Is it time to give up on “bisexuals”?

An interesting article from Salon by Anna Pulley on whether it’s time to put the term “bisexual” to bed.

The author, who is herself b, isn’t giving up on the term because she thinks bisexuals don’t exist. Rather, she’s tired of bisexuals being belittled and misunderstood, and hopes a name change might help.

Bisexuals suffer from two problems:

1) Bisexual truthers (non-bisexuals who don’t believe bisexuals even exist); and

2) “Bisexual truther” truthers (bisexuals who don’t believe that a lot of people don’t believe in bisexuals).

I wrote a while back about Republican Governor Chris Christie’s ambivalence on whether gays could be cured, and penned the punny title “Chris Christie is bi on being gay.”  That set off a firestorm of criticism from bisexuals who felt that it was okay for me to pun about being gay, but inappropriate to extend the puns to bisexuality.  Putting aside for a moment the lack of a sense of humor, there was another much larger problem the title-controversy revealed: A lot of bisexuals don’t even realize that they’ve got a PR problem. (At least the vocal ones don’t.)

In responding to the demands that I undergo bisexual sensitivity training, I had mentioned that, over the past twenty years I’ve worked in gay rights advocacy, I’ve been surprised by how many people, especially gay people, simply do not believe that bisexuality exists.  And it really has surprised me.  Practically no one – and I mean, no one –  I have ever spoken to believes bisexuals are for real.  It’s something that still surprises me to this day.

I’ve always found the Kinsey Scale of sexual orientations to be a useful tool. Though some find the classifications too rigid, Kinsey ranks your sexual orientation on a scale from 0 to 6: zero being exclusively straight, and six being exclusively gay:

Kinsey Scale, from "Sexual Behavior in the Human Female," via Wikipedia.

Kinsey Scale, from “Sexual Behavior in the Human Female,” via Wikipedia.

No one seems to have a problem believing in 0s, 1s, 2s, 4s, 5s, and 6s. But suddenly when it comes to 3s, most everyone switches to “they’re lying to themselves!” mode.

Really?  We’re willing to believe that people can be pretty much exclusively gay or straight, and that people can dabble on the other side, but still be more gay than straight, or vice versa.  But we’re not willing to believe that someone can basically find both genders equally attractive.  Why not?

Of course, the problem is only exacerbated by the bisexual-truther-truthers in the bisexual community itself.  I was amazed by the number of bisexuals who claimed that I was flat-out wrong when I wrote that most gay people I meet simply don’t believe bisexuals exist.  And, they said, it was all the more evidence of my supposed anti-bisexual animus.  In fact, I can count on my two hands the number of gay people I’ve met who haven’t given me a funny look when I mention bisexuality, especially when I say that of course I believe bisexuals exist.

I’m not going to lie about 20 years of conversations I’ve had in the community in order to assuage someone’s hurt feelings. Not to mention, denial is a great way to ensure that important problems, like this, never get addressed.

The usual haters are of course already tweeting about how god-awful this article is:

bisexuals

What’s far more hateful is holding back your own community’s advancement because you’re so fixated on being a victim that you can’t ever focus on the truth, let alone actually fixing things and moving forward.

More from Anna Pulley on the prejudice that bisexuals face:

“Bisexual” is increasingly and fervently treated as the worst kind of cooties. Most people who are attracted to more than one gender prefer to identify as anything but bisexual, whether that’s queer, omnisexual, pansexual, homo- or hetero-flexible, straightish, fluid, polysexual, “on the down low,” “gay for pay” (e.g. porn) and on and on….

Similarly, the (not at all scientific) call I put out on Facebook and Twitter yielded dozens of responses about the problems that bisexuals have with the word bisexual (far more than could fit in this piece), and were full of stories about the difficulties and denigration they have faced because of using the label….

As I’ve written before, admissions of bisexuality are met with a slew of negative connotations and stereotypes. These can include that bisexuals are promiscuous, indecisive, going through a phase, closet cases, taking advantage of straight privilege, want ALL THE THREESOMES, are never satisfied, just experimenting, doing it solely to please men, and so on.

Pulley expands on the problem in another post from a few years back.

In the end, I’m not sure the solution is simply linguistic.  We’re constantly playing word games in the gay community over what to call ourselves.  A while back there was an effort to shift from using the word “gay” to, instead, an ever-growing list of letters whose order is ever-shifting.

The thing is, has it really helped lesbians moving the L before the G (when we somehow shifted from GLBT to LGBT)?  I’m not so sure that would have been my proposal for how to best help lesbians get more visibility in the community, move the letter to the left.  And ask trans people if things have gotten significantly better once we added the T to the LGB.

