You Need Help: Do I Call Myself Bisexual?

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Q: “I’m attracted to more than one gender, but am not sure what label to use. “Queer” resonates with me, but am I contributing to bisexual erasure if I don’t ID as bisexual?”


Audrey

I identify as both queer and bisexual because they ring true to different parts of my experience as a woman with feelings for other humans and also the world. I have always been bisexual but didn’t know how to express it. Choosing queerness gave me a context in which to live out my whole self, including my sexual and romantic desire for multiple genders. It’s been a long journey, and everyone has the right to their own individual version of that process. If the word bisexual doesn’t feel right in your mouth, don’t feel pressured to claim it for yourself. However, I also encourage you to look up bisexual resources, communities and history, as you may find things that resonate with your experience in some ways. Whatever label you choose (or don’t), the most important thing is that you accept yourself and others with an open heart.


Stef

Personally, it’s not important to me to have a label at all. If you find a word that you feel comfortable with, I encourage you to use it all you want, but only you can make that call. When I refer to a group of people who identify somewhere in-between, I tend to use the word “bisexual,” but when it comes to myself.. I’ve never had a preferred term. Pansexual? Fluid? Omnisexual? My sexual orientation has never been super easy to pin down, and it changes over time. I really struggled with this for years, but I found that I felt a lot better once I stopped pressuring myself to slap a label on it.


Lydia

I suppose since coming out, queer has felt like more of a home than bisexual. I suspect my aversion to the term “bisexual” is largely influenced by the biphobia that pervades both heterosexual and LBGTQ culture. My attractions to multiple genders seem to be a cause to doubt my “true intentions” – the typical “you can’t up your mind/you’re greedy” etc is a rather annoying (and ignorant) hurdle to deal with. Since my attraction is an ever changing spectrum, I feel best under an umbrella term that says “non-heterosexual” but doesn’t limit me to a static identity. Queer makes more sense to me; personally, it feels more fluid than any other label.

The power in choosing bi/queer/gay or whatever label you want to be identified as (it really does fluctuate depending on context) is you take back your own agency. Instead of relying on societal views and boxes, you get to choose. You have the assurance of labelling (or not labelling) yourself – rather than being defined by others. I’ve realized I will never make every single person in my life happy, so I deserve to focus on creating happiness for myself. Queer is a starting point of that for me.

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Laura

Although I identify as both queer and bi, I’ve found that “bi” is the most useful label when I want to succinctly communicate my identity to strangers. When people hear that term, they know to place me in the realm of “not straight” and typically get the gist of where I fall politically. “Queer” comes with a lot less understanding and more questions — and honestly, I just don’t have the time or interest to repeatedly explain myself. I think if you choose to publicly declare a label because that word most accurately reflects how you feel deep down inside, that’s great! But if you’d rather call yourself something else for the sake of expedience, practicality or feelings of political allegiance? Well, that’s great too. You can be queer, bi, both or neither. You can say one thing today and another thing tomorrow. It’s fine! Really.


KaeLyn

I initially came out as bisexual when I was 17. However, as soon as I discovered the word “queer,” I latched on to that. Queer encapsulates everything I feel about fluidity, politics, and disrupting heteronormativity and gendernormativity in the way that I experience my own sexuality and who I’m attracted to. It just works for me. A downside, however, is that other folks think queer equals gay/lesbian, adding to bi erasure. I also used to have the wrong idea about bisexuality, believing “bi” identity meant subscribing to the gender binary. I now know that most all bisexuals do not believe in upholding the gender binary.

