From Issue 2.4 - February 1996

Who's Bi?

By Carol Queen

What I want to know is, why are there so many people who have sex with both women and men who aren't bisexual?

My boyfriend and I pick up a man who happily sucks cock when the opportunity presents itself -- he fucks me, too. Yet he's not bisexual.

A longtime lesbian friend takes me aside to tell me about an affair she had with a straight cowboy. They used to park in his camper out in the back lot of the dyke restaurant where she worked, fuck like bunnies, then she'd go back inside to sling more latte and herb tea. She thinks it was the thrill of the forbidden -- not bisexuality.

One of my prostitute friends is lesbian through and through -- until presented with a hard cock, a condom, and $200. Another several whores I know say they love their jobs when they get to have sex with other women, even though they'd never go out of their way to arrange such a tryst outside of working hours. "Sex worker" -- another code word for "bisexual"?

And consider the cases of the well-known married senators who hang around with hustlers, or the lesbian cultural heroes (there have been several of these) who have carefully explained their other-gendered consorts in any other terms but bisexual. My favorite lesbian euphemism comes from writer Jan Clausen, who called her walk on the bi side "My Interesting Condition."

For heaven's sake, what does "bisexual" mean -- in sexual terms, anyway -- if it doesn't describe what these people do?

I acknowledge -- sadly and with some anger -- that biphobia is rampant on both "sides" of the ineffectual "fence." Hetero people are convinced that homo behavior makes somebody homo. If gayness is an essence so potent that just one drop can taint the heretofore-fully-het, why then do so many lesbians and gay men seem to believe that only Kinsey Five-and-Nine-Tenths and Sixes are "real"? In fact, as far as the queer community is concerned, this homo-hegemony only kicks in when a Person With Some Gay or Lesbian Experience is famous --and preferably dead, though many in the gay community were temporarily willing to make an exception for Madonna. Thus the phenomenon of the elevation to gay icon status of famous dead folks who had more het experience than homo. Why on earth not call these people bisexual? It makes as much sense as calling them anything else, since so many of them died before the terms bisexual, homosexual, and heterosexual were even coined. People who didn't actually have a sexual orientation when they were alive now have them posthumously, like soldiers who receive their decorations after they've fallen in battle.

Naturally this biphobia makes it culturally difficult for some to identify as bisexual, though others seem to bypass the opprobrium and embrace bisexuality with few problems. What distinguishes them?

Still others reject monosexuality, all right -- but they reject bisexuality too, in favor of "pansexual," "metasexual," or "just sexual." I admit to some sympathy with this choice of nomenclature. "Bisexuality" doesn't describe the parts of my sexuality that respond to sex toys, some kinds of SM play, animals, nongendered fantasy objects, certain transgendered persons whose preference when asked "male or female?" is "neither," and that ineffable sexual energy Tantric practice seeks to harness. I usually choose "polymorphously perverse" when it's time to pick a sexual orientation that acknowledges these things.

But this doesn't make me non-bisexual. I'm bisexual at my core, and it describes me whether I'm focused only on my own clit or on the sexual energy of the entire planet.

I know it's inappropriate to co-opt another person's right to name herself or himself, to come out at his/her own pace, to embrace a label that feels descriptive of their deep sexual truths. But I'm tempted to do it all the time, simply because so many people seem to put their deep sexual truths last.

Folks wonder how I write passionately and openly about my fantasies and erotic experiences, how I seem in control and fearless about my sexuality. Here's how: I'm out. I own not just my queerness, but my bisexuality and my polymorphous outer limits (as I uncover them, that is). Sure, I give some thought to whether, in any given context, I'll be accepted or rejected. I care more about what the Lesbigayristocracy thinks of me than whether my straight Baptist cousin in Idaho has seen me on TV and is aghast. On rare occasions, I even pass up an opportunity to "flaunt." But I never lie about my sexuality. I honor its centrality to my Self, and I've constructed my life so as to support it, not compartmentalize it.

I see the alternative as having a sexuality that deflates and gets stored in a handy carry-bag, like a spare inflatable mattress or a rubber raft. When it's out of the bag and pumped up, it takes up quite a lot of space. But when you're finished romping on it, you can stuff it back into its bag again. I don't want a tuck-it-away-out-of-sight sexuality.

Some bi-behaving people don't own their bisexuality because of the sexuality, not the bi. It's just as true of many monosexuals: sex is supposed to sneak up on you, incubus or succubus in the night, happen to you, sweep you up, then recede like dark tide waters. No wonder adopting a name which serves to help shape your identity (in broad daylight) interrupts the romance of this, an uncontrollable force to which you must submit.

But denial is born of fear and of real or imagined weakness, and the problem with too many people vis-a-vis sex is a pervasive sense of powerlessness and danger that obscures for them every positive reason to embrace and identify around sexuality and sexual difference. One reason to stay in the closet is not being able to see your way out of it, and there's nothing romantic about that.

What can we do to win the hearts, minds, and sexual orientations of all those non-bisexuals who sex with both males and females? Certainly we can continue to develop bisexual community and culture, to create a bigger "there" there. We can work against biphobia and homophobia and the lesbigays' insidious "heterophobia" -- yes, I know queers have ample reason to be phobic of hets, but we've all heard sneering comments about heterosex that are no more appropriate or forgivable than hetero slurs against fags and dykes. A sex-positive plurality of desire gives each of us a place to come out to and fewer reasons to hide from or dissemble about the sexualities which allure and anchor us.

Because if those of us who are out don't point the way, the way will stay obscured; because a monosexually-ordered universe forces too many of us, and our friends, and our sex partners, out of integrity. Besides, when we're Balkanized into fragmented, struggling-to-find-a-place-to-come-out, at-odds subgroups, anti-sex forces triumph.

Who's bisexual? Each of us who understands it's important not only to follow our desires where they lead us, but to deny none of it, embrace all.

Reprinted with permission rom Black Sheets, issue 7, the "Damn Bisexuals!" issue. For information on Black Sheets, write to PO Box 31155, SF, CA 94131.

Back to the Cuir Underground Home Page

© 1996, Cuir Underground

Last updated: 10 February 1996