At the Borders of Queer Nation
< < Bisexual voices || Radicalesbians > >

Round Squares: the new category
As bisexual people, we are united in the goal and dream of ending the oppression of bisexuals*, and a wider vision of eradicating all oppression. (Shuster 1991:266)
*I define 'bisexuals' here as anyone who has privately or publicly chosen this identity based on her or his personal definition of that identity. (Shuster 1991:274)
Conclude: bisexual people are a we, and claiming the identity means claiming a politics. A number of bisexual writers would like to claim a third space between the queer and straight, a bisexual identity. Which already exists in some form, as the high turnout at a first meeting/discussion group for bisexuals at Bard points out, as well as the mere fact that I found sources for bisexuality in the library, on the web, in the hands of friends. People are writing from bisexuality as a point of view. Shuster goes on to enumerate attributes that spring from the "wise, creative" life choices of bisexual men and women: "a particular willingness to hold out a vision of human potential, do independent thinking, respect others with diverse life choices, and be liberation leaders for many social change movements." Phelan's point about the essentialization of a reclaimed identity applies here. People are creating a bisexual identity out of the fuzzy, mongrel bits of our system of sexualities; it is being "negotiated and grasped for." (Jackson 1989: 139) It exists. Should it?

Well, many bisexuals characterize their sense of their identity as truer in some ways then a rigid sexuality, healthier, more individualistic.. "If, in other parts of our lives, we don't strive to be static beings, but value growth, development and change, why should our sexual beings be any different?" (Gibian 1992:4) Some also see it as inherently challenging oppression built into binary oppositions and "calling into question many of the fundamental assumptions of our culture" (Weise 1992:ix). Others point out that between "the zero, heterosexual end" of the Kinsey scale of sexual preference and six, "where gold-star gays and lesbians dwell," there are five points classifiable as bisexual, and that must mean something.(Queen 1991:19) Yet an identity based on the existing pattern of lesbian and gay identities, patterned in turn at least partially on tendencies of nationalist or ethnic identities, while it might provide solidarity and confidence to a bisexual population, could make for more friction and divisiveness in the non-heterosexual community. Despite her bisexual pride, Rebecca Shuster does not recommend a separate identity:

The current system relies on the segregation of heterosexuals and lesbians and gay men. If we proceed with a plan which asserts a hegemonous third1 category, we risk trivialization, division from the other two, and further ghettoizing our efforts. (Shuster 1991:271)
However, who knows if such a plan would even work? Because bisexuality for a lot of people is based on fluidity, and because bisexuals are hard to recognize, because bisexuals do not always date their own kind, not that you could necessarily tell anyway, and because some bisexuals identify strongly "one way or the other," maybe a politicized (and limited in the process of definition and consolidation) identity would not be successful at all. Bisexuality is a boundary identity, and also is often characterized as a process or journey. A number of people stressed the individuality of the experience, and that the best way to visibility was through stories; the best way to explain their own personal sexualities was through their story (which makes coming out more tricky); these are things which do not translate well into an identity whose similarities override differences. Nor do the existing stereotypes exactly make it an attractive identity to claim. And some people just don't like other bisexuals that they've met, and wouldn't want to be identified in the same way:
Many bisexually identified people I meet... have a limited understanding of homophobia, coming as they often do from a place of expanding on a heterosexual identity. I rarely feel at home with them. (Queen 1991:20)
Another issue raised by the existence of a bisexual identity is that there are people who would not identify as such who could be placed in it (lesbian-identified women who sleep with men, or women who "become lesbians" as a feminist political choice, independently of their "real" sexual desires). This may well be a category which does not gibe with their own chosen political and personal/sexual identity.
  1. Or fourth, since lesbians and gay men often express strong differences and separate political goals and styles.

< < Bisexual voices || Radicalesbians > >

Log in or register to write something here or to contact authors.