That’s not to say words don’t matter.  But I think the bisexual community’s problem is exposure: finding some advocates who can clearly explain who they are, without seeming, to quote the stereotype, “confused.”  Actress Cynthia Nixon comes to mind as an example of the challenge that bisexuals face.  Her ongoing explanations as to her sexual orientation were inarticulate and, well, confusing, in addition to being inaccurate. (She originally claimed that she chose to change her sexual orientation, when in fact she chose to act on her sexual orientation – they’re two entirely different things. No one ever woke up and “chose” to be attracted to guys today.)

My purpose is not to relitigate the Nixon affair (to her credit, Nixon ultimately clarified what she meant), but rather to suggest that the bisexual community needs some spokespeople who can articulately explain who they are to the rest of the community, and to the public at large.

When you’ve got possibly the most visible, and most powerful, bisexual in America, Congresswoman Kyrsten Sinema, practically inning herself to journalist Mike Signorile, it sends a message that is – there’s that word again – confusing.  And I fear the confusion isn’t going to stop with a new word.


Follow me on Twitter: @aravosis | @americablog | @americabloggay | Facebook | Instagram | Google+ | LinkedIn. John Aravosis is the Executive Editor of AMERICAblog, which he founded in 2004. He has a joint law degree (JD) and masters in Foreign Service from Georgetown; and has worked in the US Senate, World Bank, Children's Defense Fund, the United Nations Development Programme, and as a stringer for the Economist. He is a frequent TV pundit, having appeared on the O'Reilly Factor, Hardball, World News Tonight, Nightline, AM Joy & Reliable Sources, among others. John lives in Washington, DC. .

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79 Responses to “Is it time to give up on “bisexuals”?”

  1. korge says:

    Thanks, John. Be careful in lumping some loud people denying bisexual erasure as encompassing bisexual activists, as that concept is quite prevalent in the “out” bisexual community; otherwise a good article. John has been perhaps the strongest advocate for bi people among the prominent gay personalities. I’ve noticed the supportive articles and tangential comments over the years.

  2. Nathanael says:

    Monogamy vs. polyamory seems to be a somewhat innate sexual orientation, based on the relatively recent research I’ve read. As in, yes, some people really can’t and shouldn’t be monogamous, it hurts them to do so; while other people are natually solitary and pair-bonded (and become unhappy if they try to have multiple partners)…. with most people, probably, being in between somewhere. It actually seems to be related to permanent hormone balance, based on the animal studies…

    And it seems to have absolutely nothing to do with what genders people are attracted to. It’s completely independent.

    So it is really really bigoted for people to assume that bi people aren’t monogamous. All of you reading this, all of you, have seen bi people who were committed to one partner — you just didn’t know they were bi.

  3. Nathanael says:

    Unfortunately, I don’t know of any meaningfully different better scale (Klein grid is basically “Kinsey scale plus”). And I definitely don’t know of any better *research*. Almost everyone who attempts to do Klein / Kinsey style research comes up with the same results: there are people all the way along the scale, and lots of them.

  4. Nathanael says:

    Dr. Who and its spinoffs are particularly sensible and open-minded about bisexuality thanks to the cool people who wrote it, many of whom I’ve met at conventions. I’d love to see another such show, but I don’t know of one.

  5. Nathanael says:

    Thanks for this, Meghan. You’re right about all of this of course. I’m really not sure where to start with the bi liberation movement. There seemed to be something going on during the 90s, and I’m not sure what happened to it.

  6. Troy Brooks says:

    “bisexuals who don’t believe that a lot of people don’t believe in bisexuals”
    This is a strawman, can you point to ANY bisexuals that have said that people don’t believe bisexuality is real?
    If you believe that was the argument over your use in the earlier article you completely missed the point. It not that we don’t know that people think we are lying, it that we don’t think using “bisexual” as a synonym for “undecided” doesn’t help anyone.

  7. Harry Underwood says:

    Now that I’ve thought about it, “pansexual” seems to make more sense as a self-description than “bisexual” because “pan-” seems more lexicologically inclusive and open-ended compared to “bi-“, that one is more “open” to “any” gender even when one is monogamously-coupled with either sex as opposed to being “open” to “either/or” when one is monogamously-coupled. “Pan-” seems to better illustrate fluidity and a wider gender-relational threshold for which the partner should be prepared to accept in advance.

  8. Stev84 says:

    Not saying they can’t, but I think bi-romantic bisexuals are somewhat rarer. That is people who seek out actual relationships with someone of the same gender. There is a distinction between romantic and sexual preference (and it’s truly a preference here, not an orientation) for some people.

  9. wmforr says:

    Depends on your dosage.

  10. wmforr says:

    Given a choice (and I wasn’t–I’m gay) I think I might prefer to be somewhere closer to the middle of Kinsey. Why exclude half of humanity out of hand?

  11. Bj Lincoln says:

    Thank you. I needed to hear that.