Most bisexuals, like me, are attracted to people regardless of gender identity and could potentially be attracted to someone at many different places on the gender spectrum (or, really, the huge-non-linear-gender-amoeba). Bi means “two.” It doesn’t have to mean “attracted to two genders (male and female).” It can mean “attracted to people of my own gender and people of other genders”, or “the ability to move along a continuum of multiple genders” as it is currently defined by the Bisexual Resource Center. So, these days, I still identify primarily as queer, but I am put myself back in the bisexual category, too. There are so many of us — possibly more than queer people who straight up ID as lesbian — but we are still a minority in terms of representation. If calling myself “bi” and helping to educate others about bi myths can help, I’m OK with that. So these days, when asked about my sexual orientation, I often say, “I’m queer/bi/pan.” It’s a little over-specific, but I feel like it’s important to be out as bisexual and queer.


Rachel

I’ve had a long and winding road to get to where I’m at today in terms of identity (which is queer and bisexual both, mostly), and so I get why this question is so hard to figure out! A lot of times nothing feels right, or more accurately (for me) everything feels like someone else is gonna tell me it’s wrong. I think it’s important to remember that there isn’t a panel or committee that’s going to assess the way you ID and tell you whether you’re doing it right. And there also doesn’t need to be one identity that covers all your bases. As other people have pointed out, you can certainly ID as both — like I do! And many others do! — and it doesn’t have to be always, or at the same time, or in the same way.

I think it’s helpful to think about what the words you’re considering mean, both to you and to others. I know I tend to use them differently — “queer” is usually what I say when I just want to signal that I’m not straight, without going into any particular detail. I tend to use “bisexual,” sometimes along with “queer,” in situations where my specific identity matters (which is sometimes a situation where I feel like bi erasure is occurring, and where my presence as an out bisexual person might change the course of the interaction). It wouldn’t make sense for me and the way I talk about my identity to use only one word.

It’s awesome that you’re concerned about contributing to bi erasure, because that’s definitely something that occurs. In my experience, it’s certainly possible to throw bisexuals under the bus by strenuously refusing to identify as bisexual, and actively distancing yourself from that community — “Sure, I date [genders], but I’m not, like, bisexual or anything.” It’s important to be on watch for avoiding that, and to not define your sexual orientation in opposition to another group’s or as inherently better than another group’s. But at the same time, you don’t owe it to anyone to adjust your identity just for the sake of visibility if it’s not something that actually fits for you.

In terms of what will resonate personally with you most, and what you want to call yourself inside your own head, that’s a different conversation. What do the words queer or bisexual mean to you? If you’re feeling drawn to queer over bisexual in a noticeable way, what happens when you sit with that feeling and think about it? Do you think internalized biphobic attitudes are influencing your feelings? How do different words make you feel about yourself when you try them out? Ultimately, you’re the only person who knows what works best for you, and as long as your choice of labels doesn’t generalize about others’ identity or experiences, you’re the only one whose approval of them you need.


Send your questions to youneedhelp [at] autostraddle [dot] com or submit a question via the ASK link on autostraddle.tumblr.com. Please keep your questions to around, at most, 100 words. Due to the high volume of questions and feelings, not every question or feeling will be answered or published on Autostraddle. We hope you know that we love you regardless.

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61 Comments

  1. “Ultimately, you’re the only person who knows what works best for you, and as long as your choice of labels doesn’t generalize about others’ identity or experiences, you’re the only one whose approval of them you need.”

    I like that! It’s a good philosophy.

    Personally speaking, I call myself whatever feels most right to me at that particular moment (which is sometimes nothing at all). That’s not to say that’s what folks should do (or shouldn’t, ha ha), just it works for me.

  2. Everyone gave pretty solid answers. It’s really your personal choice, don’t worry about the world at large because you will be in a relationship with someone who is your world and that’s what will matter, what you call each other.

  3. I identify as bi or queer. I define my bisexuality as the attraction to genders like myself and unlike myself. I define my queerness as being not straight and not entirely gender conforming. I also often have to make it clear that I’m not a lesbian.

    I’m so glad to see this as a topic of conversation! Thanks all, for asking and for thoughtfully answering this important question. I think that the main determination for your personal label should be your personal identity.. But the label you choose is also a communicative tool for others around you, and I agree that that can change depending on context. Are you talking to a group of other queers? Are you talking to your conservative grandma? It makes a difference.

