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The label thing again

July 27, 2009

I tend to bash this topic around a lot, but that’s because it’s important to me. And this is a new blog, with a new focus, so I’m going to have another go at it.

Having finally come to terms with my not-entirely-straightness, it came as a shock to discover that I might have to answer to people about my not-entirely-gayness, too. A new word entered my vocabulary: biphobia – and, oh what fun, it turns out this particular brand of bigotry strikes from both sides of the fence. That a marginalized group of people should turn around and marginalize an even smaller group of people within its own ranks seems to me staggeringly hypocritical, but I suppose it probably isn’t without historic precedent. We’re all prone to the best and the worst in human nature, after all.

At any rate, even before learning of this phenomenon I knew I was not going to be saddling myself with any label. I’ve always avoided them in the past; why should this be any different? Aside from all the misconceptions surrounding the term bisexual (it’s a fad; it’s a phase; it doesn’t exist; it’s a brief stopover en route to Gayville; it means you’re promiscuous or flaky or confused or greedy or kinky or exhibitionist or into threesomes), there are a whole host of other potential terms to describe those of us who find ourselves somewhere in the middle of the spectrum: bi-curious, pansexual, heteroflexible, homoflexible, straightish, gayish, questioning, queer, etc. And yet I’m not comfortable with any of those, either. None of them feels like quite the right fit. The very reason people feel compelled to come up with new labels is because the old labels start to attract unwelcome nuances; it follows that the new ones eventually will, as well. My solution: reject them all.

The writers over at the excellent blog Bi-Furious! have made a compelling case for reclaiming the term bisexual:

I avoided identifying as bisexual for a long time […] because all of the negative associations that came with it. And it’s important to me to do something about that. […] I think it’s important to be out in the world identifying as bisexual, being a complex human being, and obviously not fitting the stereotypes. […] [If] no one speaks out against the way bisexuals are represented in our culture, those images will never change. There would be nothing to replace them.

I appreciate their argument, and applaud the steps they are taking to counter biphobia, yet I don’t find myself entirely in line with this ideology. I continue to be uncomfortable with the idea of using a single word to identify an entire human being, under any circumstances. I think it’s far more effective to force people to dig deeper, to learn first about who you are and what you stand for, before allowing them to mentally affix a set of syllables beside your name.


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