  12. StraightGrandmother says:

    In that awful Regnerus paper one of the choices to the questions of what is your sexual orientations was “Not completely straight”

    I think it was straight, not completely straight, bi-sexual, lesbian & gay.
    I thought that was an interesting way to put it, “Well, I’m not completely straight”

  13. dcBiGuy says:

    Thank you, John for bringing this subject to the forefront again. And thank for your tolerance of me, and others like me, who are belittled for being who we are. I am 64, married to a lovely woman for 40 years. And I enjoy the intimate company of men. I don’t know where I fit on the Kinsey scale.
    But don’t tell me there is no such thing as a bisexual. In the early 70’s, I was having a hard time trying to decide which way to go. I knew I wanted children, but there were no role models. There was no Neil Patrick Harris to represent a gay married man with children. And then one day, She appeared in my life. She was nice to me. When I told her that I’d messed around with the boys, She was not upset. How could I not love this woman? So here we are. We’ve built a life together. We have wonderful grown children and a grandchild on the way. She has her space and I have mine. But it doesn’t get easier for me. I have self-doubts and huge amounts of self-loathing. The rest of the world doesn’t know, and I have internalized the oft-repeated retort from gay men who disdain me for “hiding behind a picket fence in the suburbs.” I would like to recommend the blog, “Bisexual Buddies”, written by a man who calls himself Jack Scott. This post from 2 years ago was very helpful to me: http://jackscottsbisexualbuddies.blogspot.com/2011/11/what-if-i-had-known.html

  14. Mike_in_the_Tundra says:

    I will admit that I’m probably a 5.87, and my husband was probably a 8.75 (you really need to have known him). During several gab fests over the years, I’ve realized that many bi guys will just say they’re gay, because it’s just “easier”. I feel rather embarrassed that the gay community have been part of the reason for that.

    You know typing is really difficult when one is taking oxycodone.

  15. Meghan C-M says:

    P.S. You’re right that changing the word won’t change the problems. More people need to realize that.

  16. Meghan C-M says:

    How about “both and?” :)

  17. Meghan C-M says:

    Well, as a bisexual I’m well aware that there are a lot of people who believe that I don’t exist. We honestly don’t need a gay man to tell us this, we just talk about it differently. We talk about it from the pain of always being questioned if we’re certain or being written off as either gay and in denial or attention mongering straits just trying to get boys attention. We talk about it as bi-erasure, being told that our identities and our hardships aren’t real (see comments below.) Bisexuals, when we talk amongst ourselves, talk about how very real physical abuse, mental abuse, and emotional abuse doesn’t count. We talk about how when a Bi man is beaten to death because of hate, its usually gay-washed in the media. How our celebrities and media characters are most often either horrible stereotypes or gay-washed by the media and by gay sites.

    Whether you mean to or not, you gay washed a good portion of bisexuals in this article: Bisexual isn’t just the Kinsey “3’s” but runs the range from 2-4, and can be inclusive of the 1’s and 5’s as those people choose. I myself am a “4,” most easily describing my attraction as a 70-30 Split, not a 50-50. However, both my attractions to people like myself (homo) and different from myself (hetero) are significant enough to be acknowledged.

    I can’t deny that the “truther-truethers” don’t exist, but you might want to reexamine the people that you’re categorizing in that way. Trying to find a language to describe a very real experience that you have drilled into you from a young age as Not Being Real is difficult.

  18. Well, I don’t know that anyone, other than that person who tweeted me, deserved scorn.

  19. ComradeRutherford says:

    There are a lot of ‘straight’ married men that love their wives and would never leave them, but also like being intimate with other men from time to time. Does that make them ‘gay’?

    There are a lot of men that had same sex friends when they were in junior high and stopped that when they started having sex with women. Did that make them ‘gay’?

    US society has placed a large amount of pressure on people to fit into neat little descriptions. Some American subcultures pronounce men to be permanently ‘gay’ if they even masturbate just once.

    I said once on a thread like this that in actuality, most people are bisexual, in that the are not averse to contact with either gender to some degree. That created a huge backlash against me! “I like both sexes, but don’t you dare call me Bisexual,” “I’m a straight man that sometimes spends the night with my best friend, but that doesn’t make me Biz,” etc…

  20. BeccaM says:

    Indeed, the people who’ve had the biggest impact on my life were always those who defied categorization.

  21. KC Jenner says:

    You mention that Obama uses it with the L-first and I was thinking that was making it more acceptable because there was no problem with a sexual scene where there was a man and two women – hence lesbian sex in a way was okay. That is what I thought the reason was behind changing the emphasis from the male gay (GLBT) as the first letter to having the female lesbian as the first lettter – LGBT.

