In a world in which no one is straight, and yet also in which everyone seems to be very straight, I give you permission this June to call yourself bisexual. You could also call yourself pansexual. Or fluid. Or queer.
The point is, no one ever tells us that we can, so if you need permission this Pride, here it is. Your gold-plated, engraved invitation.
You. Yes you. YOU can call yourself bisexual.
Social science research is finding that more and more people, especially younger people, have the ability to be attracted to all sorts of other people.
So what does it mean to call yourself bisexual in a world in which no one is straight?
The difference lies in identity: that elusive element which defines a community. The seemingly infinite distance between acknowledging the possibility of attraction and reaching towards others who feel the same way.
Scientists who study sexual orientation generally look at three different factors, three elements that comprise a person’s sexuality: attraction, behavior, and identity.
A person’s attraction is whom they think about.
A person’s behavior is whom they kiss or fuck.
A person’s identity is who they are.
Those headlines? The ones claiming everyone is bisexual? They lie. Those articles are deeply simplifying research from Cornell University finding that most people are turned on by watching different kinds of porn. That research was looking at a single measure of sexuality: a person’s attraction.
Research into sexual behavior finds that far fewer people report having sex with people of more than one gender and that far fewer still identify as bisexual.
And yet the bisexual community is often invisible from the LGBT narrative. And yet bisexual people face deep disparities in mental and physical health, economic insecurity, and violence. Disparities compounded for bisexual people of color and bisexual transgender people. Disparities that are exacerbated by an utter lack of targeted programs and services.
So which is it?
Is everyone bisexual?
Is no one bisexual?
I believe the truth is somewhere in between. The truth is that many (perhaps most) people have the potential to be attracted to others of more than one gender. And the truth is the vast majority of those people identify as straight or gay or lesbian.
The truth also is: if you are one of those people who has the potential to be attracted to more than one gender, you can call yourself bisexual.
Bisexual identity is, was, and always will be defined as “ the potential to be attracted — romantically and/or sexually — to people of more than one sex and/or gender, not necessarily at the same time, not necessarily in the same way, and not necessarily to the same degree.”
Quite simply: if the above definition resonates with you, you may call yourself bisexual. You may also call yourself pansexual or fluid or queer. There is no gate keeping here. We find too many gates in the world. We have no need for one more. Instead, please find our hands reaching out to you, welcoming you home. Giving you permission, this June, to call yourself bisexual.