The first time I heard the word “Greedy” weaponized against bisexuality was in high school. A friend found me after dance class and informed me that our dance teacher, one of the only two Black women who worked at the school at the time, went on a rant about how bisexuals are salacious cheaters who steal everyone’s dating options and just can’t make up their minds. This is just one example of the harmful rhetoric that left me feeling unsafe in — and unsure of — my own sexuality for years.
As I flipped open Jen Winstons’ Greedy: Notes From a Bisexual Who Wants Too Much, I was unexpectedly greeted with the rare feeling of safety that only comes with being affirmed and understood. Winstons’ writing invites us to join her as she starts on her own self-aware, hilarious and honest journey to understanding their own sexuality and gender identity. She discusses the limits of representation and the suffocating nature of binaries. Greedy encouraged me to reflect on my own path of embracing my bisexuality.
The book begins with a narrative that I am all too familiar with, Imposter Syndrome. Before I embraced my bisexuality I didn’t feel queer enough to identify as such, but I also felt that identifying as straight was a personal betrayal. While I could see many of my own experiences reflected in Winstons’ journey, I felt the intersectional dissonance between their path and my own as a Black queer person. Contrary to their experiences, racism and misogynoir were a part of my journey to bisexual acceptance and aided in convincing my younger self that I wasn’t desirable as a Black girl in the first place.
My hesitation to connect with the identity was because, for a long time, I didn’t realize Black women could actually be queer. The limited queer representation that I found in media was often very white and usually cismale. I remembered overhearing rumors accompanied by pejorative disapproval in my childhood beauty shop that Queen Latifah was a lesbian, and I could feel something awakening in me every time I saw Santana from Glee embracing her sexuality as a woman of color, but I still had no tangible examples of Black femme queerness let alone specifically bisexuality.
I began to lean into and internalize the very cishet “Or”. People either liked girls or boys and there was no room for (or mention of) other gender expressions.
“And” didn’t exist yet for me.
I suppressed my own interest in other genders and channeled it into allyship and activism. If I could not yet embrace myself holistically, I figured, why not use my voice to advocate for those who live in their truth every day? Advocacy felt like a way to feel close to the community while maintaining a safe distance. I buried my own queerness and doubled down on my supposed exclusive attraction to men.
Winston however learned how to embrace the “and”. In order to find comfort and truth in her bisexual identity, they had to overcome internalized, societally-imposed limitations about the self. She found the power in being bisexual and began to recognize that an individual can embody both the feminine and the masculine. Winston found the strength to embrace herself as a whole and break through society’s limitations. Too often society and oppressive institutions expect us to make choices that are detrimental to our wellbeing by putting high emphasis on the “or”. You can like boys or girls, you can rest your body or you can work through unhealthy stress to ensure the arrival of the paycheck you need to survive — the “or” list is ever-growing.
In my own journey, embracing the “and” became a personal requirement, a politic of my own. I began to view all of my identities like puzzle pieces — without all of the pieces connected and secured I would be left with incomplete art. I grew tired of feeling incomplete. Rejecting social norms still proves to be difficult at times in the face of a stubbornly cishetnormative culture, but living in my truth is an investment I make in myself and our world every day. It is proof that we do not have to rely on rigid, exploitative systems to find self-validity, and reminds us that society’s boxes are not permanent fixtures we all must adhere to forever.
Binaries are to be shattered, not followed. I learned to accept that I contain multitudes, and neither my sexual orientation nor gender identity are exempt from my multifaceted nature. Winston’s memoir is a strong declaration that being bisexual does not make us greedy and I concur. I believe that instead, society that should carry the moniker. For it’s the one that has an insatiable need to maintain power by feeding on the livelihoods of queer individuals, constantly trying (and often failing) to limit our abilities to be our full — and true — selves.