    I don’t think that choosing to identify as queer and not bi is automatically contributing to bi erasure. The important thing is to examine your attitudes behind this choice… Do you choose not to identify as bi because you don’t believe it is legitimate, or strictly because it’s misunderstood, or because you think it reinforces a false binary? Not so cool. But if you’re IDing as queer because that’s what resonates, just as you stated, hey that’s a wonderful reason. Just make sure not to throw us bi folks under the bus in conversation, and stick up for us if you hear someone bashing our identity. We’ll do the same for you.

    As a related conversation, I’m curious to know if queer and pan people feel they’re included in the acronym LGBT… What are your feelings about Bi as an umbrella term for those of us not at the ends of the spectrum?

    • It’s kind of another perspective, but I don’t have the greatest feelings about Bi as the umbrella term?
      Because I have a (moving? floating? voyaging?) gender, and that each of my gender identities have a different set of sexual attractions, I feel like I have several concomitant sexual orientations (I am lesbian, I am gay, I am also bisexual, etc.)

      I personally appreciate the umbrella term ‘plurisexual’, because the umbrella-Bi feels to me like it’s more at home coming from a person with a binary gender. I don’t feel included in the ‘big-B’ Bi.

  4. “A lot of times nothing feels right, or more accurately (for me) everything feels like someone else is gonna tell me it’s wrong.”

    Me too!! I’m so glad I’m not the only person who feels this way! Then there’s the added confusion because I am ace, and so I sit there not knowing what word I should use (biromantic asexual? Panromantic asexual? I sound like I’m naming some species of dinosaur or something) and whether ace or bi is more “important” and blah blah blah XD The more I think about it, the less I want to use any labels at all. I see why people shy away from labeling, because it’s so hard and I always fear the invisible Label Police.

    • Yes I so feel this. After coming out fairly recently as ace, I feel like everyone just thinks I’m SO COMPLICATED, so I try to just say “queer” but also make sure my being ace is not completely forgotten. I also still wonder about identifying as gay or bi, but at this point I MYSELF get too confused if I think about it overmuch haha, so I mostly don’t.

  5. Stopped by just to say thank you. Reading posts, replies and comments like this restore my faith in humanity and make me smile. I’ve been lurking on this website for ages and had to comment because I LOVE the acceptance here. I love all of it and I’m just generally happy to be here. Thanks! ^-^

  6. I’m so glad this conversation is happening. This is something I’ve struggled with for years & years, especially because bi-erasure is an unending theme of my life, and yet “bisexual” implies something troubling about gender binaries, but “pansexual” has for whatever inexpressible reason(s) never felt like the right thing…

    tl;dr: i love you all.

    • hey! obvs it’s not my place to tell you about how to identify and i’d never try to, but i’m curious about why bisexual implies a gender binary to you, especially given what kaelyn explains about its definition above. the bisexual people of AS (and i would guess in the community at large) definitely don’t include a subscription to those ideas in their own identities, and it always makes me a little uncomfortable when i feel like they’re being conflated, since it can contribute to a trend of falsely painting bisexuals as binarist and/or cissexist.

      • i guess i mean, as someone said above, in the sense of how it’s immediately perceived by strangers i’m not interested in educating.

        KaeLyn’s point was that she herself used to have a sense of bisexuals as subscribing to a binary; i don’t and never have, but am aware (based a couple of angry, confrontational conversations) that others might.

        on the other hand, i guess, i can’t please everyone.

  7. I take a hard line with this. Sometimes yes it does make a situation more comfortable or may even be more appropriate to call myself queer (which I also identify as.) But I call myself bisexual first. And the reason is it makes everyone uncomfortable. They would really rather hear anything but bi. So until the day my identity is as comfortable to say as gay or homosexual or what have you I will keep putting out there. Then I feel I will have the luxury to do otherwise. it’s not popular but it’s something I believe will not change if we keep making it comfortable for them. The word is not the problem. It’s the hypocrisy behind the stigma of word I am fighting.