  22. PeteWa says:

    I do agree that many (most?) people seem to be more comfortable if they can place everyone in easy to understand boxes – personally that’s never been very interesting to me.
    even the most simple (used in the kindest way) person is complex in ways that will surprise you, if you bother to take the time to actually know them.

  23. BeccaM says:

    Sometimes I think attitudes towards bi-folks are motivated similarly as with trans-folk. We don’t fit into a neat and tidy category. We defy the dichotomy — and if there’s one thing the human mind likes it’s “either or.” Not “neither.” Certainly not “both.”

    Either male or female. Either gay or straight. No gray areas. No overlap. No “playing for the other team” allowed.

    Transgress those lines or attempt to move from one to the other — or even just give appearance of doing so, and there’s a knee-jerk negative reaction among many, motivated by fear and psychological discomfort.

  24. Drew2u says:

    I don’t understand the hate towards bi-people. I’ve dated at least one bi guy and the only thing I cared about was that in those times he cared about me. So there’s something that turns him on that doesn’t turn me on, who cares (like all couples have the exact same turn-ons)? That just means he’ll get randy just that much! ;)

  25. BeccaM says:

    Well, I’m late to this thread, but I can affirm and confirm everything John has said here.

    I’m Bi. I’m married to another woman. We’ve been together since 1998 and are coming up on our 15th wedding anniversary. Everybody assumes that either I’m actually a lesbian or that I’m constantly jonesing to be with a man.

    I’m not. Unless that man is George Clooney, in which case all bets are off. It’s written into our pre-nup. (Just kidding.)

    My wife’s lesbian friends warned her I couldn’t be trusted, that I’d leave her. They employed all the anti-bi stereotypes, including the notion there’s no such thing as an actual Bi, just people who like to experiment with whatever they’re not.

    There was a guy I was dating before my wife and I got together. When he heard about my new relationship, he didn’t take it well. (Probably felt like his manhood was threatened or something.) He said many of the same things as my wife’s lesbian friends.

    I’ve run into both varieties of ‘truthers’. Those who deny bisexuality exists, and there are a lot of ’em, especially in the gay and lesbian communities. And those who deny anybody thinks that. Doubly fascinating is how many people will say they don’t know anybody who is Bi.

    We’re really not that rare. It’s just that everybody assumes we’re either gay or straight, all depending on who we happen to be with at the current time. Our problem is we’re all but invisible, except when — as any humans will do — we behave badly. Then it’s suddenly stereotype time again.

    The trouble seems to be we can’t win. If I was with a guy, my attraction toward women would be deemed irrelevant and everybody would assume I was actually straight. The other way, as it is, as I said above, everybody assumes I’m a lesbian. If I try to make a point of asserting my bisexuality, not wanting to be pigeonholed, all of a sudden all the negative stereotypes come pouring out. (“Isn’t your wife enough for you? Aren’t you being all defensive?”) And it doesn’t matter if it’s the straight community or the gay/lesbian community, it’s actually the same stuff from both.

    I’m not confused. I’m not promiscuous at all. I fully expect to be with my wife until one or both of us kicks the bucket. The only thing being Bi means is if it’s her and I’m a widow, if I ever date or get romantically involved with someone again, I have no clue right now whether it’ll be a man or a woman.

    I honestly don’t care about the label. What I do care is whether or not people will believe the truth, and not fall back on prejudice and stereotypes.

  26. Drew2u says:

    Awe, the humor-balloon just deflated =
    (but to your point about closeted gays masquerading as bi-guys, that’s a point that Dan Savage sorta drove home in his earlier letters/podcasts before he started clarifying his position; but any finger due would be duly pointed towards him, despite as well as he’s helped in other communities)
    I’m strictly gay/homosexual/whatevs so I won’t define a term for others. I hated it when the term “cis-gendered” started popping up last year, I won’t purport to make a label to define somebody else.

  27. BeccaM says:

    I can’t think of any other term to describe myself that (1) isn’t inherently pejorative from the start and (2) other people will understand.

  28. BeccaM says:

    You’ve met me, in a virtual sense.

    I’m Bi. If I have to put myself on that Kinsey scale — and in therapy, I was — it’s around 3.5-4.

  29. KC Jenner says:

    I had a friend that when asked the question about his sexual orientation would reply that he was “sexual” which was meant that both sexes were of interest. I thought that was sort of like saying “bisexual”, but also trying to avoid the awkward use of labels.

  30. Wilberforce says:

    Another non-issue. Now bisexuals are oppressed because people don’t know much about them. Compare that to the hatred and violence flung at gay men on a daily basis.
    But I understand. Everyone has to play the victim card sooner or later.

  31. PeteWa says:

    Riversong also has a rather fluid sexuality.
    the thing with Jack is just semantics.

