Bisexuality isn't binary. Anyone who says bisexuality is binary isn’t connected to the bisexual community or our history.
The definition of bisexuality that bisexual orgs use is from renowned bisexual activist Robyn Ochs: “I call myself bisexual because I acknowledge that I have in myself 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.”
Beautiful right? For those still stuck on the idea that bi means two, another way of understanding the bi in two for bisexuality as: "I'm attracted to genders like my own and genders that are not."
This bisexual definition is why bisexuality as a label has never excluded trans people. In fact, the trans community and people of color make up the largest portion of the bisexual community.
So what’s the difference between bisexuality and pansexuality? Glad you asked. The best distinction I’ve found comes from Michael McLeish, a non-binary bisexual. Michael suggests that bisexuality means you’re interested in two groups of people. That can be non-binary people and cis men. Or cis women and trans men. Whereas pansexuality means everyone is fair game. Yet, Michael also shows that while there can be nuances between bisexuality and pansexuality for some people it’s one and the same. Many bisexual activists identify as both bi and pan. And many bisexuals, like myself, do use an all gender inclusive definition of bisexuality.
This is why bisexual organizations have introduced the term Bi+ to encompass the range of labels non monosexuals use. Monosexual means you’re exclusively attracted to a single gender (gay/straight) and non monosexual means you’re attracted to more than one gender. Under the Bi+ umbrella there are over 30+ identity labels people use. There are unique reasons individuals choose various labels. Ultimately people should choose a label under the non monosexual umbrella that they feel best describes their experience.
I identify as bisexual to honor our history. Many people don’t know that the woman, Brenda Howard, who co organized the Christopher Street Liberation Day March, which gave birth to Pride parades today, was bisexual. She’s affectionately known as the mother of pride. Trans pioneers Sylvia Rivera and Marsha P. Johnson where also bisexual. I honor the sacrifices they made for me to be proud in who I am today.
As an activist, I call myself bisexual to be counted. Regardless of our labels — queer, pansexual, omnisexual, or no label at all — our disparities are the same. And we have disparities in health, poverty, and violence that are at higher rates than our gay and lesbian siblings. In order to have them addressed, we need to first be seen.
Lastly, I call myself bisexual so that bisexual youth can know they too can claim bisexuality as their own. And one of the first things I do is teach them about our history and tell them my bisexuality never was, and never will be, binary.
Eliel Cruz is the Executive Director of Faith In America, an organization dedicated to ending religion-based bigotry toward LGBT people.