  8. I’m kind of a trans man but pretty genderfucked/nonbinary… so literally no one’s gender is my gender, and only bi-spectrum labels are available to me, unless I want to fuck around with “gynephilic”/”androphilic.” And because I’m relationally involved with people in various different definition-fucked ways (play partners, half-romances… poly shit’s confusing), it’s really hard to even know who it is that qualifies as “people I’m interested in and attracted to.”

    More specifically: I often feel vague romantic or sexual or non-sexual physical energy with male-ish people (feminine cis guys, genderqueer people of whatever spectrum), but I’m really only carnally attracted to female bodies. This means that whatever sexual energy I have for male bodies I direct into “female” areas: hips, boobs, ass. The way I touch male bodies is fairly …emasculating, and that’s part of what my partners often like about our interactions (queering power + D/s & S/M = beauty). And I love that, too! A whole fucking lot! But the second I try to get too overtly sexy with people that aren’t the… depressingly narrow category of people I seem to be carnally attracted to, I have literal Mary Lambert moments where my brain is like WHERE DID YOUR BOOBS GO AND WHY IS YOUR CLIT SO BIG AND HARD AND WHY CAN’T I BE MORE BISEXUAL GODDAMMIT (can’t change even why I try, even when I want to)

    … So, long story short, I feel like “bisexual” is misleading because the part of my sexuality that I feel like I belong to, that feels raw and real and inescapable – the shit I fought to repress for years, the stuff I’m proud to be out about – is my attraction to femininity and female bodies. Not a woman so can’t be lesbian, definitely not willing to be a “straight man”… So “queer” works just fine for me.

  9. For the record, where I live, queer has essentially become a synonym for bisexual, pansexual, sexually fluid, etc etc etc, basically everything except 5’s and 6’s on the Kinsey Scale, which is why I don’t identify as “queer” because I am most assuredly not bisexual/pansexual/sexually fluid/whatever else.
    SO, if you live in an area like mine, I don’t think it’d be “contributing to bisexual erasure” because if you tell someone you’re queer, they’ll automatically assume you’re bisexual, ESPECIALLY if you’re a girl.

  10. I’ve always had issues with the term bisexual because I feel like the anatomy of the word (it has SEX right in the middle of it) kind of influence’s peoples’ views of bisexuals as hyper-sexual or promiscuous. And I fall somewhere on the grey-asexual realm too, so I rarely want to have sex with anyone. This is why I like queer personally, but in my queer community there is a lot of biphobia, so I feel it is kind of my duty to ID as bisexual. If I know I am talking to people who aren’t biphobic I use queer, but for strangers I usually ID as bi.

  11. Thank you so much for this post. I have recently started at a new school, and quickly became friends with one of the two queer women in my program thinking it was awesome that I had that support.

    NOPE. First there was her saying she didn’t want to talk about her trans ex boyfriend because she “doesn’t want people to think she’s bi, ugh”. I later got a lecture as to why no one should identify as bisexual because it enforces the gender binary, which not only I don’t agree with but also NO ONE should tell other people how to identify. My views and recommendations for readings by people more qualified then me were dismissed because she has a masters in women’s studies, and therefore I’m not educated enough to understand. /endrant

    Anyway, I prefer not to label myself anything internally, and call myself whatever feels right at the time it comes up. This post was very validating, thank you guys!

  12. Thank you so much for this post.

    I came out as bi when I started dating my first girlfriend about a year and a half ago, but I’m still not sure if that’s the “right” label for me; “Queer” doesn’t feel correct either. Most of the time, I end up saying I’m bi, which usually leads to more questions, some out of genuine curiosity and some fueled by ignorance/stereotypes of bisexuals as greedy and promiscuous. Usually, I feel the need to defend and justify myself, which is not really a fun way to exist. However, if I don’t say anything and let everyone assume I’m either a lesbian or a straight woman, I am contributing to bi-invisibilty. It feels like a no-win situation; the only way to make things better is to change peoples’ perception of bisexuality.