  32. Naja pallida says:

    If you note with Captain Jack they often make a point of avoiding calling him bisexual, but instead just refer to him as sexual, or in a more joking context, omnisexual.

  33. To me, it always seemed obvious that it’s just as easy to remain committed in a bi relationship as it is to remain committed in a relationship with a blonde when you like brunettes too. The orientation has nothing to do with an inability to commit, though, as many have noted, that seems to be the underlying assumption for many people.

  34. rudolf schnaubelt says:

    bj i am sorry someone hurt you. but we are as capable of fidelity as anyone else, and as incapable. everyone is different.

  35. PeteWa says:

    bi-sexual themes are already on t.v. shows, at least on some of them.
    Dr. Who / Torchwood immediately springs to mind, and maybe people don’t think of it this way, but bisexuality shows up in movies as well, I realize it’s an older movie / book but I thought of the Color Purple immediately.

  36. rudolf schnaubelt says:

    we are here you just see us as something else unless we specifically announce ourselves every now and then. like football broadcasters announcing the score for those of you just tuning in.

  37. rudolf schnaubelt says:

    no, i am sorry but a bisexual can be in a committed monogamous relationship with a partner from either gender. that is all. how they are perceived during that period of monogamy is just perception.

  38. rudolf schnaubelt says:

    again suggesting the untrustworthiness inherent in bisexuality. what is up with mistrusting bi’s and seeing us as unreliable (the trench warfare metaphor)?

  39. rudolf schnaubelt says:

    it is hard though when people suggest that we are inherently more unfaithful.

  40. rudolf schnaubelt says:

    see, there’s the subtle bias. are you saying to be bi is to “waffle” indecisively? that’s the denial john is describing. the widespread belief among many gay men that bisexuals are just really closeted.

  41. Naja pallida says:

    I’m happy to take the flack for saying it, but do you guys realize how absurd you sound trying to figure out which is the appropriate scale to use to quantify someone’s sexuality? Seriously, shouldn’t we be a bit beyond notions of trying to pigeonhole people into conveniently assignable categories? Would you feel more comfortable if everyone wore signs detailing their sexual history that make it entirely clear and comfortable for you? In a typically monogamous culture it is only normal that someone is eventually going to find themselves leaning one way or the other, but that doesn’t change the underlying reality of who they are attracted to. Just because you don’t agree, or can’t wrap your brain around it, doesn’t mean it isn’t the case. No more than a religious freak telling you that you aren’t really gay, you just haven’t been saved by Jesus yet. Instead of questioning your allies, how about just accepting them for who they are. In the way a straight family is not hurt by you being gay, likewise you are not being hurt by someone being gay, straight, or somewhere in between. Question their motives when it becomes apparent to do so, and just accept that not everyone’s sexuality is fixed in stone.

    As for the term ‘bisexual’, I don’t find it to be particularly useful, but I also don’t see it having the same clinical condescension that the word ‘homosexual’ often has. I mean, how it is being discussed here people are essentially asking: “How much gay sex does a straight person have to have before they’re bi?” Maybe you could try opening a dialog specifically with someone like Anna Pulley, and apparently some people on Twitter who take exception to your words, to find out the answers you seek. I’m not sure you’re going to find them here unless some people step out of the woodwork and take the risk of being attacked.

  42. rabblerouzzer says:

    I had one friend tell me she is “ambisexual” because she is equally attracted to both genders, just as ambidextrous people are equally proficient using both hands. This old lesbian believes it’s up to the individual to characterize themselves, according to their own comfort level.

  43. Monoceros Forth says:

    “Bi” seems like a decent option to me. Or there’s what Mark Renton said in Trainspotting: “In a thousand years, there will be no men and women, just wankers. Sounds great to me.”

  44. Fireblazes says:

    In reality you have met bi people, but you just didn’t know it.

  45. Fireblazes says:

    That is a difficult part of being bi. It is a bigotry of sorts. One that has come about through the misunderstanding of another person’s natural desires. A mistrust placed on a bisexual person because of a lover’s own jealousy and insecurity. As to whether people really “believe” in us? Who cares, its not like we are mythical creatures. We are just like you, we eat, breathe, love, have sex and every other quality or vice that is human. In the grand scheme of life, it matters little if people understand or believe in me. It only matters that I believe in me. It only matters that I love someone and they love me.

  46. ARP says:

    It may also be that it’s much more socially acceptable for a woman to be bi, than it is for a man.

  47. Drew2u says:

    How about “waffles”? Everyone loves waffles! :D

  48. heimaey says:

    I agree, sex between two men who are not “homosexual” is quite common, but most cultures are weighed down by machoism so it’s frowned upon to talk about openly. That’s less the case with women. So are women more fluid? Maybe? Or maybe it’s just more acceptable for them to be more open about it.

