First things first...
Any definitions I offer you today are absolutely subjective and MY CURRENT understanding of my own sexuality, sexual orientation, and gender identity. I’m not a professional on this topic; however, I will be starting my masters on gender and sexuality studies in September and I plan on dedicating my academic and professional life to discovering more and more about everything that has to do with gender and sexuality.
I love thinking about this stuff. I love talking about this stuff. I love writing about this stuff.
I also get that not everyone is like me. A lot of people don’t really want to think too much about how cis-hetero actors having gay sex in porn affects adolescents' understanding of queer sex. I get it. Talking about sex and thinking about the complexity of sexuality is daunting and scary, especially for repressed straight people. But it doesn’t have to be!
I’m friends with many, many straight people. Too many, one might say. But there’s a lot of them and I can only use HER for so long before no one is writing to me anymore because they realize I genuinely don’t want to hook up, I just want queer friends (the struggle is so real, especially in Spain).
most people, queer or not, really have no idea what bisexuality is or means...
Something I’ve realized throughout all this nonsense is that most people, queer or not, really have no idea what bisexuality is or means. If you’re not in the loop, bisexual people are not exactly the most revered group in the community. Basically, everyone hates us. There are so many reasons why, but I think the biggest and most annoying one is just misunderstanding.
I really want to set the record straight *lol* for anyone out there who is confused about bisexuality or angry at it because it broke up with you two years ago to date some asshole named Dan and now they’re engaged and you’re definitely over it.
Let's do a quick little summary for the straights in the back...
What the hell do all these letters mean? There’s so many and there’s even more that you never see on a poster outside your dorm room. Everyone knows the classics:
L - Lesbian
G - Gay
B - Bisexual
T - Trans
Q - Queer/Questioning
There’s some confusion over the single Q. Is it queer? Is it questioning? Is it both? I think it’s both.
I - Intersex
Here is where some people get lost. The I stands for intersex. Intersex is when a person is born with ambiguous external genitalia, or they might have a vulva with internal testes, or they can have a chromosome variation (ex. XXY).
A - Asexual/Ally
The A can stand for two things: asexual or ally. Asexual is when a person does not experience sexual attraction. They’re not drawn to people sexually and they don’t necessarily feel a desire to act on an attraction to other people in a sexual way. Asexuality doesn’t mean that asexual people don’t have sex or relationships. It simply means they don’t experience sexual attraction in the same way as sexual people. Allies are straight, cisgender people who support the queer community. I consider the A to mean asexual because straight-identifying cisgender people are not a part of the queer community, even if they love getting wasted at pride. (This is my opinion, other queer people might include you.)
P - Pansexual
Finally, the P. Now we’re getting back to my original topic. The P in LGBTQIAP+ means pansexual. So, what is pansexuality? This is the problem. There’s so much confusion about bisexuality and pansexuality. Are they the same? Are they different? Can you just say queer instead? These are all valid questions. I’m sorry to say there aren’t any definitive answers, but I can tell you how I identify and why I identify that way. This is probably the closest you’ll get.
Bisexual and Bisexuality
A basic definition...
Bisexuality is when a person is attracted to more than one gender. The important part of that definition is “more than one”. The prefix bi means two and that might be how the word bisexual started out; when someone likes both men and women. That’s not what bisexual means anymore. Bisexual means you can be physically, sexually, emotionally, or romantically attracted to more than one gender, not necessarily in the same way or at the same time or to the same degree.
My bisexuality means that I can be physically, sexually, romantically, or emotionally attracted to someone of any gender identity. I’m attracted to people who embody a healthy combination of masculinity and femininity, with a slight bend towards femininity (sometimes). I'm also attracted to people who completely subvert gender norms. Someone's personality and behavior are really important. Biological sex doesn’t play any part, for me; it’s about who someone is inside and how they express that to the world.
Some bisexual people will have a similar definition for their bisexuality. Some bisexual people will have a very different definition for their bisexuality. There’s not one way to be bisexual.
Being bisexual does not mean you support the gender binary. I am a non-binary bisexual woman. This can sound confusing, but really it means that I reject the gender binary, my sexual orientation is bisexual, and I politically align with the anarchist-feminist interests of women.
EXTREMELY IMPORTANT INFO!
Straight women who perform bisexuality at parties are not bisexual.
Bisexual people who perform their bisexuality in front of other people are bisexual and being their true selves in front of an audience might do something for them sexually or emotionally. If you don’t like it, that’s not really about them, it’s about you. Reflect on yourself.
Bisexual men are bisexual. They are not gay men afraid to come out as gay. If a gay man who previously identified as bisexual later comes out as gay, he is a gay man. Our sexual identities develop over time. People need space to find their truest selves. Give them that space.
* basic definition of bisexual *
Pansexual and Pansexuality
A basic definition...
Pansexuality means that someone can be emotionally, sexually, physically, or romantically attracted to people of all genders.
After my definition of bisexuality, pansexuality sounds pretty similar. I think the main difference is that gender does not play any part in attraction for pansexuals, whereas it could play a part for bisexuals.
I used to identify solely as pansexual because I was ignorant about the term bisexual. For a period of time I used pansexual and bisexual interchangeably. Some people identify as both. Some pansexual people do not identify as bisexual. The reasoning depends on the person. I previously did not identify as bisexual because I thought that it only included being attracted to men and women. I then switched to identifying as both because I honestly didn't know which way was up and couldn't make a decision without feeling like I was leaving some part of me behind. Now I'm at a point where I identify as bisexual, politically, as part of the movement. My actual sexuality is probably too complex for any English language terms (which I think is something most of us feel to be honest). But, I can sit comfortably in bisexuality and feel like part of the community.
* basic definition of pansexual *
Queer and Queerness
A basic definition...
Queer is an umbrella term that embraces a variety of sexual orientations and gender identities, excluding heterosexuality. Queer literally means strange or against the norm. This is why heterosexuality is excluded from the umbrella. Cis-heterosexuality, in Western society, is the norm identity. Anything that is different than cis-heteronormativity is therefore queer.
I like the word queer. I use the word queer to talk about myself. I prefer to say queer community rather than LGBT because it feels more inclusive. If you’re a part of the queer community, you know that not all of the letters are respected in the same way. By saying queer, I feel like I’m rejecting the hierarchy in the community.
Queer was and still is a slur used against people. This is important because there are some LGBTQ+ people who do not like this word or do not identify with this word.
Take with a grain of salt...
Some queer people don’t want cis-straight people saying this word at all. I think it’s alright for you to use it as an adjective. For example, queer community or queer space. I don’t think cis-straight people should be using this word as a noun. For example, “you’re such a queer.” Please, don’t say this. You will be cursed and I don’t like cursing people (just kidding, I love cursing people).
* basic definition of queer *
- Bisexuality no longer implies that there are only two genders. Bisexuality is not binary.
- Bisexuality isn’t exactly the same for every bisexual person.
- Straight women that get drunk and kiss girls and bisexual women are not the same thing.
- Bisexual men are not gay men afraid to come out.
- Some people identify as bisexual and pansexual. Some people only identify with one or the other.
- Queer is an umbrella term used in the community. Some people identify as queer and some people don’t.
It's okay to be new to this stuff. I don't know everything. I'm constantly learning. That's really all anyone can ask of you. Keep an open mind and question systems of power. And once you feel confident, smash it all.
If you’re interested in learning more about these identities, here are some great groups that know their shit!