  13. Thanks for all these answers, it’s great to read about other’s experiences.

    As for myself, I live in a country where the word queer hasn’t a great significance, especially for people outside the LGBT community, so I usually don’t use it to label myself, even if sometimes I feel it’s the term that most resonates with me.
    So I tend to use more the term bisexual. I struggled a lot with it initially and tried to tiptoe around it (thanks internalized biphobia), but I realized that the more I use it, the more it feels right for me and the more I feel like it’s important for me to be visible as a bisexual person.

  14. I personally am not a fan of the word bisexual, and wouldn’t use it for myself, or to describe my orientation. I can’t worry about contributing to community erasure at the expense of my own personal identity. I use “fluid”, which is little known and understood, but it’s more truthful to my orientation, I feel.

    If you’re more comfortable with the word queer, I say go for it and don’t overthink the matter too much.

  15. This is super timely for me, b/c recently I have been feeling less comfortable labeling myself as bi or queer and a lot of the time not wanting to use any label at all for myself. I have worried some about contributing to bi invisibility, but I don’t see how anyone using labels that don’t resonate with them personally helps with any kind of overall goal of everyone being able to be open about their attractions, no matter how complicated they are.

  16. this is something i have a lot of very big issues with, as i identify with the actual definition of bi–same and other genders–but i am not attracted to the biggest, most notable other gender (men), so i feel detached from the community as i’m never gonna deal with a relationship being perceived as straight or anything, you know? but as a non-binary person currently dating another non-binary person, i don’t know what other labels are really usable functionally other than queer, which always requires an explanation of my gender and sexuality on top of my romantic orientation. this just really makes me feel like i’m not allowed to id as bi, or i shouldn’t out of respect to other, actually bi people

  17. When I was 15 and liked kissing boys and girls, I was like, “cool I’m bi.” Then halfway through college I got really bored with guys/felt like it was extremely unlikely I’d feel like having sex or a relationship with one again so I decided lesbian was more accurate. Then when I was 23 my partner at the time realized they wanted to transition to male, which was a little complicated but mostly okay for me, so I decided that “queer” was more fitting because I couldn’t totally wrap my head around all male genders. Then I started to question my own gender. Queer and genderqueer just feel really safe and like a more flexible space than bisexual. I have an idea of the kinds of people and genders I’m attracted to right now but that has changed a lot over my life and I have no idea how that’s going to change in the future, or how my gender is going to change in the future, and that’s okay. Even on the day when my gender and sexuality feel the most complicated, queer always gives me the space I need for all my complicated.

  18. Thank you Autostraddle! So glad to hear from other people who are struggling with this. I was in a 10 year relationship with a guy, and people close to me knew I was bi, but I was never very loud about that label because I had no experience with women. I felt like without “knowing for sure” it would be dismissed as attention seeking. Now that that whole thing is over and I’m dating and attracted to mostly women, I feel like I can’t/politically don’t want to identify as a lesbian an because I have been in love and happy with a man. I doubt I’ll ever date a cis guy again, but I feel like I should identify as bi just to be honest about it. Aaannd… it’s a good way of figuring out who not to date. If you’re going to be a jerk about it, I’m not super interested.

    Tldr: Yay for finding out your suspicions that you could *really* like ladies are on target!!

    • I relate to this so hard!!! My longest relationship to date was with a man, and it took a lot of self-work to accept that I could still be “queer”, even though I had been with cis-guys. But now I’m all “haters can go ahead and hate” and I will just not date them, ha ha. The only person who can label my sexuality is me.

  19. I’m glad there was a lot of reassurance that you don’t need to ID a certain way.

    I identify as lesbian* because I am a lesbian but sometimes, too rarely to confidentally call myself bi, I’m attracted to people that aren’t women. I fell in love with my ex who was androgynous and one of the things I found really attractive on them was their stubble… Yeah.

