Bisexuality is one of the largest segment of the LGBTQ+ umbrella yet people with bisexual orientation are less likely to ‘come out’.In fact, most of the research and general public still divide sexual orientation into heterosexual, gay or lesbian.As a result many studies have grouped bisexuals with gays and lesbians as if their experience constructs were the same. This not only hides and negates the unique experiences of the bisexuals but also questions the validity of the past studies on experiences of gay men and lesbian women.
One of the potential reasons for bisexuals not coming ‘out’ or merging their identity with gays and lesbians was the lack of a clear definition. For an example, although we know that cancer comes in myriad of forms varying in its trajectories but still we have a basic qualifying definition of what cancer is. Just as there would be consequences of not being able to identify who has and who doesn’t have cancer there are real consequences of not being recognized. The lack of visibility of bisexuality in society has consequences in the form of erasure and misinformed stereotypes such as beliefs that bisexuals are “confused, dishonest or just a phase of transitioning into a homosexual” and a result of these negative stereotypes, the mental health of the majority of bisexuals is affected adversely.
Bisexuals have always been an invisible group in the heterosexual-homosexual dichotomy. One of the ways to negate these societal definitions of bisexuality is to allow individuals to self-define their sexual identity. Self-identity empowers individuals to choose the sexual label that they believe either best fits to who they are or at least how they want to be identified publicaly. For example, someone who openly identifies as a bisexual will have different outcomes on these constructs than someone who does not self-identify as a bisexual, even if the latter person engages in bisexual behaviour. In other words, people who do not identify as bisexual will not experience the same social and relational stigmas or the same mental health consequences as those who openly identify as one. Although some bisexuals feel that self-imposed labels are inadequate to wholly explain their sexuality but when we allow the individual to self-identify themselves, we assume that they are self-aware, open and objective in their definition. While a standardized definition of bisexuality is beneficial in the way that it provides scientific validity, it also begs the question of why someone’s sexuality needs the buy-in of science to be acceptable or
An additional issue which complicates the process of defining bisexuality is the question of whether bisexuality is even a true sexual orientation or is it simply a transitional phase due to the perception that female sexuality is more fluid than that of the male sexuality.Thus it is often thought of to be a phase that a woman will outgrow (which in itself ignore bi-males). Now you see how many complications are there in mere defining of bisexuality? Fluidity, as it is commonly conceptualized, is either the ability to bend one’s sexual orientation, in specific, or compelling situations, or a change in one’s sexual identity all together. These are two very different things. In the first stance we are talking about something in the environment triggering a latent sexual attraction; in the latter, we are talking about a shift from one orientation to another.
Fluidity seems to argue that sexual orientation is a choice versus just believing that bisexuality is more varied than static measures can determine. For example, relationship status makes a bisexual look, at times, heterosexual, gay or lesbian. However, when their relationship status changes, we would recognize that their sexual orientation did not change, it had just always included the possibility of either same-sex or cross-sex partnerings. Finally, it is plausible that bisexual individuals initially adopt other orientations because they have not had the opportunity to ‘live’ their bisexuality. In a monogamy driven culture, a bisexual individual may not have the opportunity to experience a relationship with the non-initially chosen partner until they are older.Finally, the word ‘bi’ would seem to imply a split desire for people of either sex and it is worth noting that the word ‘bi’ would exclude ‘multi’ sex/gender sexuality). In short, it implies that who a bisexual individual would engage with sexually or emotionally is a coin flip; there is no preference leaning one way or another.
Given the extreme complexity of bisexuality, it is tempting to say that no one definition will satisfy all people and therefore, forego the attempt to provide one. But I still believe that without an attempt to define it, bisexuality will go on to be “unthought, made invisible, trivial, insubstantial, irrelevant and shall keep falling to the societal norms”. Therefore, what a basic definition of bisexuality according to me is: a collective term for a sexual orientation that encompasses a variation of relational possibilities including, sexual behaviours and/or feelings toward, emotional attachment to, and/or desires or fantasies for, both men and women. These attractions do not have to be acted on or have to be equal in either their magnitude or ratio of men and women.
Pearl Sharma is a student pursuing Law from Vivekananda Institute of Professional Studies.
Edited By: Maryam Ahmed
Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in this publication are those of the author. They do not purport to reflect the opinions or views of The Jamia Review or its members.