  49. heimaey says:

    Good point, but then what do you call people who enjoy sex with both genders? Just bi?

  50. Monoceros Forth says:

    Yeah. Frankly I can’t think of better. It’s concise and rather cheerful-sounding really, not unlike “gay”.

  51. Monoceros Forth says:

    I haven’t an answer to this, mind you. But one of the objections to the word “homosexual” is that it’s clinical-sounding and cold, and deliberately used for just that reason to make same-sex attraction sound like a disease. I think that something of the same problem is true of “bisexual”.

  52. goulo says:

    “bi” (without “sexual”) is the most neutral seeming label I’ve noticed in common use.

  53. goulo says:

    And yet many people who are attracted to (e.g.) tall blonde white French women and also attracted to older black American women and also attracted to petite younger Japanese women are capable of being in a monogamous relationship with one person, even though each kind of relationship offers a different set of advantages/disadvantages both sexually and socially.

    Grass starting to look greener can happen to anyone, it’s not just a question if you’re attracted to both men and women.

  54. FLL says:

    I agree that the Kinsey study remains a useful tool because it used a series of face-to-face interviews for each subject. This results in more accurate data. If you just shove a paper form in front of someone and tell them to check a box, many or most respondents will lie. Where did the 10% figure for the gay population come from? Kinsey very reasonably added the 5’s and 6’s together, which is a total of 10%. Bigoted Christians are forever misusing the Kinsey statistics in the following way. They claim that the 6’s are the sum total of the gay population, and then they ignore the existence of anyone between 1 and 5, implying that no degree of bisexuality exists and suggesting that everyone who isn’t a 6 is a 0. This is how liars twist things around. They start with a grain of truth and build their lie around that grain of truth.

    If you want to be reasonable, you’ll do the following:
    (1) 5’s and 6’s gay
    (2) 0’s and 1’s straight
    (3) 2’s, 3’s and 4’s are bisexual

    Oh, you don’t like that? You want to claim that only the 3’s are bisexual? In Kinsey’s study, the 3’s amounted to 11.6%. Well, if you want to claim that only the 3’s are bisexual, then what do you do with the 2’s and 4’s? If you want to add the 2’s to the straight population, the only fair thing to do is to add the 4’s to the gay population. Is that what you want to do? Really? Okey dokey. Do what you want, but please, just don’t lie. And let me add the maraschino cherry to the top of the cake. Kinsey’s study was an accurate picture of the U.S. population… in 1948. Sexual behavior does change from one historical period to another, e.g., the height of the Roman Empire vs. 1948 vs. 2013. Have fun!

  55. StraightGrandmother says:

    I don’t think anything bad about bisexual people, like being promiscuous or anything like that.

    I just have never met a bi-sexual person is all, and I have met gay men and lesbian women.

    I think some people really are bi-sexual but I don’t know of any.

    Where are they? Maybe this is the next boundary in tv shows, we move past gay themed shows to shows featuring bi-sexual characters and content.

    It will drive one million moms nuts though, he-he-he ;p

  56. karmanot says:

    One point: There is no reason to assume the Kinsey scale has any validity at all in current times. After all, it had a very small and questionable data base and is long over due for revision. Here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kinsey_Reports#Criticism

  57. StraightGrandmother says:

    “Does it really matter if someone is bi versus gay?”
    Well a strict Southern Baptist mother would probably differ with you, LOL!

  58. And worse, neither team trusts them

  59. karmanot says:

    It may be that women are more generally acculturated to intimacy than men.

  60. The_Fixer says:

    I agree. I’ve been gifted with great friendships with people who are half my age. They don’t see any problem with gay people in general (just with specific people of any orientation). A couple of them have even expressed amusement at being mistaken for gay. There’s (generally speaking) no stigma attached to being gay, unless they were raised in a family that is full of religious fundamentalists and believe what they’ve been taught.

    And yes, I’ve known people who were gay, but identified as bi because they’ve found it easier to be accepted, either by their associates or by themselves. But of course, not all bi people are in that situation.

    The “pick a team” thing that bisexuals face has to be particularly frustrating for them. They don’t have to pick a team, only a person (if they want to, that is).

  61. Bj Lincoln says:

    I referred to myself as bi once to ease my mother into my coming out. I am a lesbian. I did have sex with a man..long story, but I did have a beautiful son from the experience. I was played badly by a woman who never claimed to be Bi. We were committed for 4 years before she started an affair with a man. I believed every stereotype and had no trust.
    Today, I am much more understanding of the orientation, it being more more different than being born str8 or gay. I am not understanding of how these people can be faithful or stay in a long term relationship. Each kind of relationship offers a different set of advantages/disadvantages both sexually and socially. After a while the grass starts looking greener on the other side. Honesty in your relationships and with yourself is a must no matter who you are. I have friends that are Bi and that’s cool but I would never seek a long term relationship with them.