    The moral of the story, I suppose, is: Kiss people that make you happy and don’t be a jerk.

  20. My “bone to pick” if you will, with the term bisexual is that it just can’t encompass all the things that terms like gay, lesbian, and straight can. They hold romantic and gender meanings and connotations that the term bisexual cannot. I think that’s why so many of us that are bisexual like the term queer so much. I’m cisgender, bisexual, and homoromantic but the people who are going to maybe get what that means are few and far between. It’s also a bit of a mouthful.

    • this doesn’t really make sense? why would bisexual not be able to “encompass” the things that gay or lesbian can? the additional labels of “cisgender” and “homoromantic” would still be applicable and/or necessary if you or anyone else ID’d as homosexual (slash gay, slash lesbian).

      obviously however you choose to identify is your business, but (as this article explicitly discusses), it’s not necessary to criticize other people’s identities or throw them under the bus in order to explain yours.

  21. I”m not trying to criticize or throw anyone’s identity under the bus. Like many of the writers I identify as bisexual and queer. Usually bisexual first because it’s more familiar to people. I’m not trying to be argumentative either, I’m just trying to think about why a number of people like both queer and bisexual, instead of just bisexual. Like how the term homosexual is often used clinically instead of as an identity. Why would the terms gay and lesbian exist if homosexual didn’t leave something to be desired?

    IDK if that clarified anything or just made it worse…at least just get that no identity criticism or bus throwing is going on by me.

  22. The fact that there are so many comments on this post shows how this question resonates with so many people! Big love to you, Autostraddle, as always.

    I have had big problems calling myself bisexual because I always hated the sound of the word (to me it sounded like some kind of “disorder” and supremely unsexy, plus it carries so many stigmas), and intended to opt for either “queer” or no definition at all. But actually, more than anything, Audrey’s posts during bisexual awareness week made me realize how important those labels can be sometimes, because the help us to identify shortcomings in health and other issues of well-being within certain populations. So mainly for those reasons, and to counter bi-invisibility, I’ve decided to (awkwardly as I may be) embrace that label. The more we do, the weaker hose stigmas will be.

    Or so the hope goes.

  23. just want to add to the resounding appreciation for this article. as someone who identifies as queer / sometimes bi / and less-often pansexual, this is vry relevant to me. i want to embrace the bisexual label, but not be confined to whatever it may imply.

  24. Just another yes to pretty much everything everyone’s saying! Queer is my identity for sure – politically, emotionally, theoretically – but when I see things aimed towards bisexuals, I think ‘that’s for me’. I love what KaeLyn writes about how bi could mean all sorts of different dichotomies, not just m+f.

    Thanks for this article! x

  25. i love this conversation. especially as it delves into the meaning of words, and how we use those words personally in relation to how those words are understood. It’s one thing to use the word bisexual or queer the way you feel it personally describes you, and another to be socially aware of the ‘intended’ meaning of those words.

    i’ve realised recently that a lot of biphobic people have that attitude because they’re confusing polyamory (*actually* the disposition to have many romantic relationships at the same time) with bisexuality (*actually* the disposition to be attracted to both men and women simultaneously). they often don’t realise that one deals with the type of romantic relationship you want, and the other deals only with the types of people you’ll have those romantic relationships with.

    so, as far as i go, even though i have the physical ability and inclination to be sexually and romantically attracted to both men and women, i very rarely find myself attracted to men in either of those ways because i truly, truly despise them until they’ve given me a reason not to. which is incredibly rare. i’m a lot more flexible with women, and so i end up only seeking out relationships with women, and only showing interest in them.

    so do i tell people that i’m bisexual? i don’t think so. because i don’t feel like my actions fully correspond to the intended meaning of that word and i don’t want to confuse people. telling people i’m bisexual, i worry, will give the impression that i’m open to relationships with both men and women, when really, right now, i’m not. and if i explain that using the words “right now” then someone might think my love for men is in hibernation or something and one day i will have a deep burning desire for the D and leave whichever female partner i might be with at the time in search of it.

