the word “queer” in my early twenties, it resonated for me like a clear bell tolling. It’s a reclaimed term from the days when it was used as a homophobic slur. The gay community ‘took it back’ and began using it as an umbrella term to empower the non-heteronormative community. It is inclusive—one of the reasons I feel connected to it—rather than divisive within a group that already needs to stick together.
It is defined here:
Anyone who falls under the GLBTI banner (gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgendered/transsexual, intersex) can use the word queer to define themselves. It applies. A gay man and a lesbian woman and a trans boi are all free to claim the word queer as an identity. It’s much more fluid and ‘family.’ In that fluidity, I felt much more free to be myself. I felt more connected. Whether or not another also has a more specific self-identity that sits behind this umbrella term is their own prerogative.
Further to the definition is this:
“Because of the context in which it was reclaimed, queer has sociopolitical connotations, and is often preferred by those who are activists; by those who strongly reject traditional gender identities; by those who reject distinct sexual identities such as gay, lesbian, bisexual, and straight; and by those who see themselves as oppressed by the heteronormativity of the larger culture. In this usage it retains the historical connotation of “outside the bounds of normal society” and can be construed as “breaking the rules for sex and gender”. It can be preferred because of its ambiguity, which allows “queer”-identifying people to avoid the sometimes strict boundaries that surround other labels. In this context, “queer” is not a synonym for LGBT as it creates a space for “queer” heterosexuals as well as “non-queer” homosexuals.”
So, I’m queer identified. That’s enough for me.
For the reader to tell me, as though it were a matter of fact, that I am “no longer exclusively queer” is proof that he or she doesn’t fully understand the meaning of the word. But, in their defence, I think very few people do. Quite honestly, it’s not a word that is commonly in discourse. Why is that? Because, as it reads above, queers are “outside the bounds of normal society” and so, too, is open dialogue about the politics of this identity choice.
So, getting back to my point about relationships and identity being separate stories, my relationship with Guo Jian doesn’t contradict my queer identity in the least. I am, after all, still human. I see attractive women all the time. It’s one of the things that he and I share in common! I know I am capable of love and romance with women and this hasn’t changed just because I’m choosing to be with him at this point in my life. He can’t turn a switch in me as though loving him can “fix” my queerness or turn it around, and what’s more, nor can marriage or pregnancy. My queerness is here to stay because it’s part of me.
He has fallen in love with this queer woman. This queer woman has fallen in love with this straight guy. Here we both are.
Let’s take this to another level:
I know a woman who is partnered with another woman but who still identifies as straight. I have thought long and hard about this.
Now, my queer identity, being an umbrella term, leaves room for my current situation and therefore, doesn’t, in fact, contest it. In her situation, however, I had trouble not refuting that her straight identity most certainly must be challenged by her current partnership with a woman. I mean, doesn’t her partnership suggest that she is capable of attraction to the same sex and therefore show her to be at least bi-sexual and/or queer in some capacity? I also wondered if she was afraid of claiming a non-hetero identity and perhaps was unable to face some internal homophobia.
Then I stepped another step backwards and realized that I simply have no idea. I can’t claim to know. Her identity is hers to claim. I don’t know how her pathways to attraction and love work. It’s not even mine to surmise. It is possible that her current partnership is a complete anomaly in her life and always will be. Anomalies are departures from the rule. If her straight identity is her rule then who I am to suggest otherwise?
It was a good lesson in practicing what I preach.
Speaking of preaching, in my research while writing this, I came across a lot of religious sites that have their own definitions of these things, let me tell you. On this site, though, called “religioustolerance.org” there were several listed definitions and variations of the term “bisexual” and I found this incredibly open-minded point within:
“Some persons who are sexually attracted to both men and women feel more strongly attracted to one gender than the other. Further, they may identify themselves as homosexual or heterosexual, depending upon their prime attraction. So, a bisexual who feels more attracted to members of the same sex might identify themselves as gay or lesbian rather than bisexual. Others, attracted to members of the opposite sex might view themselves as heterosexual.”
So, when talking about ourselves, we’re the experts. No one else. No call for debate.
That is the beauty of self-identity: It’s ours and no one else’s. It’s not our partners’, not our readers’, not our fans’, not our friends’, just ours.