  62. Indigo says:

    That too is a construct but it’s one that suits our times nicely. The diversity of desire is a good expression. I think I’ll use it in future conversations about this topic. True as it looks to be that the future holds an open door for assimilation and diversity, political waves wash through from time to time and I am habitually guarded about them. Gay was wide open in the Wiemar Republic but that social circumstance shifted 180 degrees with the rise of Hitler’s SS. Our progressive society is progressive only as long as the voters sustain it. The current events in the House do not auger an auspicious future for progressive values if the voterss do not toss those scoundrels out.

  63. Indigo says:

    “Gay” wasn’t fixed in social concrete until the mid or late 60s, before then the debate centered around expressions like “nelly” and “queer” and delightful expressions of the “light in the loafers” type. The fact was that being . . . um . . . “gay” was criminal and expressing it was likely to lead to arrest. Just like in modern Russia. It was after Stonewall (1969) before the word gay actually gained currency to name “people like us” openly and it was only then that it occurred to lawyers to point out that is made no sense to outlaw an essence . . . that it is to say that “being” gay could not possibly be a crime any more than “being” Jewish or some other inherent condition. Personally, I usually referred to myself as “a friend of Dorothy’s.” Late in the 1950s, I came out “gay” to a friend who then explained to me that it wasn’t possible for me to be “gay” because that was for Protestants. Catholics like us were “Templars.”

    Plus ça change . . .

  64. The_Fixer says:

    Interesting thought.

    As far as the word “homosexual” is concerned, I think it is fine when used clinically and when it is used to describe a sexual part of a person’s relationship with their “significant other”. Obviously, it is not good in the context that most hyper-religious use it in – it concentrates on sexual behavior and ignores the rest of gay relationships.

    There’s more to “gay” than just sex, of course, it’s the emotional/romantic attraction as well. And this is where the Kinsey scale falls short. It talks about sex only – and what sexual experience the research subjects had. It does not talk about emotional attraction, sexual fantasies or the attractions that a person who has not had sex yet (adolescents) might have once they become sexually active.

    Sex researchers have begun embracing the Klein Grid (below). It takes into consideration a number of factors. And that’s where bisexuals come in. A “classic” bisexual has an equal emotional and sexual attraction to people of both genders. In real life, that may not always be the case. And one may be emotionally attracted to one gender, and sexually attracted to the opposite. Or may actually have a preference toward sex with one gender in spite of their ability and desire to have sex with either gender. Emotional attraction further complicates this.

    I think that as we learn more about human sexuality, different names may appear – not only for bisexual people, but for others who appear elsewhere on the Klein grid. But until we figure more of this out, we’ll probably have to stick with the terms we have.

    The Klein Grid:

  65. mudduck says:

    The trouble is, Bi doesn’t exist socially. If the Bi person hooks up
    with someone of the same gender, they look gay, and need the protections
    sought by the gay community. If Bi hooks up with someone of the
    opposite gender, they look “normal” and observers don’t consider the Bi
    possibility. I don’t see how you can construct an identity from being
    Bi, though the feelings are real.

    An old landlord told us, “In Russian, I was considered a Jew. In the US, I’m Russian.”
    We talk about Latinos, but Cubans and Peruvians are not the same.
    They’re all Chinese in the US, but China is as large and diverse as
    South America. The Social Construction people were wrong about desire
    resulting from nuture, but how we express our real and individual
    desires depends on social opportunities. Black culture developed in the
    ghetto of social oppression; gay culture likewise. Now that Lesbian and
    Gay people can express themselves openly, they’re pairing off like the
    straights — young gay kids may feel little gay identity — they just
    date whom they feel like dating. Black and Gay cultures were rich and
    interesting, but remove the walls and assimilation will happen.

    We need to appreciate the diversity of desire — Bi, Trans, whatever. The
    Intersexed give physical evidence that sexuality, mental and physical,
    exists along a continuum. Identities are stations along the way.

  66. Now that’s an interesting observation. And maybe gets back at what Anna Pulley was saying – that the word, for whatever reason, carries too much negative baggage. I do think that sometimes any word with “sex” in it will carry baggage with the public at large. But are there really other terms? Perhaps someone needs to create one, that won’t be perceived as offensive.

  67. emjayay says:

    Why thank you.

  68. Monoceros Forth says:

    It’s been discussed here a bit how “homosexual” is rather an insulting term and ought to be avoided; I’ve consciously been trying to remove it from my speech and writing myself though not reliably. Surely the same is true of “bisexual”?

  69. I did see that, and was intrigued that it was for women. I suspect, personally, that women may not BE more fluid de jure, but rather are de facto more fluid because they have fewer hangups, societal-induced and otherwise, than men about sex and sexual orientation.