    so i stick to queer. because queer is the only label that doesn’t make me feel confined to a particular mode of action. today i can be grossed out by all men, and tomorrow i could meet a man who doesn’t make me want to puke and consider dating him. but sometimes i wonder too if it’s not men i like, but masculinity. and if i am attracted to masculinity and femininity but only in women, does that make me bisexual? (i don’t know!) it’s weird, and i’m weird, and so the best thing to describe me is that word which is literally a synonym of weird.

    so although i sometimes tell people i’m gay (to not have to explain that i just really hate men even though i have and could date them) i mostly call myself queer. i never feel comfortable calling myself a lesbian or bi because those words just don’t, as someone said, ‘sit well in my mouth.’ i’m too aware of their intended meanings and i feel like i have a responsibility to not confuse those meanings with whatever my personal meaning might be.

  26. Does anyone have experience with updating your “interested in” section on facebook? I am considering finally filling it in to be more open about this stuff, but I’m not sure I want to do it if it’ll come up on everyone’s newsfeed that I added something. I have left it blank for this long but it feels like it’s time to complete it.

    • I changed mine initially by putting the privacy to only a specific subset of friends. Later when I felt more comfortable I changed it to be everyone minus work and family, and then just deleted the story from my timeline (where it says “hibiscus updated her “interested in””) so it didn’t pop up on anyone’s feeds.

      • Thank you @hibiscus! That was exactly what I was after. For anyone else interested, once you’ve saved the change, go to your profile, click “View activity log” in the top right (the button is within your cover photo) and next to the story it has a drop-down: Show in timeline or Hide from timeline. It took me approx 10 seconds without knowing where to click, so likelihood is, no-one got an unintended sexuality newsflash :) but it’s there now if someone looks.

  27. This such a great and interesting discussion!

    I used both queer and bisexual for myself for the longest time, until I realized (for just me – not trying to police anyone else here) that I was using queer to shield myself from biphobia and the negative aspects of being bi. It didn’t always feel like my word or my label, I was just trying to distance myself from the icky bits.

    My life is not a learning example for strangers. (I thought that for the longest time, but no one has that kind of time or mental energy.) When I tell people I’m bi, I don’t always feel the need to educate them on the community definitions of bisexuality or debunk common stereotypes or prove that I’m the good kind of bisexual or combat claims of reinforcing the gender binary. As an agender bi, I do that just by existing. Other people’s perceptions shouldn’t stop me from being myself authentically, which, for right now, is bisexual. Maybe one day queer will feel like it fits again, but until then…

    Much love and support to people who want/need to use other labels for their mental health and safety. You are always valid no matter what words you use or don’t use to represent yourself!

  28. This is a good discussion. I like it.

    I’ve also struggled with a good label for me. Because I’m asexual, and that’s really clear.

    Romantically, it’s much more of a hot mess (of both the “who I’m attracted to” axis and the “maybe also somewhat aromantic” axis). I’ll go with bi as a shorthand often, but that just doesn’t feel right. (It feels more right than pan, though I couldn’t tell you why). Usually, I’ll go with avoiding any sort of label all together and stick with “romantically attracted to any gender”.

    I’d like to sidestep this altogether by just going by “gay” because I’m nonbinary and relationships with ANYONE feel really gay to me. Part of that is how my androgynous self is clocked by others–with another dude, I generally get clocked as a fem guy. With a lady, generally clocked as butch lady. With another nonbinary person, anything goes for either of us. But part of that intrinsically it just feels really fucking gay to me.

  29. I’m thrilled to see so many commenting here whose experiences line up with my own. (I don’t know many people IRL who are comfortable aligning themselves with bisexuality due to their assumption that bisexuality=sexually promiscuous.) I’ve been in a hetero relationship with a man for several years now and thus worry about being perceived as disingenuous for identifying as queer/bisexual, but it also feels disingenuous (to my feelings) to not because I’ve always felt much stronger sexual and emotional attractions to women. Recently I’ve decided to stop giving a shit, though, and go interchangeably with bisexual/queer because they both feel right, but I guess when I’m being more specific I go with bisexual and when being less so I go with queer.

  30. I kind of aggressively identify as bi because the erasure’s been a point of major frustration to me for years, but it’s also exhausting. Correcting someone who assumes I’m monosexual in either direction always seems to end up with me answering a lot of invasive, sometimes offensive questions. Then again, if someone’s not going to just be a transient acquaintance, I also find it less annoying to get it out of the way quickly, rather than wait for them to notice me referencing men I used to date and then ask invasive questions. -_-

    For some reason almost no one other than fellow non-monosexuals will just accept the information when it comes in natural conversation without stopping to ask me questions about it.

    • Yes to this! The constantly educating people is exhausting. And they act like it’s your fault they assumed you were straight / gay and now you have to fix this ‘problem’ they have not not understanding non-monosexuality!

  31. For me, the things I like about queer are also the things that can sometimes be a bother. It’s wonderfully expansive and inclusive and stretchy and non-specific–but when you need to be specific, especially in situations where you want to challenge monosexual assumptions, queer often doesn’t cut it, I find. I’ve never encountered a straight person who didn’t assume queer meant gay, and I’ve had that experience with plenty of gay people too. I like using queer to describe myself as someone who likes women but not only women, but these days I find I’m only really using it with people who already know I’m bi.

  32. I’ve asked myself this question a lot. As soon as I discovered the term Queer, I added it to my orientation for the same reasons as everyone else did. Though the bi phobia is annoying, I still mane sure to claim bisexual

  33. I take ‘gay’ very literally in its definition: a sexual preference. I prefer women. I usually prefer Chinese tofu dishes but that doesn’t mean that I don’t also really like burritos. I have had meaningful and fulfilling relationships with both men and women, but relationships with men seem foreign or novel, so I say I’m gay and confuse everyone around me all of the time including myself.

  34. The word “bisexual” (or biromantic) supports the gender binary in a way that “pansexual” doesn’t. Just because a word used to be acceptable doesn’t mean it should continue to be in the vernacular (I can think of plenty racial examples here).

    • Hi Elizabeth,

      This is a common misconception, which was addressed in the body of the article. A quick google search will also connect you to a lot of information from members of the bisexual and queer communities explaining why this isn’t the case.

  35. A lot of this makes sense to me. I will say ‘bi’ most of the time cos I find that makes sense to most people, however it seems oddly specific, somehow. But pansexual makes it sound like I wanna fuck everything/everyone in the universe all of the time (at least to some people, it does).

    Dunno if any of this makes sense, i’m very tired. Oh well.

    Personally, I sometimes feel like a ‘bad bisexual’ because I don’t have that much sexual/romantic experience with women and probably conform to a lot of the bi stereotypes. I feel like I’m letting the side down.

    Intellectually, I know this is complete bollocks, but logic no connect to brain place make feels.

  36. Hi Autostraddle! Another lurker, nervously peeking my head out of the closet (hey, it’s bright out here!) to say thankyou so much for this post. It’s taken me so many years to realise that I can and do feel attraction for people of more than one gender. I’m struggling to find a label that feels right, and it really helps to know other people are going through the same thing. Thanks for the support. Love you all!

  37. I’ve never been sure on whether to call myself bisexual or lesbian. Is it possible to be biromantic but be a lesbian in regards to sex? I’m attracted to women, both sexually and romantically, but when it comes to men I love a small, small number of them romantically but I can’t bring myself to want to have sex with them. I tried dating a guy once, and felt guilty because I couldn’t get off unless I fantasized about women the entire time during sex, and even then I couldn’t really get into it. We still hang out, but we have this odd platonic/asexual bond with each other. Even more confusing though is that I do feel minor sexual attraction torwards some effeminate men.

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