  70. Dan White says:

    Very interesting take that is sure to bring responses. However I would like to point out something that was over looked in the article when you show the Kinsey scale NOTE that is for woman, the scale for men is not even a bell shaped curve! Personally I believe that women are much more fluid in their sexuality than men. I have not idea why. However this dynamic really throws a wrench into understanding bisexuality. Add to that the fact in the past one of the “steps” for a celebrity to come out was to first admit to being “Bisexual”.
    Simply because I am not bisexual does not keep be from believing that they do exist.

  71. cole3244 says:

    someday a long long time from now people will just be sexual and that label will satisfy everyone.

  72. chris10858 says:

    As someone who is a bit older, I think being gay, str8, or bi is much more important to us than the younger generations. Sexual exploration and experimentation of teens and young adults today are much more fluid than they used to be in years past.

    In the past, we all knew friends who first tiptoed out of the closet by saying they were bi only to fully come out of the closet weeks, months or even years later and proclaim they were fully gay. When I first told my best friend about my same-sex attractions, I lied and said I was bi (even though I am a hard 6 on the Kinsey scale).

    I think though as it becomes easier to be out as a teenager or young adult, we will see fewer gay people come out as “bi” as a crutch to soften the blow of really being gay.

    Does it really matter if someone is bi versus gay? Not really unless you are in a relationship with that person and the bisexuality causes problems from a relationship perspective.

  73. chris10858 says:

    When it shifted to LGBT, I used to hate it. I preferred GLBT but as time has passed, I find LGBT does seem to roll off the tongue easier. So, I think you def have a point!

  74. 2patricius2 says:

    I have known several people who have clearly been bisexual. One woman chose to marry a man whom she met in a bisexual group. A man, though he was attracted to women as well, chose to stay with a gay man. And I have known others as well. I doesn’t seem strange at all to believe that there are bisexual people, whether they are male or female, whether they fall low or mid-range or high on the Kinsey scale. Humans have a large spectrum of physical characteristics and personality traits. Why would it be unexpected that the range of human sexual attractions and behaviors would be broad as well?

  75. chaychay says:

    The hostility toward bisexuals is naturally human. Almost all people are searching for confirmation bias, i.e. something that supports who they are. In their minds, gay cannot be gay without a straight, and same for straights, so they need each other to satisfy their identities. But bisexuals claim to have both identities. That’s not allowed because it undercuts the identity. I mean, when you’re fighting in the trenches, you cannot allow someone to fight with you that regularly switches sides. Of course, the truth is that there is no identity and there is no battle of the identities. Once people accept this, they can have peace of mind and not worry about such things.

  76. heimaey says:

    I think a lot of the problem people have with grasping bisexuality is that we often see bisexual people ending up with the opposite gender, or at least in my experience – that’s what I’ve seen. I also think because we tend to pair off with someone then we usually end up choosing someone from that gender and are then perceived as either gay or straight depending on who we end up with. We meaning people in general – I am 100% gay).

    Even in the gay/trans community this is a sensitive subject. I was recently told that I was being too stereotypical because I referred to a woman who was with a FTM transgender person as gay. I was told because he was now a man, that his girlfriend was no longer gay. OK I guess. I don’t really care, but surely just because your girlfriend is now a man doesn’t mean you are not still a lesbian?

    People like their labels. I believe bisexuality exists but I believe it’s really hard to maintain that if you are in a committed monogamous relationship. I really believe that more open relationships with people being more honest about this will pave the way for bisexuality to be better recognized.

  77. emjayay says:

    “when we somehow shift from GLBT to LGBT” That’s what seems to have happened, I guess. Maybe it started at G-first, but Obama used L-first and it seems to be the standared. I really don’t think its’s about putting Lesbians first, but about how it sounds when you say it. L-G-first puts a different kind of sound in the middle of similar sounds. G-first gimakes for an internal rhyme.

  78. goulo says:

    Interesting and weird…

    “No one seems to have a problem believing in 0s, 1s, 2s, 4s, 5s, and 6s. But suddenly when it comes to 3s, most everyone switches to “they’re lying to themselves!” mode.”

    To me, if someone (like most of your gay friends, as you describe them here) believes in 1s, 2s, 4s, and 5s but ALSO believes “bisexuals don’t exist”, then (in addition to erroneously believing that no one is a 3), they are erroneously believing that “bisexual” means EXACTLY in the middle at 3 and nothing else, when in reality the term seems generally used to mean “attracted to both sexes” (duh!).

    If they think a bisexual is exactly 3 and nothing else, then what do they consider the 1s, 2s, 4s, and 5s, whom they agree do exist? Do they think all the 1s and 2s are straight (despite have same-sex attraction also) and the 4s and 5s are simply gay (despite having opposite-sex attraction also)?

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